ALS Breakthrough Involves Rhode Island Patient - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

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ALS Breakthrough Involves Rhode Island Patient

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What you're witnessing could be major steps forward in the fight against ALS,  also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Kreg Palko of Barrington, is doing physical therapy on a Lokomat machine, hoping to one day walk again.

"The legs are a little tired, but over all good, though," said Kreg Palko.

Twice a week at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Palko goes through the tedious process of being strapped in and harnessed by physical therapists, before walking with the machine for 30 minutes.

After two months of this,  there is payoff.

"I can put my legs out like that, they're getting strong. My goal, you know I originally did walk into the hospital, so my goal is to walk out," Kreg Palko said.

The therapy comes after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, where millions of stem cells were transplanted into Palko's spinal cord, in hopes of slowing or reversing the paralyzing effects of ALS.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "The procedure Kreg has undergone is not only pioneering, It is extremely rare. In fact, only about 20 people in the entire United States have had this surgery."

It was just over one year ago Palko was diagnosed with ALS.

The 49 year old former Air Force pilot is a lifelong athlete.

He played college football; was an avid surfer;  and skied with his wife and kids.

"Being so active, it's a tough pill to swallow. On the other hand I am very competitive and I love a challenge, you know," Kreg Palko said.

His Rhode Island doctors say he was ideal for the stem cell surgery.

"This is big. This has applications to all sorts of things – not just ALS – but spinal cord injury and all sorts of neurodegenerative diseases. So it really is a very early step, and a very bold step, and I think it is really suitable for Kreg to be taking it," said Dr. George Sachs of the ALS Clinic at Rhode Island Hospital.

It can be an emotional roller coaster. At times Kreg laughs during physical therapy, but also shed tears talking about his wife of 22 years who stands by him all the way.

Together they've signed up for every ALS clinical trial, test, or procedure that needs volunteers.

"I hope that Kreg is going to benefit, but I know that people after us are going to benefit from this," said Elizabeth Palko, Kreg’s wife.

"Overall my spirits are good, I am happy with my progression so far," said Kreg Palko.

Kreg was even able to stand up, out of his wheelchair during our visit, knowing all the while, progress for him against ALS is just one step at a time.

"Time will tell. It's a big experiment, but right now, it's going in the right direction,” Kreg Palko said.
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