SAN ANTONIO — Juan Reyes, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in October of 2015. The disease is a progressive nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord; there is no cure. People with ALS lose muscle control, speech and even ability to breathe.
Reyes is unable to take a shower, dress or feed himself. He now must utilize a power chair to move and a computer to speak. Despite his condition, Reyes has been fighting to raise awareness about ALS, advocating for researching and supporting other veterans with the same disease. He's participated in different community events to share his personal journey and how it's impacted his loved ones.
Studies show that military members are more likely to get diagnosed with ALS compared to civilians. One theory is that service members are exposed to more environmental pollutants.
Reyes said it’s been rewarding to meet other veterans with ALS over the course of his participation in different community outreach events
“It’s a unique bond that we have, having served in the various branches and in different capacities,” Reyes said. “Some of which are also engaged in the advocacy on behalf of not just veterans, but all ALS patients. Together, we make an effort to try to bring attention to areas of improvement.”
“They intend to be the first resource that patients are introduced to, being the national organization focusing on the care and support of ALS patients,” he explained.
KENS 5 has done a previous story with Reyes in 2018 about a piece of legislation that gives terminally ill patients the right to use experimental medications.