Temple Health's team approach helps ALS patients live longer, healthier, reduces costs

WPVI logo
Monday, May 20, 2024
Temple Health team approach helps ALS patients live longer, healthier
Temple Health's MDA-ALS Center of Hope provides a team approach to those suffering from the disease, offering a chance at a longer, better life.

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), once called Lou Gehrig's disease, affects every part of the body.

Treating sufferers with a team approach can mean a longer, better life, as a South Jersey doctor and ALS patient explains.

Stacy Lewin Farber was an obstetric anesthesiologist when she began dropping things and losing hand strength.

"I noticed that my right leg was a little bit weaker than normal," Farber also recalls.

After months of pressing for answers, she learned she had ALS.

ALS gradually kills motor neurons - nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscle movement and breathing.

The motor neurons stop sending messages to muscles.

Not long after her diagnosis in February 2021, Faber found Temple Health's MDA-ALS Center of Hope.

Dr. Terry Heiman-Patterson, the center director, says the multidisciplinary team approach enables patients to see every specialist they might need in one place, in one visit.

"It's been shown to provide quality of life, as well as improved survival and reduce the cost of disease. It's a no-brainer," says Dr. Heiman-Patterson.

"To see every professional that takes care of you in one day is really remarkable," Faber notes.

The team goes beyond doctors and nurses.

"We have a social worker, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, respiratory therapist," says nurse coordinator Mary Paolone, MSRN.

There is also a research department for clinical trials.

Patients at the MDA-ALS Center of Hope can take part in trials alongside their other care.

Paolone checks in with families before visits, to see what they might need and arrange for it.

After the visits, team members share information to plan future care.

"They address each separate function, but coordinate it and put it together as a team to make my best care plan. And that involves all my caregivers as well," Faber says.

"They also pick up on issues I didn't realize I have," she adds.

Dr. Heiman-Patterson says coordinated care is a must as ALS patients progressively lose strength.

"If you had to go to 10 different places to get all this care, that would be overwhelming. And you know what, you probably wouldn't go!" she notes.

Faber says it's not just the care, but the caring which means so much.

"They also have taught me how to face life with hope. And to get the full enjoyment out of it," she says.

Dr. Heiman Patterson says a dedicated ALS center also enables patients to get the latest drugs and devices as soon as they're available.