Life is changing drastically for Los Angeles firefighter Eric Stevens. The 30-year-old has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
"I kinda had this feeling something wasn't right, I noticed my left hand getting kinda weak," says Stevens, who has been placed on light duty with LAFD following his terminal diagnosis on Aug. 27.
"Everyday you're waking up and something is off just a little bit more. Your hand gets a little bit weaker, your speech gets a little bit slower, your legs get a little bit weaker," says Stevens, holding back tears.
Before firefighting, the Costa Mesa resident was a star athlete, competing at football's highest level. In college, he was captain for CAL Berkeley and signed by the (then St. Louis) Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
Stevens' diagnosis with ALS came just one month after marrying his wife, Amanda.
"Some days he's a lot stronger than I am, I know it's backwards, but I'll need him," Amanda said. "It's obviously extremely devastating and you want to go into a dark room and cry. Our family and friends, they're not letting us do that, they're doing everything they can for us."
There's currently no cure for ALS - and it almost always progresses, eventually taking away the ability to walk, speak and breathe. Most patients are given just 2-5 years life expectancy.
While crisscrossing the nation visiting different doctors, Stevens has learned there are successful clinical trials offering hope. He's also experience frustration because of the lack of access.
"The only way you have access to it is if you get randomly picked, or you meet a certain criteria, and even then, when you're picked for these trials, there's a 50% chance you're getting a placebo, it's crazy," says Stevens.
Fellow firefighters have stepped up to help #AXEALS, posting images to social media. The awareness has helped raise well over $300,000 within a week through a GoFundMe campaign.
"It shows us what we're fighting for and putting all of our energy into is working and we're so thankful," Amanda said.
Stevens' family has planned a "Fight for Hope" fundraiser and corn hole tournament for Nov. 23 in Redondo Beach. Tickets can be purchased at www.stevensnation.com. Same day tickets will be available at the door.
One-hundred percent of all donations and money raised at the event will go directly to Stevens' care and treatment.
Former NFL player turned LA firefighter diagnosed with ALS