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Former Teacher Battling With ALS Thankful For Community Support

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Luis Brande loves baseball, adores teaching, kayaking, fishing, eating and the outdoors.  But now 60-year-old Brande, a father of four, husband, brother and son, can no longer do any of those things as ALS has robbed him of all his pleasures.

"He would walk into a room and talk about anything he was the life of the party," said his wife Dora Brande.

In the summer of 2012 Brande, who taught at Coral Park Elementary for 24 years, started having difficulty with his speech.

At first he and his family thought he suffered a stroke. They visited several specialists until he was diagnosed with ALS, often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," in October.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS will eventually lead to death.

"ALS sometimes starts with the hands and feet but in Luis's case it started immediately to affect his breathing, his ability to speak and eat," said Dora Brande.

Brande, who played baseball for the University of Miami in the late 70's, is now bound to a wheelchair and can no longer breathe on his own.

"Already you can tell his hands are losing muscle and his legs becoming weaker but that's the progression of the disease," Dora Brande told CBS4's Marybel Rodriguez as they both sat at the dining room table.

The only way Brande could communicate is through hand and facial gestures or by using his iPad.  From his home in Kendall, Rodriguez asked him to describe ALS, he wrote--"Devastating!"

The Brandes, however, are hopeful that a cure will soon be found thanks to the overwhelming support and money raised from celebrities to people around the world taking on the Ice Bucket Challenge.

"How does it make you feel when you see so many people doing this for you," Rodriguez asked Brande. He responded, on the iPad, by writing Great!

As of August 27th, ALS has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time last year

For more information, visit www.alsa.org.

Brande and his family are grateful for all the donations.

Brande wrote, "I would like to thank all my students and colleagues and baseball teammates and coaches and friends and family who have been supportive throughout the last two years since my diagnosis. You have visited me, emailed me, taken the ice bucket challenge in my honor posted messages on Facebook and most importantly prayed for me. I want you to know that your love and encouragement helps me to keep up the battle against ALS every day.  My prayer is that the money you have donated will directly impact research and that it will conclude soon with a cure for ALS.  In the meantime keep praying and encouraging others who are also in the fight.  May God bless you richly…you are a blessing to me."

Watch the report, click here.

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