A Terrible Irony For ALS Doctor

Rick Olney is battling a familiar enemy.

ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease -- is progressively destroying his muscles, even his voice, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

"And one reason we're not more aware of it is that people don't live very long?" Blackstone asked.

"Right," Olney said.

But Olney is very aware of ALS. He is a doctor who spent thirty years searching for its cause, looking for a cure. He recorded this message as his voice began to fail:

"At first I was skeptical that it could affect me because it just seemed too ironic."

Now at the San Francisco ALS clinic Dr. Olney founded and where he treated hundreds of patients, he is now a patient. His one time student is his doctor.

"He taught me. He trained me," said Dr. Cathy Lomen-Hoerth, University of California, San Francisco. "He knew what the findings on the computer meant -- immediately."

Tests she performed confirmed the diagnosis he already suspected.

"And I said, 'you know what this means,' and he said, 'yeah.'"

ALS isn't contagious. It is always fatal. More than 5,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year.

"As soon as it was over, he said, 'I'd like you to talk to my wife,'" Lomen-Hoerth said.

Paula Olney knew what the diagnosis meant

"I just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried and cried and cried for weeks," she said.