A firefighter, who played in the NFL, has been diagnosed with an incurable and debilitating disease just one month after marrying the love of his life.
Long before he was trained to carry a firehose while putting his life in danger, Eric Stevens was carrying a football as captain of the University of California, Berkeley football team, where he played from 2008 to 2012. His athletic abilities would lead him to move to St. Louis to sign with the Rams as an unrestricted free agent after his graduation.
Seemingly always on the move and ready for another adventure, Stevens would eventually find his way back to his native Southern California, where he would join the Los Angeles Fire Department in 2015.
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Stevens has “quite the backstory,” the department said of their firefighter in a recent social media post. Despite all that he is done, Stevens is now facing a future of uncertainty.
In late August, the 30-year-old was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a deadly neurological that slowly takes away a person’s ability to control their muscles. The diagnosis came just weeks after he married his longtime sweetheart.
“They were excited to start a family and their new life together with their dog Duke,” a description on a Facebook page set up for Stevens reads.
“But exactly one month after their wedding day, Eric was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29,” the description continues. “The diagnosis and subsequent education they received about the horrific disease was the worst news one could ever imagine.”
Patients diagnosed with ALS first experience twitching or weakness in a limb, followed by a slurred speech. According to the Mayo Clinic, because the disease affects the nerve cells in the brain and spine that control muscle movement, patients slowly lose their ability to speak, eat, walk and breathe on their own.
There is currently no cure for the disease, which typically claims the lives of those who are diagnosed with it within three to five years.
For Stevens, it’s a heartbreaking diagnosis after he has dedicated his career to helping others.
“Eric chose this career to have the opportunity to give back to the community that helped raise him,” a recent post on the Team Stevens Nation Instagram page reads. “Eric decided to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps and put his life on the line every day to save others. His dedication, strong work ethic, determination, and willingness to help others are what makes him a true American hero.”
While there is no cure for the disease, there are treatments and clinical trials available that may help to slow its progression. The family has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical costs.
“Given his strong determination and success in anything he puts his mind to, Eric has chosen to fight and advocate for getting drugs and treatments available to patients NOW,” a post on the Team Stevens Nation Instagram page reads. “Eric’s goal with the help of his family and friends, is to raise awareness for ALS and act now toward getting treatments available.”