For our ALS team, care is more than clinical, it’s personal

Our ALS & Neuromuscular Center team gave ALS patient Jodi Oliver more than expert care

July 20, 2015
UC Irvine Health ALS & Neuromuscular Center, patient Jodi Olliver
“I may not be able to cure ALS, but I can raise awareness,” said Jodi Oliver, who sported a “Kiss My ALS” sticker on the back of her wheelchair.

Jodi Oliver believed in living life to the fullest. Married for 19 years and the mother of four, she also worked as an emergency room nurse, ran 5Ks and volunteered at her children’s schools.

But three years ago, at age 42, the Westminster resident began to experience debilitating muscle weakness. After several doctors couldn’t identify the problem, Oliver demanded a referral to the UC Irvine Health ALS & Neuromuscular Center, where she was diagnosed by neurologist Dr. Namita Goyal with ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS strikes otherwise healthy people mostly between the ages of 40 and 70. It’s a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that affects motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing muscles to waste away. The average life span after the onset of symptoms is two to five years.

UC Irvine Health has one of only 44 centers in the nation designated by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Neurologists who specialize in diagnosing and treating neuromuscular diseases collaborate with researchers to provide optimal treatments and search for a cure. Together, the team offers highly advanced and specialized testing to diagnose ALS and other complex neuromuscular diseases and determine the best course of treatment. “Although there’s no cure for ALS, specialized, multidisciplinary and coordinated care can extend patients’ survival and improve their quality of life,” explains Goyal.

“Optimal management of the disease requires a team operating in an integrated manner. Instead of having individual appointments at different locations, we try to minimize the disease burden by offering coordinated care in one place during the same visit.”

The doctors and other healthcare professionals also offer understanding and personalized care. “The compassion I’ve received from Dr. Goyal is beyond gold,” wrote Oliver earlier this year, after she lost the ability to speak. Oliver confronted ALS headon, vowing to make the most of her limited time by advocating for ALS research and participating in a clinical trial that she knew couldn’t cure her, but might give hope to future ALS patients.

“We offer more clinical trials than any other ALS site in Southern California,” says Dr. Tahseen Mozaffar, director of the UC Irvine Health ALS & Neuromuscular Center. “Research is the key to eliminating this cruel disease.”

A few days before Oliver died, Goyal visited Oliver at home. “I sat by her bedside, talking with her,” Goyal says. “I promised I’d battle ALS until we find a treatment or cure. And on the day we do, I’d think of how she inspired me to fight ALS. Jodi gave me a thumbsup, one of the few muscles she could still move.”

To learn more about ALS and neuromuscular diseases, visit or call 714-456-2332.

 — UC Irvine Health Marketing & Communications
Featured in 
UC Irvine Health Summer 2015


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