‘A devastating diagnosis:’ Caring for patients and families in Sunnybrook’s ALS Clinic

Written by Jennifer Palisoc

“It’s an enormous privilege to be welcomed into patient’s lives over the course of their diagnosis. I have met the most incredible people and their families.”

Brianna Marshall is the Occupational Therapist (OT) in Sunnybrook’s ALS Clinic, which is the largest in Canada and one of the largest ALS clinics around the world.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and debilitating neuromuscular disorder. Over time, the brain stops sending messages to voluntary muscles and people living with ALS eventually lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, move, and breathe. June is ALS Awareness Month.

“ALS is a devastating diagnosis for patients and families, and there is no known cure,” says Brianna. “Sunnybrook is at the forefront of ALS research working to change that through many ongoing studies and clinical trials. In the meantime, our patients require specialized care and supports across all areas of the healthcare system.”

Brianna works with more than 650 individuals living with ALS and related diagnoses.

“I have learned so much from our patients, their activism, creativity, kindness, and humour – even in the face of impossible odds and heartbreaking choices.”

As the ALS Clinic’s OT, Brianna helps support patients with strategies for their daily activities.

“This could be prescribing custom power wheelchairs, problem-solving home modifications, making exercise recommendations, creating individualized strategies for energy conservation, or recommending devices that compensate for decreased hand function,” she explains.

“The ALS Clinic team at Sunnybrook is nothing short of amazing – it is the most collaborative environment I have ever been a part of. Everyday that I come to work, I’m learning from experts in all of the clinic’s medical and allied health disciplines and working with these team members to improve our clinic processes and the care we provide.

I am honoured that many patients share their experiences with me and trust me with the day-to-day realities of their lives.”

Learn more about Sunnybrook’s ALS Clinic:

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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