SPOKANE, Wash.--Spokane native Steve Gleason went through a successful tracheotomy Monday night at a hospital in New Orleans. Gleason battles with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and had the surgery to help him breathe.
Gleason is a former Gonzaga Prep, Washington State University and New Orleans Saints football star. His fight with ALS inspired KREM 2 News’ Project Inspire campaign.
As ALS stripped Gleason’s body of its strength, it seemed as if his spirit just grew stronger. Soon after Gleason’s surgery Tuesday, he tweeted, “I am persistent like a banana tree. Cut me down, and I will be back before you know it.”
I am persistent like a banana tree. Cut me down, and I will be back before you know it. -SG #nowhiteflags— Steve Gleason (@TeamGleason) May 20, 2014
READ: Steve Gleason's tracheotomy successful
A Team Gleason spokesperson told KREM 2 News that Gleason was out of the ICU on Wednesday and was exceeding expectations.
"They told us he'd be asleep for 24 hours and he wasn't asleep for one,” said spokesperson Clare Durrett.
Durrett said Gleason’s scheduled surgery was accelerated a month or two early.
“On Sunday night he started experiencing some difficulty in his airway and our protocol is to get to the hospital,” said Durrett.
A doctor at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane said some patients opt for the procedure as the disease strips people of their ability to use their muscles.
“Usually the breathing and swallowing functions decline in parallel fashion," said Dr. Greg Carter. "So you lose the ability to swallow and speak. You also get difficulty breathing.”
Dr. Carter said the surgery could prolong a life, but there was no solution to stop the progression of the deadly disease. He added attitude is everything.
"I do think if you throw in the towel and say this disease has beaten me, and I've seen this, people deteriorate much faster. So you have to be a fighter,” said Dr. Carter.
Gleason was a fighter. His motto in the three and half years since he was diagnosed with ALS was, “No White Flags.”
Gleason was set to be out of the hospital just a few days after his surgery.
Gleason strived to help other ALS patients and raise money for research.
CONNECT: Donate to Gleason’s cause and help local patients
CONNECT: Donate to Team Gleason Ironman Challenge