SPOKANE, Wash.--Many veterans may not realize that in addition to putting their life on the line in battle they are also more likely to be diagnosed with a rare and terrifying disease.
Statistics show ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is more common in combat veterans.
One Spokane veteran spent more than one year in combat in Iraq. He thought his biggest battle was behind him when he returned home safely. Then Iraq war and Army veteran Dan Curran was diagnosed with ALS and he said it changed his life.
“I knew it was neurological. And I knew ALS was the worst possible scenario for me,” said Curran.
Curran started to sense something was wrong 18 months ago.
“Leg tremors. I'd get shaking if I was in certain positions,” said Curran.
Curran is just 28-years-old and has a wife and two young daughters.
“I worry for them, watching them see their father slowly get worse,” said his wife Debra Curran.
Curran and his wife joined the wounded warrior project in Spokane about one year after he returned from Iraq in early 2010.
The couple became group leaders at outings like weekly rock climbing excursions and bike trips through Colorado. The couple who helped struggling veterans before them now need help themselves.
“The first few weeks were really hard for me. Kind of got into a dark hole and just really depressed. But then I decided, if my time is short, I'm going to make the best of it,” said Curran.
Doctors have no idea how or why Curran developed the disease. He said doctors told him combat veterans are almost 60% more likely to get it.
“It blows my mind. As if they haven't already been through enough, serving in the wars,” said Debra Curran.
His parents said the 15 months Curran served in Iraq was the worst 15 months of their lives.
“We expected a call for 15 months. It was horrible. Horrible,” said his father John Curran.
“Yes, we thought we had gone through the worst we could go through. And that we made it out on the other side,” said his mother Lori Curran.
The combat veteran said he does not regret a single moment of his service.
“I did some good over there, as a combat medic. It was a tough job, but at the end of the day, people made it home because I was there,” said Curran.
Average life expectancy with ALS is three to five years.
Curran and his wife said they are cherishing every moment they have.
“It resonates in my mind that he may not be around to watch them graduate high school, or get married, or have their own babies. And I’m not going to have him around as long as I thought when we got married,” said Debra Curran.
Friends and relatives are now fundraising so the family can do to Disney World in April.
Curran’s wish is that he is able to take his 6-year-old daughter Leia and his 2-year-old daughter Emma to Disney World before he is no longer able to walk.
Curran also wants to take his girls to meet their grandmother in New York.
“This kind of sped up the timeline, to go visit and do the things we want to do, while I still can,” said Curran.
Dan is channeling the spirit of fellow ALS sufferer Steve Gleason and his no white flags mantra.
“I think he's going to be like Steven, because he's strong,” said John Curran.
“I've been fighting. I fought Iraq, and I made it through there, and now I'm ready to fight this,” said Curran.
The Curran family has already held several fundraisers. They said they are overwhelmed by the generosity of the community.
You can help Curran take his family to Disney World by donating to the Daniel J. Curran fund at any Numerica Location or by visiting www.gofundme.com/51a8e4