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NEW ORLEANS – Steve Gleason, a New Orleans hero since he blocked a punt for the first touchdown in the Saints' first home game after Hurricane Katrina, says that until there's a cure for his paralyzing disease, technology is the solution.
The special teams standout in January 2011 was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. The terminal condition causes gradual paralysis. Gleason went public with it in October 2012 — five years to the day after that post-Katrina touchdown and only weeks before his son Rivers was born.
Gleason, who now gets around in a powered wheelchair, on Thursday showed off some of the technology that helps people like him get around at a residence he's creating for up to 18 people with ALS and multiple sclerosis, another disease that progressively damages the nervous system.
A computerized system in the Team Gleason House lets people control lights, doors, window shades, televisions, and room temperature by moving a hand or with head, eyes, or breathing.
Work is still being done on the first floor of a 116-bed skilled nursing facility being developed by the St. Margaret's Daughters order in a mid-city hospital abandoned after the floods of Hurricane Katrina.
Chase gave Gleason's foundation, Team Gleason, $350,000 to install the system made by Promixis LLC of Jupiter, Fla.
The Team Gleason House at St. Margaret's is the second home in the country for ALS and MS patients. The other is at the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, Mass. It's expected to take its first residents in spring, said Greg Hassell, spokesman for Chase.