It started with a trickle of ice and some cold water and now it has taken over the internet. All kinds of people, from high school jocks to 90 year old grandmothers, are taking the A.L.S. CHALLENGE to raise awareness about Lou Gherig’s Disease — and some of them are dying.
Since the beginning of the summer of 2014 when people started dousing themselves and others with icy water and challenging others to do the same or donate to an ALS charity, the ALS Challenge has raised a substantial amount of money, but it has also killed at least a dozen people in the USA alone.
“I was watching when my brother-in-law did the ALS thing in the park with his kids at our family reunion. Everybody was laughing and having a good time when Mike took the bucket and poured it over his own head. He let out a gasp like anyone would do when they get freezing water poured on their heads and we laughed. But then, all of a sudden, Mike wasn’t laughing and he looked up at his wife and he tried to wave for her to come over to him and then he dropped down and turned gray. The paramedics were there in about 10 minutes but he was dead. The whole picnic and everything was ruined. People’s lives were ruined. I think people should just write a check or something. I know it’s a fatal disease but it’s not worth dying for.” [Raymond Totetundi, Mamaroneck, NY. USA]
Raymond Totetundi’s brother-in-law Mike is neither the first nor the only person to die as a direct result of the ALS challenge, but his death in a crowded cookout park was the first to bring attention to the possibility of serious injury and death associated with the ALS Challenge.
Here is list of three people and the circumstances that resulted in their deaths after taking the ALS challenge. The first one is strange but true and, of course, it could only happen in New Jersey.
1) Concetta DelloFagiollo, age 77, Belleville, New Jersey: Mrs. DelloFagiollo was killed in early August (2014) when she took the ALS challenge in a rather unconventional way. Instead of ice cold water, she used a large pot of ice cold tomato sauce and meatballs while standing in the backyard of her home as two of her sons and four of her grandchildren watched on in horror.
She’d made the two gallons of sauce and meatballs weeks before and then froze it for future use. She put the pot in the refrigerator so it would thaw out over a couple of days. Her son says she got the idea to take the challenge when she saw it on TV.
With her grandson’s cell phone cam running, Mrs. DelloFaggiollo’s sons Carmine and Alphonse dumped the pot of tomato sauce and meatballs on her head. In the video she seems momentarily chilled and she jokes, “I don’t think that Lou Gherig was Italian.” Then, she falls to the ground and her body starts twitching. The video ends there. EMS was on the scene in minutes but Mrs. DelloFagiollo was already non-responsive and was declared dead a half hour later at a local hospital.
“One minute we were a family having fun with our mother and the next thing you know we’re standing in the Emergency Room of a hospital and standing there while the doctor told us our mother was dead. It was like a dream because she was right there behind the curtain and you could smell the gravy and meatballs and it was like she was already in heaven and calling us home for supper like when we were kids. That’s the only way I could describe it. The doctor was nice but he couldn’t understand the way we felt because he wasn’t Italian.” [Carmine DelloFaggiollo – son]
2) Jolene K. Parlhunter, age 33, Millstone, New Jersey: Jolene stood under the roof her family’s garage while her brother’s prepared to dump an aluminum garbage can of ice and water. Her cousin Jennifer filmed the event as Jolene called out the challenge to several of her friends at work. As Jolene is speaking, her brother accidentally knocks over the trash can and it falls from the garage roof and lands hard on Jolene’s head. Her skull was crushed and she was killed at the scene. Police estimated the weight of the trash can filled with a block of ice and water at about 170 pounds. The block of ice alone weighed 75 pounds. Police have confiscated the cell phone used to film the event pending an investigation.
“She was just getting ready to tell her brothers to dump the water but her older brother almost fell and when her other brother reached out to help him, the can just fell down hard and squashed her head like when you drop a pumpkin from something high up. I dropped my phone and ran away screaming because she was all messed up and disgusting. The weird thing now that I think about it is that her brother’s didn’t even bother to break up the giant block of ice they put in the trash can, so even if they got it right, that block of ice would still have killed her. Why didn’t they even think about that in the first place?” [Jennifer Smith – cousin]
3) Karl Boulliet, age 66, Keansburg, New Jersey: Karl took the challenge on a fishing boat out on the expansive Raritan Bay while participating in bluefish tournament. Karl had just landed a bluefish that, at 25 pounds, was certain to win him the the $1.000 grand prize, and in the flush of victory he decided to take the ALS Challenge right there on deck. His nephew Taylor-Joe Hudak describes.
“My Uncle K was really happy to catch that fish and him and his friends gulped down a few beers and everybody was like going crazy and having a great time. Then some guy I don’t know decided that it would be a great idea to use some crushed ice and picnic cooler full of ice and water to make my uncle take the ALS Challenge right there on deck. My uncle was totally into it. So like three of us filmed it and he challenged some other guys on the boat and his sister who is my mother and then these guys dumped the ice water on him. He was cold and shivering but laughing. Then he walked to the back of the boat and while he was walking he just collapsed and was out cold. He was breathing but we could not wake him up. It took about 5 minutes for us to get to the dock but by then he wasn’t breathing and the firemen did CPR but he was dead in the ambulance and they said he had a heart attack from the shock. Personally I think that he finally caught a great fish and that’s the way he wanted his life to end.”
Editor’s note: Most people should consult their doctors before taking the ALS Challenge. The Damien Zone thinks that it might be a better idea to donate some money to a worthy cause associated with this incurable disease.
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