Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of the hit cartoon show, SpongeBob Squarepants, revealed he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Despite being diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease, 55-years-old Stephen has no intentions to stop working on the 18-year-old tv show any time soon. The Nickelodeon hit was recently renewed for 2 more seasons.
In a statement for Variety
, Stephen mentioned “I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS. Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ and my other passions for as long as I am able. My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support. We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.”
Stephen created the hit show featured on Nickelodeon out of his love for marine biology. Stephen was a marine biology teacher before creating the cartoon.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.
Muscle weakness or stiffness are early symptoms of ALS. The Weakness progressing, leading to wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and eventually, breathing.
Life expectancy of an ALS patient following diagnosis is 2 to 5 years however, some can live longer. According to the ALS Association, 5% of ALS patients live 20 years after diagnosis. The two main types of ALS are: 1) Sporadic (90 to 95% of cases) and 2) Familial (5 to 10% of cases). Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year and 30,000 have the disease at any given time.