Sandra Bullock’s partner of eight years, Bryan Randall, has died of ALS at the age of 57.
His family confirmed the news in a statement shared with People magazine, writing: “It is with great sadness that we share that, on Aug 5, Bryan Randall passed away peacefully after a three-year battle with ALS. Bryan chose early to keep his journey with ALS private and those of us who cared for him did our best to honour his request.”
The statement continued to thank the “tireless” medical staff who helped Randall throughout his illness. ALS presents differently in each patient, with varying life expectancy – so just how much do we know about the disease?
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is an incurable neuro-generative disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ALS affects the brain and spinal cord’s nerve cells, causes loss of muscle control and worsens over time. For an average person with ALS, life expectancy from the time of diagnosis is three to five years.
Early symptoms include muscle spasms, weakness in the legs, arms, hands or feet, or dropping things and tripping over. It eventually spreads to other body parts and can make it difficult to speak, breathe or swallow.
It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the Hall of Fame baseball player famously diagnosed in 1939. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking lived with the disease for 55 years before his death at 76 in 2018.
What causes ALS?
What causes the disease is unknown. Ninety per cent of cases have no known genetic cause or history, according to the ALS Association. People who develop the disease tend to be from the 40-70 age range, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis.
However, there have been cases of people in their 20s and 30s being diagnosed – Hawking was 21 – and men are 20 per cent more likely than women to develop ALS.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 31,000 people were living with ALS in the United States in 2017. In New Zealand, an average of 144 people are diagnosed with motor neurone disease – of which ALS is the most common form – each year, or about two in every 100,000, according to MND New Zealand.
The viral Ice Bucket Challenge was started in 2014 to raise funds to fight the disease, inspiring thousands of people to dump buckets of iced water over themselves to raise awareness.
Others who have talked about their diagnosis with ALS include Zac Brown Band musician John Driskell Hopkins, who was diagnosed in 2022.
Just 51 at the time, Hopkins revealed: “Over the past several years, I’ve noticed some balance issues and some stiffness in my hands.
“After careful analysis by some of the country’s top neurologists, I have been diagnosed with ALS. Because my symptoms have been slow progressing from the start, we believe they will continue to be slow progressing going forward.”
Singer Roberta Flack revealed last year that her struggle with the condition had made it “impossible to sing”.