Most of us are familiar with the film The Theory of Everything, which chronicles Stephen Hawking’s affliction with ALS. But there is another film just as compelling: Transfatty Lives by filmmaker Patrick O’Brien.
As reported by the Columbian, Patrick was a rising star filmmaker and DJ in New York City. Then one day, he began experiencing strange symptoms: shaky, trembling legs and loss of balance. In 2005, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig’s disease.
At 30 years old, Patrick had an estimated two to five years to live.
Patrick knew he had a story to share, so he decided to write, direct, and produce a documentary chronicling his life with the disease. The film, like The Theory of Everything, is unabashedly real in capturing the harsh reality of Patrick’s disease—from losing control of his legs and arms to the need for a feeding tube and then a ventilator.
Patrick persevered with the film making, and when he lost the ability to talk or move, he finished making his film using a computer system that detects eye movements, which are translated into words on a screen.
Fun fact: The title Transfatty Lives comes from Patrick’s DJ name and his passion for junk food.
O’Brien is 41 years old and lives at a center for people with ALS. He is very pleased with the response to his film, declaring it a “wildest dream come true.” Patrick has been an outspoken champion for bringing awareness to ALS. Not only has he participated in the “ice bucket challenge,” but he’s also sat naked in his wheelchair out front of the White House to raise ALS awareness.
Friends and family say that it was very difficult for Patrick to make the movie, but they know it was worth the inspiration people have gotten and will continue to get from the movie.
The film is also a love letter to Patrick’s son Sean, who is now eight. More than anything, Patrick does not want Sean to be afraid of him or his disease.
Read more about Patrick here.
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