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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stephen Heywood, 37, battled ALS



(Stephen Heywood and family in the 2006 documentary film "So Much So Fast," directed by Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan.)

During the past several years, Stephen Heywood allowed stem cells to be injected into his spinal column, participated in clinical trials for new drugs and genetic studies, and received a brain implant as part of an experiment in how thoughts can be used to control a wheelchair and other robotic objects.

Just as the 37-year-old father from Newton gave his body to science in the waning years of his life -- even allowing himself to be the subject of the recently released, critically acclaimed documentary "So Much So Fast" -- he submitted himself to science in death as well, a Globe obituary reports today.

Eight years after being diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Mr. Heywood lost the use of his ventilator early Friday morning, leaving him brain dead. His body survived for two days, long enough for him to donate his kidneys to two patients, relatives said.

"Stephen would tell a joke about wanting to die a heroic death," said his brother, Jamie of Newton. "It went something like this: There would be a fire, and he would save someone. But it would have be a slow fire with ramps, because he would be in a wheelchair. I think he found a way to do that."

-- David Abel

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