Durham doctor's flashy suits bring smiles to ALS patients

Friday, January 22, 2021
Durham doctor's flashy suits bring smiles to ALS patients
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Dr. Rick Bedlack is known as a champion of ALS patients. He's also known for his flashy clothes, which he says are more than just sartorial splendor.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dr. Rick Bedlack is known as a champion of ALS patients. He's also known for his flashy clothes.

Now, the Duke ALS researcher has the ultimate sparkly suit with matching mask by celebrity designer Jerry Lee Atwood, who has dressed Post Malone and Lil Naz X.

"I just thought it would be really neat if I could combine all the things I've learned with my love of fashion and put that into a suit somehow," said Dr. Bedlack, Director of the Duke ALS Clinic.

"We made a lot of suits for celebrities, a couple NFL players, that sort of thing," said Atwood, who is based in Indiana. Atwood started Union Western Clothing Co. with Joe David Walters. "So it was really cool to get a request from somebody who's a doctor who works with these patients and wanted a suit to wear to brighten up their day."

The suit is blue with rhinestones and everything on it is symbolic.

Instead of a tuxedo stripe, there is a design with motor neurons, which ALS attacks.

The UFO design on the back reminds Bedlack to keep an open mind and think outside the box.

The swallows on the front are a nod to one of his patients, who had tattoos of the birds and reminded him about the importance of hope.

"I've got blue cornflowers," Bedlack said. "So, like people with ALS, these look really fragile, but they're surprisingly tough."

The suit is not for a fancy event. It's for his patients.

"I think the most important thing I do is my ALS Clinic, and so there's no occasion to me more special than that day, which is every Tuesday," Bedlack said. "And so, I've now worn it to clinic. I'm actually working over at the VA hospital today and I've worn it over here, and already saw some big smiles on some of the veterans as I was walking down the hall."

The suit cost him $5,000, but he said it brings joy to his patients.

"ALS is a really challenging disease, especially for patients and families but also for doctors," Bedlack said. "I mean, nobody goes to medical school to work really hard to help their patients and unfortunately, watch a lot of them become disabled and have shortened lives. And I've got to find every way that I can to stay positive for them, and the clothes help me."

Atwood said it takes him up to 120 hours to make his suits.

"It's a lot of literal blood, sweat and tears that go into it," Atwood said. "So knowing that my hard work brightens up someone else's day, you know, makes really does make it all worthwhile."