It’s a chronic, progressively degenerative, neurological disease with no known cause or cure. It’s debilitating, demoralizing, and often causes depression. It’s called Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and it has our famous right fielder, Kirk Gibson, in it’s clutches.
Gibson formerly announced his diagnosis on April 28, 2015, but, in a recent interview with the Detroit News, he revealed that he knew something was wrong on Opening Day,
“I had a hard time talking. It was huge anxiety, something I had never felt in my life. After that, I knew I had to get it checked out.”
Gibson is not alone in his diagnosis with 50,000 to 60,000 new cases discovered each year.
Symtoms of PD include resting tremor (uncontrollable movement of a body limb), postural instability (issues standing, walking, impaired balance and coordination), as well as bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and rigidity (stiffness in limbs). People with PD also often deal with speech complications and issues with swallowing.
The disease has received a public face over the years due to the diagnosis in celebrities such as boxer Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox, and country singer Johnny Cash. I have a specific and personal experience with PD as my father struggled with the disease for the last decade of his life.
For Gibson’s part, his attitude towards the diagnosis should surprise no one:
“I’m in attack mode,” he said. “I got some news that was out of the norm, and this has become my new norm. And, actually, I’ve felt pretty decent. Just trying to stay active. In fact, my golf game was coming along well till I threw out my back last week. I find that things you maybe took for granted you even more appreciate now.”
Exercise and medication can help some PD patients with the symptoms of the disease. There are some experimental surgical options, but, Gibson does not plan to explore those at this time. For his part, he is interested in helping raise awareness for this disease that afflicts over 1 million Americans.
Want to learn more about Parkinson’s? There is a lot of information available online with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The actor has worked extremely hard to raise awareness, fundraise for research, and lobby congress to modify regulations on stem cell research to aid in the search for a cure.
For now, Gibson is taking solace working with his Fox Sports Detroit team and continuing his career as a broadcaster for the Tigers.
“All the people at Fox (FSD), along with Mario and Rod, who have been the greatest teammates I could ever have, everybody’s been incredible.”