First of the month rant — August: Hate too nice a word for Parkinson’s disease

Posted: 08/04/2011 in college football, first of the month rant
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I have never met Steve Kragthorpe. I’ve never spoken to him or ever had a reason to call him.

That also means he’s a football coach who has never twisted my head or used swear words to describe me.

But news of a health issue involving Kragthorpe reminded me of something much more important:

I hate Parkinson’s disease … hate it with a deep passion.

My dad died of Parkinson’s disease at age 65 in 2003 and it was hard to watch the decline over the final 15 years of his life. His last four-plus years were spent in a nursing home with very little – if any – quality of life.

Visitors to the nursing facility would occasionally ask me how old he was. I remember telling one woman in 2000 that he was 62. She was very surprised to hear that.

She thought my dad had to be in his late 70s or early 80s. Couldn’t blame her for thinking that because he certainly looked it.

So that’s why I’m thinking of Steve Kragthorpe. The dude is just 46 years old and stepped down as LSU’s offensive coordinator on Thursday after recently being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

I could care less about Kragthorpe’s successes as a well-respected offensive mind or that he bottomed out as Louisville’s head coach with back-to-back 1-6 records in Big East play in his final two seasons before being fired.

This is all about Kragthorpe the person and has nothing to do with the X’s and O’s of football.

When the seriousness of my father’s illness began hitting me in the face, I used to pray that nobody I know would ever get Parkinson’s disease.

I upgraded that during his final year alive – requesting that even people I don’t know avoid the disease too.

To the uneducated, Parkinson’s disease is just an ailment where people shake a little and drool but any family that has seen a first-hand view knows it is much, much worse.

It is a disease of the brain where the chemical that controls muscle movement is in a steady decline. There are other effects over time, including dementia in the latter stages. And the hallucinations that some medicines cause while trying to treat the disease can make matters worse.

There is no cure. All doctors can do is try to control the symptoms.

There were numerous times where I watched my dad just fall to the ground because he couldn’t control his balance. One time I dropped him off at the front of a hospital and just told him to stand there with his walker so I could park the car so he wouldn’t have to struggle getting from the car to the hospital entrance.

It took a good five or six minutes to find a parking space and as I started jogging toward the hospital, I could see a lot of commotion up ahead. I started picking up the pace and didn’t see my dad anywhere. Sure enough, he had fallen to the pavement and was being attended to.

Remember, all he had to do was keep his balance for a few minutes.

So I feel great empathy for Kragthorpe and his family. He described the diagnosis as “a little bit of a blow to myself” but there are too many of us who are fully aware that there is nothing little about being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

To top it off, Kragthorpe’s wife has multiple sclerosis. That’s another disease with no known cure.

I feel for the couple’s three sons. They deserve better.

Again, I outright hate Parkinson’s disease. I despise the ailment more than Ohio State alums dislike Michigan alums, more than Alabama fans dislike Auburn fans, and more than many American citizens hate Casey Anthony.

It is a disease that eventually robs a person of their dignity. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it.

That’s why I get upset when even people I don’t know or have never met get diagnosed with the disease.

Steve Kragthorpe is now facing his toughest opponent. I wish him the best.


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