Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological disorder affecting nerve cells in the brain responsible for moving and other body reactions – dopamine.
Approximately 7-10 million people worldwide suffer from PD. Famous people are not an exception.
The stories of people who are always in the public eye illustrate the courage to live in spite of the disease. As the scientists continue to research treatment opportunities, Parkinson’s patients continue to fight.
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Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Health of the outstanding Spanish artist began to decline when he turned 76. As his hands started shaking he could hardly ever work but continued to paint. His last painting serie The Swallow’s Tail Dali finished in 1983 when the Parkinson’s disease developed.
Genius surrealist died in 1989 at the age of 84. Still it is not proven that Salvador had Parkinson’s. A lot of scientists and researchers also suspect Salvador Dalí had schizophrenia.
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)
An American boxer is one of the most remarkable personalities of the 20th century. The fighter in the ring, the fighter in the life. One of his unending battles was with Parkinson’s disease. He was only 42, when the diagnosis was established.
PD affected his speech, facial expression, and ability to move. As time passed, he couldn’t simply put his finger to his nose. But it didn’t change his mental ability, his sense of humor, desire to live and help others. He founded the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center – educational, research and resource center supporting people suffering PD and their families.
Rasheda Ali, his daughter from the second marriage, wrote a book I’ll Hold Your Hand So You Won’t Fall: A Child’s Guide to Parkinson’s Disease to help children understand their relatives with PD basing on her own experience.
Michael J. Fox (1961)
Michael J. Fox, an awarded Canadian movie star, is probably the most renowned celebrity with PD. Diagnosed at the age of 30 in 1991, he faced the challenges of waking up in the morning, using tooth brush, acting. It was a long way from the denial of the disease to its acceptance and public acknowledgement.
In 1998, Fox and Muhammad Ali teamed up against Parkinson’s and raise awareness about PD. In 2000, Fox founded The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research – currently the largest organization devoted to the disease.
In 2012, Michael returned on screen. Now the actor thinks positively about the disease. He and his fund continue to make researches for finding a cure for the treatment and studying already-existing methods of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and Magnetic Resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS).
Deborah Kerr (1921-2007)
Award-winning British actress is considered as one of the most beautiful women of her time. During her long Hollywood career she played in over 100 movies.
Parkinson’s disease found actress in 1994 when she was 73.
In 1998 she received a CBE award – Commander of Order of the British Empire, but she was unable to accept it personally because of the disease.
Her condition worsened and she could hardly say anything. She moved to England to spend more time with her family.
At 86, she peacefully died in the midst of her closest family members.
Francisco Franco (1892-1975)
The first symptoms of the disease appeared at the age of 82, when the Spanish military dictator could hardly keep his eyes open. His head bowed forward, sight was disoriented, voice was low and trembling. He had endless trembling and shaking, involuntary movement of eyelids.
At the time in Spain was no Levadopa – main method for Parkinson’s disease treatment since 1967. However, El Generallissmo’s treatment included physiotherapy – an advanced method for that time. One of the exercises was a declamation of military anthems.
Franco passed away after coma caused by PD and other diseases.
Some biographers and neurologists believe that Franco’s ally Adolf Hitler also had Parkinson’s disease due to his hand tremor. However it’s still very disputable.
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