Tuesday, June 14, 2016 / by Kristin & Mark Stampini
Two Champs With Parkinson’s Disease Before the Age of 50
One CHAMP I’m referring to is the one and only Muhammad Ali, one of the most recognizable men in history, and the other champ I'm referring to (which many may think I am crazy to even associate them together) but he was my true hero and that is my dad. My dad was born in 1941 and Ali born in 1942, both of which were diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease before the age of 50. The average age of Parkinson’s Disease is 62 and only 5 – 10% are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease before the age of 50. My dad died in 2011 at the age of 70 and Ali, just recently in 2016 at the age of 74.
Ali was not just about boxing; my dad was not just about his successful career – both
Ali inspired millions, my dad inspired hundreds, and both touched countless lives while alive as well as in their passing. Ali said, “For many years I have dreamed of creating a place to share, teach and inspire people to be their best and to pursue their dreams.
My brother Bret Anderson posted on Facebook right after Ali passed, “The greatest of all time…My Dad and Muhammad Ali. Both were extremely charismatic, both were the best in their profession, both made people laugh and want to be around them. And when they were up against the toughest battle in their lives (Parkinson's Disease), both fought valiantly to the very end. Heroes they were.”
Seeing Muhammad Ali for the First Time
I had a personal experience with Muhammad Ali about 17 years ago while I was living in Louisville, KY working as the General Manager at J. Alexander’s restaurant. While working on Mother’s Day in 1999, I had received a call requesting to reserve a table for seven for Muhammad Ali. I did not believe it, we didn't take reservations and it was the busiest day of the year, but of course, I reserved the table anyway. 45 minutes later, I really couldn't believe it as Muhammad Ali and his family walked into J. Alexander’s restaurant in Louisville to have dinner. As you can imagine the restaurant was packed as it was the busiest day of the year. However, I have never seen a reaction from everyone, and I mean everyone the way it was when Muhammad Ali entered the building.You could feel the silence in the air as he walked through the restaurant. For a brief moment, the entire restaurant stopped, from the chefs in the back to every staff member and dining guest stood as they gave a standing ovation. A true well-known “Champion” he was ! Working in the restaurant industry I had seen a number of celebrities walk in. I couldn’t believe Ali and his family were walking through our front door.At this point, he was shuffling and very soft-spoken, he greeted everyone with respect.Also, something I had never witnessed before happened as well, after his entrance, nobody bothered him or tried to approach him for an autograph or anything. They simply allowed him to enjoy his family dinner. This truly showed the amount of love and respect people had for this incredible man.
Similarly, Ali and my dad had Parkinson’s Disease at a young age; the early stages for both of them were very subtle. At the beginning stages, some people can feel a little stiff, have difficulty getting out of a chair, remain frozen in an expression and several other subtle signs. My dad had a slight shaking of his pinky finger many years before he was ever diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. We believe he had Parkinson’s Disease for well over 20 years. On the other hand, Ali never displayed much of the disease until 12 years after he was diagnosed.
Ali gave people hope and proved that anyone could overcome insurmountable odds. He gave people courage and made fighters in so many of us. He touched lives with his incredible spirit and wasn’t only a monumental athlete, but someone who stood up for their beliefs, a leader, a humanitarian, a global citizen, and an artist. Ali’s work both inside and outside of the boxing ring truly makes Muhammad Ali one of “The Greatest of All Time”.
There are 5 stages of Parkinson's Disease, not everyone has all the same symptoms of the disease; some will have restless sleep, a soft voice, difficulty swallowing, constipation, memory problems, confusion, they fall easily, have oily skin and dandruff and much more. My dad at one stage or another did have all of those symptoms but not everyone will experience the same. Ali and my dad both experienced their body and arms trembling uncontrollably, both had a soft voice, slurred their speech, saliva drooling from their mouths and a tremor in their hands. They both moved slowly over the years, shuffled while they walked, and their muscles and facial expressions stiffened and became rigid.
As National Parkinson’s Foundation describes Parkinson’s Disease, “Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Most people's symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease. In short, a person's brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. With less and less dopamine, a person has less and less ability to regulate their movements, body and emotions. Parkinson's disease itself is not fatal. However, complications from the disease are serious; there is currently no cure for Parkinson's.”
Nearly 1 million people in the US are currently living with Parkinson’s disease and it affects 7 to 10 million people worldwide. Why Parkinson’s disease occurs is not known. Doctors and Scientists believe it can be caused by; oxidative stress, head trauma, certain toxins in the environment may be linked to Parkinson’s disease which includes; carbon monoxide, carbon disulfide, and manganese. Some think that Parkinson’s disease may be inherited but not enough is understood at this point and the implications for children of people with Parkinson’s disease aren’t clear. As motor skills decline, simple tasks like brushing your teeth or eating may become more difficult and may struggle from independence. Medications and the disease itself can cause mood changes and even the thoughts of suicide.
At the present time, there is no cure for PD, but there are a variety of medications that can provide dramatic relief from the symptoms. Scientists are currently looking for the cause of PD and continue their research for possible environmental factors like toxins that may trigger the disease and they are studying the genetic factors to determine how defective genes may play a role in the disease. Other scientists are working to develop new drugs that can delay, prevent or even reverse the disease.
My dad worked so hard his entire life in order to provide a good life for his entire family, he traveled often for his career as well as working countless hours per week. I believe with the lifestyle my dad had, stress may have played a role in his disease. He was a strong man who never gave up and was passionate about what he believed in. This trait trickled down to me as well, and at the age of 35, I also felt a great deal of stress. Working 60 hours per week as well as moving 14 times in 10 years all while managing restaurants.
After watching what my dad went through, it was an eye-opener and I decided I should change my career and my entire lifestyle; in 2002 I moved to Florida and a couple of years later I found my passion in the real estate business. I love helping clients achieve their goals, and also coaching realtors in how to be successful.
Seeing the recent passing of such an inspirational man, Muhammad Ali, reminded me of my father, and sadly I didn’t realize the similarities between them until then. However, I am grateful to be able to witness the lives of such amazing individuals who inspired me as well as many others.
Two “CHAMPS” both diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease before the age of 50 and both were admired and moved so many of us! RIP Muhammad Ali & LeRoy F. Anderson. It's important to spread the awareness, so to find out more about Parkinson's Disease Click Here, to read more about it on Parkinson's Disease Foundation's website.
To read our Previous Blog, Click Here