Bill Rasmussen, the founder of ESPN, has revealed he has Parkinson’s disease in an essay on the site.
The 86-year-old, who started the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network in 1979 with his son Scott, revealed he was diagnosed in 2014, and decided to keep the news private.
But in recent years his symptoms have started to show, compelling him to speak out and advocate for research, treatment, and support for others facing similar conditions.
He said, thanks to medicine, he’s ‘doing well’ and is still largely independent, living in Seattle with his daughter, Lynn, who is a registered nurse.
‘Now, by expanding the circle, by sharing my experiences, my hope is that I can help others who are impacted by Parkinson’s and we’ll all learn more together,’ Rasmussen continued.
The 86-year-old, who started the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network in 1979 with his son Scott, revealed he was diagnosed in 2014, and decided to keep the news private
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, equating to about one million Americans.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability. It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died. There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.
Rasmussen, a Chicago-born businessman, pointed readers to the website of Back To The Future actor and fellow Parkinson’s sufferer Michael J Fox, who has posted a comprehensive primer on the disease.
Explaining his own condition, he said: ‘The shaking hands have arrived along with walking a little slower. Unexpected balance issues in crowds have led me to alter my airport routine. Per doctor’s orders, I now ride a wheelchair from check-in to aircraft.’
But he heart-warmingly joked about the benefits of his dwindling flexibility.
Of the airport wheelchair, he says, ‘[y]ou might think that’s embarrassing, but not me – no long TSA lines anymore!’ The stiffness in his fingers saves him from tying a tie and the ‘aggravation and $$’ of driving.
‘I’m a positive guy,’ Rasmussen wrote.
‘I always look at the positive side of people, projects, ideas, etc. For some reason, Parkinson’s is kind of an orphaned malady – people don’t like to talk about it, as if it were taboo.
‘Well, 40 years ago, people didn’t want to talk about a 24-hour sports network either as if competing with “The Big Three” broadcast networks was taboo. We never stopped asking questions, solving problems and selling the dream. A lot of really good people did believe and we see the results of that effort today.
‘Let’s tackle Parkinson’s with the same enthusiastic effort. I’ll be talking a lot about PD in the weeks and months ahead – not as a victim, but as living, breathing proof that when you or a loved one hears the dreaded words, “You have Parkinson’s disease,” life is not over – it’s just the beginning of a new chapter.’
Rasmussen will be doing First Pitch honors at Fenway Park when the Red Sox face the Yankees in September.