It is always shocking to
discover that someone who has represented vigor, vitality, charm and
talent has developed Alzheimer's.
I am not talking about
President Reagan or Charlton Heston, although they are likely the most
well-know victim and likely victim to this dread disease.
Instead, I am talking
about my very good friend, Steve, who is now going through rapidly
deteriorating stages of Alzheimer's. This is the friend who was an
engineer, an excellent professional photographer, a pilot, a forest fire
fighter, a loving Father and husband, and a man of unequalled faith
Steve's illness, likely
brought about by the fault of a surgeon's knife during some basic ear
surgery. started nearly 13 years ago. It made no headlines, nor did
it attract any large outpouring of public sentiment.
That is why, if as the
Bible says, things do work together for some good, (I added the
'some' and hope God will understand), then the more recent illness of the
former President and the actor might help focus an increased
national attention on the ravages of this disease.
Nancy Reagan has shown
the style and class that exemplified her tenure as First Lady, and once
again created a role model as a care giver for her beloved 'Ronnie.'
At the same time, she has been a leading advocate of the struggle against
Alzheimer's. Now, Mr. Heston, who apparently is able to continue
with a major part of his life before the final onslaught of Alzheimer's
has a unique opportunity to play one of the most important roles of
his life--the Moses who can create a new national sense of urgency about
taking the research steps necessary to end the ravages of Alzheimer's upon
an aging population and the people who must act as caregivers for the
It wasn't too long ago
that such national attention was finally called to the plight of AIDS
victims when another famous personality fell victim to the killing
disease. I refer, of course, to Rock Hudson,
There are those who
would say that Hudson's life style was the major contributor to his
illness. It doesn't matter. The fact is that in his illness,
Hudson drew attention to the plight of not only many of our fellow
citizens, but to what is a worldwide plague that attacks and kills
As a result, the sense
of urgency to counter-attack AIDS was launched, albeit belatedly.
Now, as we watch a man
who was loved by millions and was at one time the most powerful man in the
world sink further into the darkness of the oblivion that is
Alzheimer's...as we study the face of one of the most vibrant,
authoritarian movie stars of our time, playing roles from the agent of God
to legendary heroes, only to realize that there are now no second
takes...and, as I watch my old friend sharing their fate, it is time for
this nation to do more.
So, we urge Mr. Heston, while he can, to dedicate his tremendous talent
and energy to the plight of those who need an advocate, namely the victims
of Alzheimer's and their caregivers.