Pat Summitt, the veteran women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, made a remarkable and brave admission last month. She told the world that she has Alzheimer’s disease.
Summitt, who is only 59, announced her diagnosis through a letter and video clip posted on the university’s website. She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the Mayor Clinic in Rochester, Minn. And she intend to continue coaching, increasingly depending on her staff,
The New York Time ran a story about Summitt’s news on its front page.
But the coach’s eloquent letter, with portions reprinted below, speaks for itself:
“Throughout my career, I have always made it a point that my life and my basketball program were an open book.
With that in mind, I have something I’d like to share with my Tennessee families – the university, boosters and fans of Lady Vol basketball.
Once last season concluded, I addressed some ongoing concerns regarding my health. After consulting with my local physicians, I decided to visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Earlier this summer, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed me with early onset dementia (“Alzheimer’s Type”) at the age of 59.
I plan to continue to be your coach. Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition since there will be some good days and some bad days.
For that reason I will be relying on my outstanding coaching staff like never before. We have always collaborated on every facet of Lady Vol basketball; and now you will see Holly Warlick, Dean Lockwood and Mickie DeMoss taking on more responsibility as their duties will change significantly.
I love being your coach, and the privilege to go to work every day with our outstanding Lady Vol basketball student-athletes. I appreciate the complete support of UT Chancellor Dr. Jimmy Cheek and UT Athletics Director Joan Cronan to continue coaching at the University of Tennessee as long as the good Lord is willing.”
Summitt’s gutsy move will make her a national poster child for Alzheimer’s. If anyone, she looks like someone who is up to the task. She’s tough and determined. Her women’s team has won right national championships. And she told The Knoxville News Sentinel that she doesn’t want any “pity party.”
Summitt addressed her problem head on. At the end of last season, after she was having memory problems – like not being able to remember when meetings were scheduled – she want to her doctor. He sent her to the Mayo Clinic.
Perhaps her diagnosis was not such a surprise. There is a history of dementia in her family.
In any event, I salute her bravery. And I hope this disease’s affect on Summitt is slow-moving, taking an eternity.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
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