SUN Hockey Pool

Ex-NHLer tells of Parkinson's battle

SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Don Dietrich was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was 34 years old.

A former NHL defenceman with the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils, the Deloraine, Man., native said the news brought an element of the unknown to his life.

There he was, a professional athlete who relies on his body to put food on the table, wondering what the next years of his life would hold.

"Complete denial, because I knew nothing about it," said Dietrich, now 48 years old. "My only thing that I could see on TV was the guy trying to put the puzzle together and the little kid putting his hand ... settling him down.

"I remember seeing that once or twice."

Dietrich admits it took a long time to overcome the shock, eventually understanding that life needed to be appreciated in its simplest forms.

"I used to come home and if I blew a tire on the car I'd kick the furniture and swear, and the tire is still flat," he said.

'Day by day'

"What does it change? My old pal Parkinson's jumps in here and messes me up, well ... I try to deal with it day by day."

Parkinson Society Manitoba says there are about 5,400 people in this province living with the disease.

While Dietrich continues to live with the neurodegenerative disorder, Shannon Corbett knows of the shock of Parkinson's and how it can impact a family.

Her father George was diagnosed back in 2002. He died from the disease six years later.

"My dad was just the most active man," she said. "He played sports, be built our cottage. So when this happened, you really see how things can change quickly."

The 20th annual SuperWalk for Parkinson's takes place in Winnipeg Sept. 12. For more information, visit parkinson.ca.


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