When classic TV icon Alan Alda was a young boy, he survived the life-threatening and often debilitating viral infection Polio.
Alda came down with the illness in 1943, almost a decade before the U.S. suffered its worst Polio pandemic that killed 3,000 people and left 21,000 more with partial or full paralysis.
As the 86-year-old told AARP, he was only seven when he came down with symptoms. And he remembers that day clearly.
“I had a stuffy nose at the Warner’s movie theater — honking the whole evening. I couldn’t clear my nose,” he said. “When I got home, I threw up. And my legs were unsteady.”
By the next morning, Alda’s illness had progressed far passed a stuffy nose. His neck was so stiff that he “couldn’t sit up in bed.” And after his parents called the doctor, he knew something was terribly wrong.
The future actor was sent straight to the hospital where he had to undergo a spinal tap. And once diagnosed, the doctors admitted him and Alda stayed there for two weeks. Once he went home, the struggle continued.
“I had about six months of a therapy devised by Elizabeth Kenny, the famous nurse from Australia,” Alda recalled. ” I had nearly scalding blankets wrapped around my limbs every hour. It was hard on me.”
But despite his traumatic experience with Polio, Alan Alda still has his wits about him.
“It was harder, I think, on my parents, who couldn’t afford a nurse and had to torture me themselves. It’s always better to pay somebody to torture your kid,” he joked.
Alan Alda Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Decades After Surviving Polio
Fortunately, Alan Alda survived Polio without any lifelong complications. And from there, he went on to enjoy more than sixty years in Hollywood. But in 2015, he learned that he was battling another serious illness, Parkinson’s Disease.
However, Ala has always been a positive force in the world. And he wasn’t going to stop because of his diagnosis. For five years, he kept his illness from fans and continued acting. It wasn’t until 2020 that he revealed his illness, and he only did so because he was beginning to show symptoms.
Prior to his announcement, Alda simply accepted his fate and did his best to stave away any complications because he knew that he couldn’t give up his remaining healthy years.
“A lot of people hear they have Parkinson’s and get depressed and panicky and don’t do anything, just hoping it’ll go away. It’s not going to,” he told AARP. “But you can hold off the worst symptoms.”
To do so, Alda exercised as often as possible saying that “movement helps.” And the self-proclaimed science fanatic also researched a whole list of things proven to help his body deal with Parkinson’s.
“I move to music a lot,” he continued. “I take boxing lessons from a guy trained in Parkinson’s therapy. I do a full workout specifically designed for this disease. It’s not the end of the world when you get this diagnosis.”