Most players who make it to the NHL face their fair share of adversity, but Chicago Blackhawks center Jake Dowell has endured some unique challenges. For the better part of the past decade, Dowell has lived with the specter of Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder where nerve cells in the brain are irreparably damaged. Once the disease sets in, a person’s abilities to walk, think and reason are slowly stripped away as the body and mind continue to decline until they eventually die.
It has already taken hold of Dowell’s 55-year-old father, John, who can no longer speak clearly and relies on 24-hour care, most of it from his wife, Jake’s mother, Vicki. The disease normally develops between the ages of 35 and 55, but there can also be juvenile-onset Huntington’s, which brought on bipolar schizophrenia in his 28-year-old brother, Lucas, and confined the young man to a group home near his parents in Eau Claire, Wis. There is also a 50 percent chance Jake will develop Huntington’s, but he has chosen not to be tested at this time.
As part of our in-depth look at Dowell’s story in the May 2 edition of The Hockey News magazine, Ken Campbell traveled to Montreal to sit down with Jake and THN.TV was there.
In Part 1 of the two-part interview, Jake talks about the effects of the disease on his father and brother, how he is coping and his family history. Check out Part 2 here.
For more on Dowell’s story be sure to pick up the May 2, 2011 edition of The Hockey News magazine and look for Part 2 of the interview Friday, April 15.
REPORTER: Ken Campbell PRODUCER: Ted Cooper