NY Mets Legend Buddy Harrelson Faces the Biggest Battle of His Life: Alzheimer's
Buddy Harrelson is used to being recognized for his incredible athletic prowess and his huge role in the first World Series win for the New York Mets in 1968. In the summer of 2016, however, he wasn’t known as a star athlete, but as a patient in Dr. Max Rudansky’s Huntington-based neurologist practice. While waiting for Dr. Rudansky to enter the room, Harrelson reviewed the symptoms that worried him and his ex-wife Kim to the point of scheduling this doctor’s visit.
That summer, Harrelson began to notice words from his vocabulary disappearing, and it was more than the occasional brain blip. He felt himself struggling to complete his sentences and to convey his thoughts in spoken conversations.
These symptoms brought him to the doctor’s office, not because of their occurrence, but because of their frequency. In fact, Harrelson had put these worries off for three years. In 2013, his family had taken Harrelson to a different doctor to search for the root cause of these alarming symptoms. The doctor had ascribed these symptoms to simply aging. He also suggested that stress and possibly depression could be causing these symptoms. Harrelson held onto this notion for as long as he could, but after three years it was becoming apparent that this wasn’t a normal progression.
The anxiety around these symptoms really grew once Harrelson began to face difficulty driving. Kim, Harrelson’s ex-wife, was driving behind Harrelson when she saw him whiz past his regular turn into his neighborhood in Hauppauge, Long Island. Harrelson was a bit over-zealous in his attempt to fix his mistake, jerking his wheel to take a sharp left turn from the far right lane, which could have easily caused a fatal accident.
Harrelson acknowledged that this wasn’t the first time he was confused and lost while driving in familiar areas. Harrelson owns a condominium in Venice, Florida. Venice became his home away from home and he went there regularly after each baseball season. He was able to navigate those Venice roads in his sleep, or at least he had been. In October of 2015, as he drove down the roads of Venice, he was overwhelmed with intense anxiety and fear as he failed to recognize where he was.
“I had no idea where I was,” Harrelson said. “Scared the hell out of me.”
Dr. Rudansky considered the information that Kim and Buddy had given him about Buddy’s concerns. Dr. Rudansky had reviewed the MRI and CT scan test results and considered what he had noticed during their office visit. He did not want to be the bearer of bad news.
After a slow exhale, Dr, Rudansky looked at Kim and said “[Harrelson] has Alzheimer’s.”
In that instant, Buddy and Kim looked at each other and began to cry. What they did know about Alzheimer’s wasn’t good, and what research they did find was not exactly uplifting.
Photo source: Newsday/Daniel De Mato