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Disease Impaired

THE COP & THE KID/NBC/1975-76 (Asthmatic)
*(Charles Durning) Officer Frank Murphy, a portly middle-aged Irish cop who was afraid if his asthma condition was discovered, he would be let off the force.

DeGRASSI JR. HIGH/SYN/1987-91 (Epilepsy & Leukemia)
**(Stacy Mistysyn) Caitlin Ryan, seventh grade class beauty, aspiring actress, swim team member and school newspaper reporter for The DeGrassi Digest who struggled with epilepsy (controlled by medication). Another seventh grader Lorraine "L.D." Delacorte (Amanda Cook) developed leukemia at age 15 and missed much of her freshman year due to chemotherapy and her growing reclusive nature. The characters continued on the sequel series DeGRASSI HIGH.

THE DISTRICT/CBS/2000-2004 (Huntingtons's Disease)
**(Elizabeth Marvel) Officer Nancy Parras, red-haired female police officer assigned to work with the Chief of Police in Washington, DC. On episode No. 51 "Old Wounds" (aired 11-02-2002) Nancy is back on the beat. While chasing a purse-snatching suspect, she loses her balance and falls off a ladder leading up the side of a building. After a stint in the hospital and a routine blood test, her doctor discover she has the gene for the incurable neurodegenerative genetic brain disorder called Huntington's Disease. Later Nancy confides "I've been reading up on Huntingdon Disease. It's a pretty miserable disease. It has no symptoms" (until it's too late). Offering support, Police Chief Mannion (Craig T. Nelson) tells her "When the symptoms start, I want you to tell me." Nancy agrees.

EARTH 2/NBC/1994-95 (The Syndrome)
*(Joey Zimmerman/costar) Ulysses Adair, disabled eight-year-old boy who needed to wear a clumsy life-support apparatus to negotiate the terrain of a planet called Earth 2 (actually known as G-889). He suffered from "the syndrome" caused by continuous life onboard a space station that deprived its occupants (who were forced to live there) of the benefits of naturally produced fresh air and water. His mother Devon Adair hoped that the organic environment of the new planet would help cure her son of his technologically created affliction.

ER/NBC/1994+ (Parkinson's Disease)
**(Don Cheadle) Paul Nathan, middle-aged African-American med student assigned to surgical rotation at the Emergency Room at Cook County Hospital in Chicago: Introduced on episode #185 "A Hopeless Wound" (aired 10-31-2002), Paul Nathan's character was found to suffer from Parkinson Disease, but despite his condition he was determined to become a surgeon. Paul decided to pursue medicine "after" being diagnosed with the disease. Paul takes medication to keep his condition in check but on occasion he exhibits trembling of the hands and the inability to coordinate his body movements. At the end of episode # 186 "Only You Can Hope" (aired 11-07-2002) while waiting for the train to arrived at a Chicago train station platform, Nathan discovered that he could not move. When concerned fellow physician Elizabeth Corday asked "You can't move?", Paul nonchalantly acknowledged the fact and told her to get on the train without him saying "I'll catch the next one." Reluctantly, Elizabeth boarded the train. As the train pulled away, Nathan sat alone on the platform with his hand trembling while he waited for his medication {"Meds") to kick in and for his mobility to return. On episode No. 187 "Tell Me When It Hurts?" (aired 11-14-2002) a patient on a gurney gets agitated and violent. To subdue the man, Nathan punches him out with his fist and then claims the alleged involuntary movement on that "Damned dyskinesia." Nathan was nicknamed the "Patron Saint of the Terminally Ill" by Dr. Elizabeth Corday for his zealous intervention into cases that other doctors thought hopeless. Nathan just wanted the patients to have all the facts so they could make an intelligent decision about their conditions. Nathan initially asked to be treated like any other student. But when his condition began to endanger the ER patient (he couldn't control his movements while assisting in a surgical procedure) Corday told hem that any other medical intern who had done what he had done, she would have sanctioned. She then advised that he specialize in some other field of medicine like Radiology and gave Nathan an ultimatum. "You must give me your word, you must never treat patients. If you do I will pass you." Nathan refused and Corday told him "Then you will fail." A few weeks later Nathan's hand twitched while checking an ear infection of a little girl, causing her to cry. This action forced Corday to fail Nathan. Her intention was not malicious but rather her way of making him recognize his limitations. Nathan's qualities lay in his compassion and caring. As she told him "You have a gift of a physician. It's up to you to decide if you want to share that gift and find a way." See also -"ER" entry at "Physically Impaired"

FACTS OF LIFE/NBC/1979-88 (Cerebral Palsy)
**(Geri Jewell) Geri, the handicapped cousin of snobbish Blair Warner. The role of cousin Geri, an aspiring nightclub comic with Cerebral Palsy, was introduced on episode "Cousin Geri" (aired 12/24/80) wherein Blair Warner is embarrassed by her relative's condition. In real life, Jewell acknowledged her own handicap and poked-fun of it in her comedy routine with such humorous quips as "Ever notice there are no handicapped people on TV? Name That Handicap?...Bowling For Crutches?...I've had some really high bowling scores, only never in my lane" or "I'm not drunk, I've got Cerebral Palsy. That's CP-not to be confused with MD, MS, VD or ET." Born prematurely, Geri was diagnosed with CP at 18 months. Her additional loss of hearing forced her to become proficient at lip reading. She also limps when she walks. After many hours of therapy, her palsy has improved from severe to mild. Geri Jewell's "Cousin Geri" role represents the first TV performer with a disability to be hired in a recurring role on a prime-time network series. In an article in Ability magazine about the Media Access Awards Geri confided "All my life there's been only one thing that bothered me about having cerebral palsy...Children have always been afraid of me. But since I've been on the show (Facts of Life) — whenever I'm walking on a street or am in a shopping mall children come over and ask 'Aren't you Cousin Geri' and we sit and talk." Currently, Geri Jewell is listed as a motivational speaker with Milt, Wright & Associates.

TRIVIA NOTE: Cerebral Palsy is a paralysis resulting from developmental defects in the brain or a trauma to the brain occurring at birth. The chief characteristics are uncontrollable muscle spasms.

FEELING FREE/PBS/1978 (Various Handicaps)
*30-Minute educational series designed to ease "mainstreaming" of handicapped children into normal school systems and life. It featured regulars performing in studios and on location.

GOLDEN GIRLS/NBC/1985-92 (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
*(Bea Arthur/costar) Dorothy Zbornak, a mature single woman living with her mother and two other senior citizens in a house in Miami Beach. On the two-part episode "Sick and Tired" (aired 9-23/30-1989) Dorothy was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Apparently, for five months she had been confused, weak, fluish and so exhausted she can barely speak at times. Forced to quit her job, Dorothy sought out the advice of a specialist named Dr. Budd, a New York Neurologist. Unfortunately, he gives her the runaround, says she's wasting his time and tells her go change her hair color. Finally, a physician (Dr. Chang, a virologist) tells Dorothy that he believes she has 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.' Thankful that finally someone had identified her illness, Dorothy celebrated in a restaurant with her friends. Also eating at the restaurant that night was Dr. Budd. Still angry at the way, he had dismissed her condition, Dorothy approached the doctor's table, reprimands him and lets him know that he needed to practice caring, compassion and most importantly to "Listen to your patients." NOTE: An article by Davis Sheremata in the Alberta Report - Internet Edition (September 1, 1997) reviewed the book Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture by Elaine Showalter (Columbia University Press, New York). The article stated that Professor Showalter reported on CFS saying "Infectious epidemics of hysteria [are] spread by stories circulated through self-help books, articles in newspapers and magazines, TV talk shows and series, films, the Internet and even literary criticism. Patients learn about diseases from the media, unconsciously develop the symptoms, and then attract media attention in an endless cycle (Chronic fatigue syndrome being a classic example). By 1990, Prof. Showalter writes, chronic fatigue was an epidemic. The CDC was getting 2,000 calls a month about it. Self-help guides like The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Cookbook clogged bookshelves. Sufferers launched support groups in the U.S., England, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway and South Africa. She says the epidemic probably peaked when Dorothy, a character on the television sitcom The Golden Girls, came down with chronic fatigue."

HOUSTON KNIGHTS/CBS/1987-88 (Multiple Sclerosis)
**(Madlyn Rhue) Annie Hartung, a wheelchair-bound police officer injured in the line of duty. Madlyn Rhue was actually a victim of multiple sclerosis, a crippling disease affecting the nervous system. Her MS condition became apparent after a car accident some 10 years earlier.

IN LIVING COLOR/FOX/1990-94 (Cerebral Palsy)
*(Damon Wayans/costar) Clark Bent, a black mailroom man who worked for the Daily Glove newspaper. Clark's alter ego was Handi-Man, a physically challenged superhero with gnarled hands who fought the likes of Doctor Naughty (Jim Carrey), who hated the handicapped because he once received a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot. Handi-man wore a white cap and a handicap-blue costume with a wheelchair logo on his chest. He was occasionally assisted by a dwarfish blonde person called the Tiny Avenger. After vanquishing the bad guys Handi-man said "Never underestimate the powers of the handicapped." The show also featured a strangely handicapped police officer called THE HEAD DETECTIVE, (Damon Wayans) so named because all he was...was a head sitting on a pair of shoes with a small pair of arms sprouting from his neck. He worked undercover with a police officer named Adam (Keenan Ivory Wayans) who carried "Head" around in a bowling bag. According to the series script the Head Detective was "Built sort of like a Mr. Potato Head: his hands are attached to flexible rods which come out of his ears, and his head rests on two large floppy shoes. A gun is permanently stuck to the palm of one hand, and a police badge is permanently stuck to the palm of the other. The hands sway up and down on a flexible rod." Another handicapped character was Mr. Macavey (played by David Alan Grier), a high school teacher with the responsibilities of monitoring hallways. He carried around a miniature bull horn and hobbled about on his shatter hip. He injured himself playing an innocent game of Twister. As his character said "Left hand. Blue dot. That's all she wrote."


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