In a video announcement, Pat Summitt made the shocking disclosure that she's been diagnosed with dementia at a mere 59 years old. The Hall of Fame Coach said she started to notice strange behaviors last season like behaving "erratically" and second-guessing her decisions on the basketball court. It is rare that someone under 60 be diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and even rarer that people of that age display symptoms. Currently, Summitt is taking medications and working on puzzles to keep her brain sharp, and the basketball legend will return and coach another season for the Lady Vols with the help of her assistants.
The brain is a fascinating, and in many ways frightening, thing. When it works, it lets us master the mysteries of the universe. When it works, we are individuals with names that have meaning to many people. When it works, we are who we are.
When it doesn't work, however, we can quickly cease to be who we are. Not death in the physical sense, but death in the spiritual sense. Look at Korsakoff's syndrome, or amnesia, or stroke victims. It's terrifying how quickly a person can go from being "that person" to being "a once-person."
Stories like this are sad because great people who otherwise do everything "right" can find themselves one day being stripped of their essential being to diseases we barely understand. I mean, a heart attack killing you? At least you are still you up until the moment you pass, right? But when the brain wastes away, you slowly, but inexorably, lose your soul.