Dwight Clark Opens Up About ‘scary’ Battle With ALS

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CAPITOLA – A merciless twist — and there have been so many — is it began with the palms.

Dwight Clark’s spectacular palms had been failing, those that famously launched the dynasty of the San Francisco 49ers with “The Catch,” his 6-yard seize at the back of the top zone with 58 seconds left towards the Dallas Cowboys within the NFC Championship Sport on Jan. 10, 1982.

It was lower than three years in the past that Clark’s left hand grew alarmingly weak.

“I could not tear open a bundle of sugar swiftly,” he stated. “Then it stored getting weaker.”

Clark, 61, informed the story Tuesday at a beachside restaurant within the city the place he lives. He invited eight sports activities reporters to lunch, writers who coated him over time, to swap tales and communicate in depth about his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s Illness.

He can go quick distances with a walker now, however principally makes use of a motorized wheelchair. He nonetheless has his dashing attractiveness and straightforward smile, however he is a lot thinner than he was as a participant within the 1980s, when he and quarterback Joe Montana had been the toast of San Francisco.

The 6-foot-Four Clark was 242 kilos when he was recognized in September, 2015. He dipped all the way in which to 155 earlier than bouncing up a bit.

“I used to be going to die as a result of I used to be dropping an excessive amount of weight,” he stated. “So I received a feeding tube and now I am at 167. They’re making an attempt to get me to 190.”

It is a terminal illness, and Clark is doing every little thing he can to sluggish its progress. With the assistance of former 49ers proprietor Eddie DeBartolo, who seemingly spends each waking hour making an attempt to assist his onetime star receiver battle this beast, Clark is on the leading edge by way of therapy.

Clark went to Japan so he might be handled with the drug Radicava earlier than it was broadly accessible right here. He introduced an enormous quantity of that again with him and is inspired with the way in which it has slowed the progress of the illness. He has been to Boston for remedies. He is excited concerning the stem-cell analysis being carried out in Israel.

“There’s individuals developing with stuff on a regular basis,” he stated. “Someone might stumble onto one thing. I do not assume will probably be in time for me to make use of it.”

Not surprisingly, Clark has battled despair and anger about his situation. His physique has betrayed him, and the connection to soccer and head accidents is plain. The staggering prices of therapy are offset by what he is gotten from the NFL settlement, though there are many gamers nonetheless preventing for a similar.

“There are 4 issues that they actually will not even battle you on – ALS, Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s,” he stated. “I had been recognized earlier than the settlement was lastly carried out, on Jan. 7, 2017, so I simply needed to ship mine in. However in the event you’re recognized after, you must be recognized by somebody that is chosen by the league to check you.”

Three concussions stand out in his thoughts. He received hit in Inexperienced Bay and had no concept the place he was. He took one other on the Meadowlands and began strolling to the unsuitable bench. And he took a shot to the aspect of the top at Candlestick Park and quickly misplaced imaginative and prescient in his left eye.

Clark has a lifetime of fine reminiscences about soccer, too. He cherishes the friendships he made, and now has lunches in Capitola each Tuesday with teammates from these days. Montana has been down. Ronnie Lott stops by a number of instances a month. Harris Barton, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, they’re all common guests. The Tuesday classes had been the thought of former 49ers media relations director Kirk Reynolds, who accompanies Clark to them together with fellow front-office alumnus Fred Formosa.

Montana known as Clark “the consummate receiver.”

“He isn’t the man who’s going to get by you each time, however he’ll get by you in the event you ask him to,” the Corridor of Fame quarterback stated by cellphone. “He’ll do every little thing you need him to. He’ll block downfield. He’ll are available in tight and be a small tight finish. He by no means even questioned it.

“One of many issues about him is that while you had been in bother, he was at all times coming to search out you. He did not care what was taking place. He knew that when the quarterback was flushed, or there’s stress on him, you are transferring and he was coming to search out you to assist if he can.”

Now, all these outdated teammates are coming to search out Clark, to assist in any method they will.

“You begin seeing the blokes round you want [receiver] Freddie Solomon, who handed away just a few years in the past,” Montana stated. “Life’s too quick to have something come between you. Since you simply do not know, particularly with this silly sport we performed. No one actually is aware of what is going on on, the place and the way. I do not take something as a right anymore.”

Rapidly exhausted, Clark spends a lot of his days napping and watching TV. However Tuesday was a very good day. He spent 2½ hours telling tales and laughing about his time at Clemson and the 49ers, and later as a group govt in San Francisco and Cleveland.

Clark was so fashionable San Francisco developer paid him $15,000 a yr — half as a lot as he received from the 49ers — to dwell in an opulent condominium within the coronary heart of town. He was undeniably The Catch.

“He had carried out this in L.A. with film stars or no matter,” Clark stated. “However he is paying me 15 grand to dwell at 101 Lombard. I am single, and the place had three ranges. It was one-bedroom, the mattress was on the backside. The center flooring was the household room, kitchen and eating room. And the highest was a roof that regarded out over the Bay Bridge. It was unbelievable.”

That was 1982, when the gamers went on strike — a stretch Clark known as “essentially the most unbelievable 57 days of my life.”

“So, we play two video games after which go on strike,” he stated. “And I’ve received that place, cash, notoriety, and a Tremendous Bowl ring. It was like being Huey Lewis.”

Then there was the time proper earlier than the primary Tremendous Bowl parade, when a furrier in Union Sq. gave Clark and Montana fur coats for posing for an advert.

“So Joe and I picked out freaking fur coats,” he stated, shaking his head in embarrassment. “It was the one time I ever wore it. After I noticed myself in it… these had been some horrible photos. I noticed myself up on the podium in that fur coat.”

Everybody wished a chunk of Clark

“Individuals had been developing and tearing the fur out of it after we had been on the trolley automobile,” he stated with amusing.

In reality, though he grew up in North Carolina and is a rustic boy at coronary heart, Clark by no means took to looking.

“I am unable to even take into consideration killing an animal now,” he stated. “I went looking one time. I killed a squirrel and it made me wish to throw up. I am not made for killing.”

Clark is all about residing. All his power is targeted on that. Typically, he feels overwhelmed, one thing he disclosed on the finish of an in any other case upbeat afternoon of reminiscing.

“I am going to say to my spouse, ‘I simply cannot… consider I received this illness. Give me one thing I can battle,’” he stated. “However you simply cannot do it. Individuals get sick. You get an opportunity to battle. I am nonetheless preventing it, however I haven’t got the gloves on.”

He is in frequent contact with Steve Gleason, the previous New Orleans Saints participant preventing the identical illness. Clark watched the primary half of the award-winning documentary “Gleason,” however could not carry himself to complete it.

“The longer term is so scary,” Clark stated. “I am unable to think about being completely paralyzed. I preserve making an attempt to reenact it – simply lay there, and assume, ‘I am unable to stand up.’ However I am unable to do it for very lengthy. It freaks me out.”

He has ordered a microphone and software program to report his voice, so he can use a pc to talk when he not can.

Even the cuss phrases?

“Oh, hell, sure,” he stated.

In so some ways, he is nonetheless the identical Dwight Clark.

“This [disease]will certainly get your consideration,” he stated. “I am simply making an attempt to do every little thing I can.”

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