Imran Sherwani, olympic gold medalist, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2019, and revealed his diagnosis this month. Sherwani revels in the life he’s created and the support system he has.
British olympic field hockey gold medalist Imran Sherwani has revealed that he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in December 2019.
Sherwani scored two goals and won gold for Great Britain at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and his teammates are standing by him through his diagnosis.
“When I heard he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it was a shock,” Former teammate and Seoul Olympian Steve Batchelor told the Hockey Paper. “At the time I didn’t know a lot about Alzheimer’s. I thought of it as something older people get. I didn’t realize it could affect someone as young as Imran.”
Between 220,000 and 640,000 Americans are estimated to be living with early-onset dementia, which affects people younger than 65, and it is growing increasingly common: A 2020 study from Blue Cross Shield reported that the rate of those aged 30 to 64 who have been diagnosed with early onset has tripled between 2013 and 2017, with a 200 percent increase in diagnoses. Sherwani is 59.
Batchelor was one of Sherwani’s close friends, as they both were forwards on the 1988 Olympic hockey team. Batchelor has now launched a team, Going for Gold, which includes Sherwani’s son Zac, to participate in the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon in order to raise money for Alzheimer’s research on behalf of Sherwani.
The disease can come with signs such as forgetfulness and memory loss, attention and language impairment, personality changes and mood swings, and withdrawal from social and work life.
Sherwani’s family began to notice the signs of early onset back in 2014 when he had memory difficulties and had to retire from his role as director of hockey at a Staffordshire school.
Sherwani told CNN that his mood changed and he became withdrawn: “I wanted to be on my own and not talk to people,” the athlete said of his early symptoms.
This experience is not an outlier. In retrospect, people experiencing early-onset dementia often report having noticed personality changes leading up to their diagnosis. For example, one person living with dementia, Don Kent, who visited six different neurologists until he received an accurate diagnosis of Lewy Body dementia at the age of 64, said he first noticed a change in his personality not so different from Sherwani’s own observations.
Kent told Being Patient: “I’ve always been a sort of laid-back person … All of a sudden, I had this sort of explosive personality, very angry, saying mean things to people which I had never done before.”
While recent research has shown that these changes, including feelings of apathy, depression, or a lack of interest in things one used to enjoy can foreshadow a dementia diagnosis, ultimately, there is no way to diagnose it at present without a battery of diagnostic tests, and the disease affects all people differently.
“I have gone from fighting the disease to accepting it, and that has made every day easier to live through,” Sherwani said. “Every day of my life, I am thankful for having wonderful people around me, especially my lovely wife. I do not have fears about the future because I have always been very positive. I have had a brilliant life, I have achieved a lot in my career and with my family, so I can’t complain.”