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MAGAZINE / Nov-Dec 2003 / An Interview with ED McMahon

An Interview with Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon

For more than forty years, Ed McMahon and his unforgettable voice have been welcoming guests in Americaís living rooms, through his 30 year stint as announcer on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, Ed McMahonís Star Search, his numerous performances as host on specials and telethons and of course, his role as co-host of the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

Editor-in-Chief Gary Barg recently spoke with Ed about one of the most important roles in his life, the role of caregiver to his son Michael who died of cancer.

GB: What has been your experience with being a family caregiver?
EM: My son Michael became very sick. He was traveling on the East Coast and taking a break between gigs, and he kept complaining to me about his back. I told him that heís got to see a doctor, and he kept saying he would. Finally, when he traveled out West and got to my house, he was green. I took him to my doctor as soon as possible. Sadly, we found out that he had cancer.

GB: What happened next?
EM: It was too late at this point. It had started in his colon and had spread throughout his body. I moved him in with us, and all we could do was give him care. The guest bedroom became like a hospital room, with a hospital bed, nurses around the clock, and we gave him the best care that we could. It took about 6 months for the cancer to kill him. One thing that I was very impressed with was Hospice, and how they took over. I have high praise for Hospice, because they included everyone in the family.

GB: What should caregivers know about the Muscular Dystrophy Association and what it accomplishes through the telethon?
EM: It is my 36th year with the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and what it accomplishes is that 90% of the money it receives actually goes into care, devices, and research. The money is so well used. The charity gets awards every year for how well the money is used and spent on the actual needs of those who suffer. The researchers are trying to penetrate the medical mystery of where these diseases come from and what causes them. Each year itís gratifying because our medical men will announce a breakthrough of some kind. There are 40 diseases involved with this, and so thereís a lot to cover, and itís great to know that breakthroughs are being made all the time.

GB: Iím glad that you brought up the 40 other diseases, and I know that people always think of just Muscular Dystrophy, but there are all these other branches to this illness.
EM: Yes, the most famous of them is Lou Gehrigís Disease, but thereís 38 other diseases with names that I canít pronounce and they are just as bad.

GB: I know you are also on the board of the St. Judes Ranch
EM: Yes, itís right outside Las Vegas, in Henderson.

GB: Iím a big fan of what they do at St. Judeís Hospital, but I wasnít familiar with the ranch.
EM: They have a similar name, but they are not the same organization. The ranch takes in abused children. St. Jude, being the patron saint of the hopeless, makes his a great name for different organizations. St. Judeís in Memphis is a wonderful facility and organization unto itsí own.

GB: Any advice that you have for family caregivers?
EM: There is no training for it. You have to jump into it pretty quickly, and learn by trial and error. You should know where the closest Hospice is, just as you know where the nearest hospital is, because thereís a fair chance that someone in your family will need to call upon those services in your lifetime, may be even you.


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