Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Even Hero's Have Health Problems

I remember, as a young boy, turning on the tv to watch Wide World of Sports on Saturdays. I searched the tv guide every week for any motorcycle races and the possibility of Evel Knievel jumping anything.  I never had many heros but I guess you could say Evel became mine for a while.  No one was cooler, tougher, or more bad-ass than Evel.  When I grew up I wanted to ride a motorcycle just like Evel.  He did everything his way, from marketing himself and doing his own promo's to building his own ramps.  As I developed other interests as a teenager and his career began to diminish, so did my interest in him.  I never forgot about him though.  Several years passed before he died in 2007 and ESPN ran a special on Evel.  I had forgotten so many of the things he had accomplished in his life. He was a true daredevil and showman, light years ahead of his time for extreme sports.  Evel put it all on the line every time he jumped and there wasn't a fake bone in his body, on or off of the bike.  Not many people left like that today.
Despite his success as a daredevil, his life after jumping was riddled with health problems.  In the late 90's he was in need of a life-saving liver transplant as a result of suffering the long-term effects from Hepatitis C. He had contracted the disease through one of the numerous blood transfusions he had received. In 1999, Knievel was given only a few days to live and he requested to leave the hospital and die at his home. Evel received a phone call from the hospital that a young man had died in a motorcycle accident and could be a donor. Days later, Knievel successfully received the transplant.
In 2005, he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable and terminal lung disease that required him to be on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day. In 2006, he had an internal morphine pain pump surgically implanted to help him with the excruciating pain in his deteriorated lower back, one of the costs of incurring so many traumas over the course of his career. He also had two strokes, but neither left him with any severe debilitation. In addition to all of this, he had been living with diabetes for many years.  
He went out the same way he lived ... in style.  Evel was buried in his hometown of Butte, Montana on December 10, 2007.  His funeral was held at the Butte Civic Center with the eulogy given by Matthew McConaughey. There were fireworks exploding in the night sky as pallbearers carried Evel in for the ceremony.


Candied Frogs said...

Now there's a guy who knew how to live to the max despite some major setbacks. I was a kid living in the UK when Evil was at the top of his career. His fame had no difficulty spreading for many miles. Too bad his fame faded later in his career.

abcsofra said...

I remember being glued to the tv when his daredevil tactics was showcased. I too followed him throughout his well know portion of his career but was not aware of some of the health complications he faced. Yes, we all must have a dare devil in us to ride on through these challenging diseases.

Cathy said...

I have a fond memory of Evel. My brother had an Evel bicycle. I learned how to ride on it. I even crashed it into someone's car - on accident, of course. I remember feeling so grown up on that bicycle.

My husband often talks about watching him as a young boy. Lots of great memories.

It seems that everyone has their issues in life. Ours is RA, others something else. I don't think any of us can escape it, even our heroes.

tharr said...

Andy, he sure did. I suppose the only way to go out on top of your game is to die young. All in all though, still today most people know who Evel was.

Deb, thank you for finishing what I was attempting to tie together. I have been so scattered here lately, maybe I could get you to write my posts for me for a little while! lol

Cathy, thats hilarious. It didn't hurt you did it? Were you trying to jump the car? lol
So true but you just don't think about someone who was so close to death several times having normal health problems later in life.