Radio WM presenter, Ed Doolan, recorded an interview with Caroline Martin, broadcast on Radio WM today. Below is a link to the interview. Ed talks about living with dementia in a moving discussion. The Birmingham Mail picked up on the interview and the article below was published this afternoon.
[The article below appeared in the Birmingham Mail 27th Jan 2015]
BBC WM radio legend Ed Doolan has today revealed he has been battling dementia for two years.
“I’ve spent my entire life communicating and suddenly I find I can’t communicate,” admitted the man who has interviewed every Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan.
But the defiant Aussie promised that he was determined to carry on broadcasting – for as long as the BBC would let him.
Ed, 73, said: “I must say that it’s just wonderful to be able to come in and do my Sunday show, which we now pre-record.
“I’m finding that it is a very therapeutic thing that I can just come in and record and put the show together.
“If we find we can’t do something, and I can’t tell the difference between 1963 and 1983, it’s not funny.
“Then you click back in and do it another way.
“The BBC have been brilliant, because what a fantastic opportunity they have to say: ‘Ed, you’ve had a good run’… and they could do that quite easily and justifiably I would have thought.
“But the BBC have said it’s up to me to decide when I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go.
“And, at the moment, the show is going well.”
Ed can still walk normally, but sometimes uses a wheelchair for speed to get in and out of public places.
With wife Christine by his side to discuss the nature of caring, the couple hoped that by speaking out on BBC WM they would be able to encourage other families to see their doctor, find the right treatment and to carry on with as normal a life as possible.
In an interview in the Mailbox studios with lunchtime presenter Caroline Martin, Ed did not give into the emotions which had made him apprehensive about speaking out.
But after two years of thinking about it, he said it was now time to explain why he hadn’t participated much in his annual Christmas show at Symphony Hall ‘for the past two or three years’.
During that time he has given up his daily BBC WM show.
His replacement hour-long archive programme every Sunday features the pick of his three decades of interviews with stars from Charlton Heston to Danny La Rue and Jasper Carrot, with world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Margaret Thatcher.
Ed reintroduces each clip with his trademark bonhomie.
But prerecording the shows during the week means he can pause ready to start again every time he makes a mistake or loses his concentration.
“I can’t do a live show any more,” Ed admitted before recording an interview for Caroline Martin’s show at 1pm today.
“The BBC have been so kind and so good, they understand if something goes wrong, or if I forget something, we just shut up and start again.”
Talking directly to Birmingham Mail readers in a video interview, Ed said: “The paper has been very kind to me over many, many years – I must have done about 950 columns for the Mail.
“Up till now I’ve kept pretty quiet about this because I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.
“But I think if what’s happening to me is happening to other people who can come out and say this is me, this is what’s happening, then people don’t get frightened by it.
“The images they show on television are so dramatic, but I haven’t found it dramatic at all.
“It’s a bit annoying and a bit frightening when you lose your track, but you get back on it again.
“I do spend a huge amount of time in the house. I watch a bit of telly and have a bit of a sleep.
“Friends still come round with sandwiches and we’ll have lunch.”
Pharmacist wife Christine, 55, added: “People associate dementia with forgetting things, but there are different types.
“Ed has been told he’s got Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), which involves Parkinson’s disease.
“The medication has really helped the latter, but with the dementia it’s not that he forgets things because he can remember.
“With him, it seems to be more of an on-off switch – and once it goes off it then comes back on a bit later.”
Ed helped to launch BRMB on February 19, 1974, before switching to BBC WM on September 20, 1982.
During all of that time he has rarely missed a show while fighting a string of health conditions which began with a serious car crash on October 28, 1971.
On his way to interview the then Prime Minister Edward Heath in Edinburgh, a multiple pile-up hospitalised Ed for months in Durham – where he began to record a pop programme for Forces’ radio.
The crash also left him with a virtually continuous scar from his nose to his ankles.
Ed had only been married for eight weeks to Christine when he needed triple heart bypass surgery in December 1987 just weeks after falling ill with stomach cramps following a belated honeymoon to Thailand in November that year.
Other ailments have required five laser operations on his tongue (1985-87), as well as operations for a non-malignant bowel condition (July, 1993) and a detached retina (May, 2009).
In August 2007, he spent the day of his 20th wedding anniversary with Christine having a pacemaker fitted.
Two weeks later, he had to have it replaced before declaring: “The new one is like a Rolls-Royce compared with a Citroen 2CV.”
I have never heard Ed complain about any health issue – and he has not lost his sense of humour either.
Ever the joker, Ed said in today’s interview: “I love it when people ask me for directions in the car. I say to them: ‘Who the hell are you asking?’.”
He also said his friends had “not stopped taking the mickey” about his latest health crisis.
“They are a damn sight ruder now,” he said.
“Once friends understand (what has happened to me), all the bad jokes about mental health, maybe it’s terribly wrong, but they do pass in front of me.”