Parkinson’s disease has gradually taken away two of the greatest joys in Steve Majerle’s life. The neurodegenerative disease and its resultant effects took Majerle out of the classroom and off of the basketball court after a storied tenure in both instances. Majerle was originally diagnosed with the disease in 2003, but through the use of medicinal treatments he was able to maintain both jobs until the spring of 2011. The medicines had lost a lot of their potency and reluctantly Majerle realized it was time to call it good for jobs well done by any definition.
Majerle then decided, after consultation with his doctors and wife Ruth, that the time had come to try Deep Brain Surgery (DBS) to combat the tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and postural instability that characterize the disease. DBS wouldn’t cure his Parkinson’s, but it could drastically improve his quality of life.
Fast forward to March 24, 2012. An upstart Rockford basketball team under the leadership of a rookie head coach (Nick Allen) was playing in the Class A state finals of the Michigan High School Athletic Association at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. And cheering them on was the proudest man in the joint, Steve Majerle.
“There was a lot of pressure on Nick, having never been a head coach at the varsity level,” said Majerle. “I would have lost a lot of money in Vegas if I had bet what everyone else thought of Rockford making it this far. I thought I may have lost my house. But you couldn’t ask for better people to coach your kids than Nick Allen and Ryan DeKuiper. Nick is so enthusiastic and Ryan does a great job of game planning. They play the game the way it was meant to be played and they are going to treat kids well.”
Despite having been probably the loudest proponent for Allen to get the job, Majerle would rather deflect all of the credit to Allen and DeKuiper.
“Even though they lost in the championship game, that was one of the finest examples I have ever seen of five guys playing together in every facet of the game,” said Majerle. “That was not just my influence, they put in a lot of their own stuff and took advantage of the team’s strengths. To be able to beat a team like Romulus with five Division I players in the semifinals is just unbelievable. The three-point shot is a great equalizer and they took advantage of the team’s ability to make the shot and defend it. I have another son coming up and I wouldn’t want him to play for anyone else other than those two.”
And, oh, by the way, Majerle started the initial phase of the DBS on the Tuesday (March 20) of the quarterfinals at the University of Chicago. The first phase involved planting two electrodes into his brain. Not to be deterred, Majerle stoically made his way to East Lansing for the semis and finals to cheer on his friends and the Rams. With a giant bald spot on his head and a smile on his face, Majerle reveled in every minute of the unexpected journey by the Rams.
Step two of the DBS was completed on Wednesday, April 11. That part involved connecting a battery to the electrodes and running wires correspondingly. The final step will take place on April 25, barring any unexpected complications. That will be when final tests are run and every facet will be painstakingly gone over to ensure things are good to go.
In a strong, steady voice Majerle intimated that though he knew it wasn’t a cure it was a chance for a better life and maybe even a more unexpected sight on the streets of Rockford.
“This treatment normally helps for five to ten years,” said Majerle, “And maybe in that time frame they will come up with another even more promising method to combat this disease. Who knows, maybe you will see me skipping through town when I get back from Chicago?”