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Radio legend Ed Doolan reveals he has dementia

Birmingham | News | Published:

He's been a firm favourite on the airwaves of the West Midlands for more than 40 years.

Now radio legend Ed Doolan has revealed for the first time he is suffering with dementia.

The BBC WM broadcaster, 73, disclosed he was diagnosed with the condition years ago in an interview with fellow presenter Caroline Martin.

In his own bittersweet way, he said: "I've spent my entire life communicating and suddenly I find I can't communicate."

Born in Australia, he has been a regular on BBC WM since joining the station in 1982. Notably for his consumer affairs show that started in 1988.

In 2011, he scaled down the number of times he appeared on air to just once a week with his hour-long Sunday show featuring 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.

But he has vowed to continue with his show, which is pre-recorded.

He said: "It is wonderful to still be able to do the Sunday show. It is a very therapeutic thing. I come in and record on a Wednesday 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.

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"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."

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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.

Christine, 55, said: "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."

She also spoke about dealing with the condition, including taking over responsibilities: "When you first talk about it and think about the enormity what you are doing it is very difficult. We started the process, put it away, came back to it, put it away, because it is just a huge big thing to do. It is about somebody relinquishing part of their control. It is the last thing you want to do."

Ed helped to launch BRMB on February 19, 1974, before switching to BBC WM on September 20, 1982.

Ed was awarded the MBE for services to radio, won a Sony Gold Award and became the first person to be awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Birmingham, Aston University and the former University of Central England.

His appearances on TV included BBC2's Tuesday People and Doolan At Large, as well as a brief stint hosting ITV's Central Weekend discussion show.

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