Astronaut kept Parkinson's secret for 15 years

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Rich Clifford went to West Point. He worked as a test pilot. He got an engineering job at NASA. He passed all the tests one needs to be an astronaut and fulfilled his dream of space flight.

As difficult as all of that was, Clifford's biggest challenge was still silently waiting: The battle against his own body.

In 1994, after two successful shuttle missions, he told a NASA physician he was having trouble with his shoulder.

"He looked at me in about five minutes and said, 'You've got Parkinson's disease. But I've got to prove it to NASA that it's not something worse,'" Clifford recounted. "And I thought, 'What could be worse? I've got a movement disorder now and it's gonna be the end of my career.' And he said, 'No, I don't think so.'"

The doctor was right. It was not the end of Clifford's astronaut career. But it was the beginning of a diagnosis he would keep from nearly everyone he knew for fifteen years. Recently, Clifford decided to tell the world about his Parkinson's disease in a documentary called "The Astronaut's Secret."

To hear why Clifford kept the secret so long and to watch his message for patients today, including Parkinson's Resource of Oregon, watch the video above.

For more information on the documentary, click here. And to learn about a local organization assisting patients, click here.


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