Radio star’s battle with Parkinson’s

Staff Writer

Although being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, 6PR's Howard Sattler is doing everything he can to make sure he can stay on the radio for a while to come.

In an article in The Australian, Sattler talks openly about his struggle with the disease, the exercises he does during his drive show when the mics are off and his surprise at the reaction from people after his diagnosis.

Parkinson's is best managed by doing constant exercise. So everytime Sattler goes to an ad break he jumps out of his chair, starts stretching, takes his mouth and tongue in forefinger and thumb and contorts his jaw into various positions, then starts spitting out nonsensical sounds.

When he started showing symptoms in 2011, many of his 6PR listeners accused him of being drunk on air, that was when he took some time off to work out what was going on.

"I was talking Swahili, it got to the stage where no one could understand me.''

"Compared to some other people's conditions, it's nothing, but for me it was everything because this is my career. If I can't speak properly, I'm gone. I want to do radio until I die. I've always said there's only one thing that would take me off the air – my voice."

"They can wheel me in, I could be paralysed, but if I can speak, I'll be OK. And the one bloody thing that has been attacked is my voice.''

When doctors finally confirmed that Sattler had a form of Parkinson's, he asked them:

"`Is this career-ending?' He said: `No, between all of us, we can keep you going if you do all the treatment and take the medicine and do the exercises.'  "I said: `I'll be in that.'

"It's the biggest challenge of my life. Every day I wake up and think: I've got a challenge. I don't wake up complacent."

Sattler's producer Kate Cuthbert says:

"It was really hard, watching him when he was at his worst, but since he was diagnosed properly and started treatment, he's got his fire back.''

"He's just very cautious and takes a lot of time to rest to make sure he's physically able to perform well on air."

Sattler also reveals one thing that helps him get through each show.

"When I do the go-for-the-jugular type interviews and nasty things are said, and I savage them unashamedly, I find that the adrenalin flows and somehow it helps the dopamine (levels). So when I go for it, I still go for it," says Sattler.

"It's good to have one of those interviews early in the program. It seems to keep me going through the program.''

Cuthbert agrees, "If he has a nice big fight with a politician, I know it's going to be a good program."

Sattler also reveals that he was surprised at the reaction from people after his diagnosis.

"I always had the impression that everybody hated me because I'm aggressive and have a go at people, but it appears not. People were ringing into the station to pass on their sympathy and wish me well."

"I'm not the type of person who tries to conjure up love of me. I just thought most people would say: `Too bad, mate. You're in a rough and tumble world and you're pretty nasty at times, disrespectful, it serves you right.'"

"But people didn't say that at all. There's some nice people out there. It brought a few tears to my eyes.''

Read more in The Australian here.

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