Kid Jensen: ‘We are strong to­gether’

Vet­eran DJ David ‘Kid’ Jensen and wife Gu­drun are fac­ing Parkin­son’s head on – and help­ing oth­ers to face it, too

YOURS (UK) - - Contents - By Ca­role Richard­son

Glanc­ing out of his sit­ting room win­dow, David ‘Kid’ Jensen can see the snow fall­ing thick and fast and doubts he’ll be go­ing to his yoga class that evening. “Oh we’ll be go­ing!” says his wife, Gu­drun, and it’s im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous why the vet­eran broad­caster, who re­cently re­vealed he has Parkin­son’s, calls her ‘the queen of tough love’. It’s not a new ti­tle and it’s one she’s quite proud of. Af­ter 43 years of mar­riage, three chil­dren and seven grand­chil­dren, Gu­drun’s rep­u­ta­tion for no-non­sense care goes be­fore her. Now, though, it’s prov­ing in­valu­able...

“He never knows what to ex­pect,” laughs the Ice­landic-born for­mer air host­ess, not prone to mol­ly­cod­dling her hus­band.

“Use it or lose it,” is her mantra. Which is why she re­fuses to cook lunch – only din­ner; doesn’t ap­prove of too much day­time TV and in­sists David tries to fas­ten his own shirt but­tons, even though it can some­times take him 20 min­utes. That said, Gu­drun’s sup­port for the man she met and fell in love with at first sight in a Lux­em­bourg night­club on Christ­mas Eve 1974, has been un­stint­ing ever since.

Both ad­mit their life to­gether has been blessed, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. It’s clear that they ab­so­lutely adore their fam­ily and that the ex­pe­ri­ences they’ve had as a re­sult of David’s job have been amaz­ing – hol­i­day­ing with the McCart­neys was one. “Linda Mc­Cart­ney was an an­gel; a very, very spe­cial per­son,” says David. Gu­drun (65) was even taught by Michael Jack­son him­self to moon­walk

– a skill, de­spite a hip re­place­ment, that she’s now hap­pily teach­ing their seven-year-old grand­daugh­ter Ot­tilie. It was af­ter years of such good, but clean, liv­ing (David rarely drinks) that Gu­drun sud­denly found her­self sup­port­ing her hus­band when he was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s more than five years ago.

Though he had the warn­ing signs – wak­ing up shak­ing in the morn­ings and drag­ging his feet – the news came as a nasty shock.

“I was close to be­ing dev­as­tated by the news,” ad­mits David (67). “I was scared; I was an­gry and go­ing through all those emo­tions, but in the end I re­alised it was up to me to change. I knew Gu­drun would be sup­port­ive, as she’s turned out to be. That’s es­sen­tial.” Their re­ac­tion – act­ing on a neu­rol­o­gist’s tip – was to keep quiet about it to avoid peo­ple con­stantly ask­ing him how he was. Apart from im­me­di­ate fam­ily and friends – and David’s lo­cal pri­est – no­body knew un­til ear­lier this year when he de­cided to speak out to boost aware­ness and to help oth­ers.

“I never de­nied it but I never talked about it,” says David, who’s now joined fel­low suf­ferer, co­me­dian Billy Con­nolly as a VIP sup­porter for the char­ity Parkin­son’s UK. His re­ac­tion was typ­i­cal of a third of suf­fer­ers who feel the need to hide their symp­toms, which can in­clude tremors, slow move­ment and rigid­ity, ac­cord­ing to the char­ity’s re­search. David has also suf­fered from de­pres­sion, in­som­nia and hal­lu­ci­na­tions from the med­i­ca­tion he was pre­scribed. So why the sud­den de­ci­sion to tell the world? A big be­liever in laugh­ter be­ing the best medicine, he was in­spired af­ter see­ing Billy Con­nolly make light of the con­di­tion on stage and hear­ing Sky Sports darts pre­sen­ter, Dave Clark, talk about the ill­ness. It clicked that he, too, could help oth­ers by talk­ing openly about his ex­pe­ri­ence of this de­gen­er­a­tive neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion. Equally, he was also fed up

of mak­ing ex­cuses for tak­ing pills ev­ery four hours in the BBC lo­cal ra­dio stu­dio where he still does a chat show. “I’d say I had stom­ach ache or was tak­ing an­tibi­otics – any­thing but ad­mit what the truth was,” he says.

Once the de­ci­sion was made to ‘come out’ there was no go­ing back, but it’s not one he re­grets. “There is no bet­ter feel­ing in the world than be­ing able to tell peo­ple with Parkin­son’s, ‘you are not alone’,” he says.

The level of sup­port he has re­ceived has also been as­tound­ing – from his em­ploy­ers telling him not to worry about los­ing his ra­dio con­tracts, to old friends and ac­quain­tances get­ting back in touch. Even in the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket carpark he’s found sup­port when he was walk­ing to­wards a man vis­i­bly hav­ing tremors. “I looked down and saw I was tremor­ing at the same time. We just looked at each other and smiled. It was like some elite club!” There’s no deny­ing though it is not an easy con­di­tion to live with to­day – par­tic­u­larly the de­pres­sion that it’s sparked – and the

fu­ture looks un­cer­tain. But David and Gu­drun both refuse to feel cheated or worry too much about to­mor­row.

“We’ve had the most in­cred­i­ble life. How can we feel cheated?” asks Gu­drun, who still works part-time in a lo­cal auc­tion house but is pre­pared to be­come David’s carer when the time comes. “I am not a carer yet, but David is 67 and I don’t know how many years we will have be­fore he gets bad. I will take one year at a time and em­brace it as it comes.” For now, they rely on their ‘won­der­ful’ fam­ily and friends, their faith and mu­sic to help get them through.

“Hav­ing a faith def­i­nitely helps you get through the dark­est hours,” adds David, who con­verted to Catholi­cism just be­fore he was di­ag­nosed. “That and a good song!”

So what does he, with his ex­pert DJ’s ear, rec­om­mend? “There’s a jazz ver­sion of My Favourite Things from the film the Sound of Mu­sic that picks me up a bit,” he says. For loyal Scan­di­na­vian Gu­drun, it’s a sim­ple an­swer of course, “Danc­ing Queen by Abba!”

“There is no bet­ter feel­ing in the world than be­ing able to tell peo­ple with Parkin­son’s, ‘you are not alone,’” David ‘Kid’ Jensen

David and Gu­drun have been hap­pily mar­ried since 1974

■ World Parkin­son’s Day is on Wed­nes­day, April 11. Parkin­son’s UK is work­ing with part­ners from more than 50 coun­tries on Unite for Parkin­son’s, an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign to in­crease aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of the chal­lenges peo­ple with the...

Left: As a young DJ in 1975. Right: With Gu­drun and their three chil­dren

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