Iowa Wild captain Dowell loses father to Huntington's disease

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2014 - 1:00 AM
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Jake Dowell and his wife Carly (left) with his mother, Vicki, father John and brother Luke Dowell. Photos are courtesy of the Dowell family.

Photo: Provided by Dowell family, DML -

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Jake Dowell feels the loss, but he’s just glad his father is no longer suffering.

“Nobody should have to go through what he did,” the Iowa Wild captain said Wednesday, two days after the funeral for his 58-year-old father, John Dowell, who lost his excruciating battle with Huntington’s disease last week.

“This was almost a 13-year struggle that he was dealing with,” Jake Dowell said. “The last couple months were really hard to watch him deteriorate. In the end now, it’s nice to have some closure and know he’s not struggling anymore.”

Huntington’s disease is a neurological disorder that often for the course of a decade or more debilitates a person physically and cognitively until they die. Jake’s brother, Luke, 31, also has the disease and resides in the same 24-hour assisted-living house in Menomonie, Wis., that their father died in Feb. 13.

Jake Dowell was able to spend the final hours at his father’s side because of the American Hockey League All-Star break.

There is a 50-50 chance that Dowell, 28, a forward who has played 156 NHL games and was recalled by the Wild on Wednesday, has inherited the same gene. In the next year or two, Dowell plans to go with his wife, Carly, and mother, Vicki, to have a blood test and learn what his future holds.

“I don’t want to do something like that in the middle of season because it’s just too must pressure,” Dowell said. “It would be great to just know that I don’t have it. It’ll be something to look into more or less when my wife and I decide it’s time to have kids.”

The couple needs to know if Dowell has the gene because if he does, there’s a 50-50 chance their children would inherit it. If he has the gene, they can do in vitro fertilization and “literally take the gene out … and it’ll be out of my family for good,” Dowell said.

The disease is progressing with Jake’s brother.

“He’s still walking, but I don’t think for much longer because he’s just getting too clumsy, and he needs someone to help him [with everything],” Dowell said.

Over the past year John Dowell, a former college football player, got dementia, grew more and more frail, couldn’t take care of himself and had to live off a feeding tube.

“He was having such a hard time breathing in the end. It was hard on him,” Jake Dowell said. “He was a big deal to me. Everybody says that their dad’s their role model. He was there teaching me everything my first 15, 16 years, but the second half of my life he hasn’t been able to be around.

“But he taught me more by the way he handled this awful disease all those years he wasn’t able to be around than in the first half of my life. He was so strong.”

So is his mother.

“It’s just been endless nonstop people coming by and showing support,” Dowell said. “Her body’s kicking into autopilot. There’s a little bit of adrenaline that goes through you to get you by it. I think now that things are over and she’s by herself at home, things will sink in.

“But she’s had a lot to deal with for many years. She’ll be all right.”

Zucker still out

Winger Jason Zucker will miss next week’s road trip to Edmonton and Vancouver.

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