Comedic actor fights for serious cause

First, allow me this acknowledgment.

I know little about Seth Rogen’s professional life, other than he’s a comedic actor who starred in the film “Knocked Up.”

After Wednesday, though, I now perceive him as a courageous young man who’s trying to raise awareness of an affliction with which my family and I have intimate knowledge: Alzheimer’s disease.

Rogen sat before a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday and told a heartbreaking story of his mother-in-law.

She’s now in her early 60s. Rogen’s mother-in-law cannot speak; she cannot feed or bathe herself; she barely can walk and is confined mostly to a wheelchair; she doesn’t recognize anyone outwardly. She was diagnosed about seven years ago — when she was just 55 — with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Rogen is trying to raise awareness and I must presume raise the interest of lawmakers who control the federal purse to put more money into Alzheimer’s research. He’s founded an organization, Hilarity for Charity, to help educate young Americans about the disease.

Oh, brother, I feel the young man’s pain.

As he spoke to the mostly empty chairs that should have been filled by senators, Rogen’s testimony reminded me of my own late mother’s affliction. She died in 1984 at the age of 61. A doctor issued an official diagnosis of her condition in 1980, but in truth she had been showing signs of profound personality change for years prior to that.

We watched her disappear before our eyes. Her body was present, but the woman we knew was long gone. At the end, she couldn’t speak or feed herself or bathe — just like Seth Rogen’s mother-in-law.

My heart hurt listening to him.

Later that evening, on Chris Matthews’s cable talk show “Hardball,” Rogen took note of the shameful lack of attention given by the committee members. Only two of them attended the entire hearing: Democratic chairman Tom Harken of Iowa and Republican ranking member Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Rogen didn’t express outward anger at the lack of attendance by the rest of the panel. I’ll express it for him.

It is shameful that the committee didn’t bother to listen to all that Rogen had to tell them. They needed to be there, even if they had heard it all before. They needed to hear the testimony of someone who’s emotional heartache is as real as it gets — as he is speaking for millions of other Americans who have gone through, or who are going through right now, the agony of watching a loved one waste away.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts roughly 5 million Americans. The reality, though, is that it causes pain to many times more than that number. It inflicts pain on family members who have to endure what Seth Rogan and his wife are experiencing. Those numbers will climb as the nation continues to age and as more Americans fall victim to Alzheimer’s cruelty.

I hope Rogen keeps up the fight. He is delivering an important message that needs to be heard.