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Tom Coughlin reveals struggles after wife’s diagnosis with incurable brain disease

Former Jaguars coach says it has been ‘gut-wrenching’ to watch her struggle

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tom Coughlin revealed in a powerful guest column in the New York Times that his wife, Judy, is suffering from an incurable brain disease and that nothing he’s ever experienced could have prepared him for a battle like this.

The first coach in Jaguars franchise history and a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the Giants, said that Judy was suffering from an incurable brain disease that has her “trapped inside a body that will not allow her to be the person she was.”

Coughlin said that he made the choice to go public with her diagnosis for a couple of reasons. He was asked about Judy often by people who used to see her with him or out at events. Judy slowly faded from visibility at events she never would have missed before.

And Coughlin said that he wanted to be a voice for primary caregivers who were struggling just like he is. There are good days and bad days, he wrote, and it’s OK to have emotions that rise and fall with those, he wrote.

“I’ve spent my entire life preparing for some of the biggest games a person could play, but nothing can prepare you to be a caregiver who has to watch a loved one slip away,” he wrote.

Coughlin wrote that his family found out last year that she was suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a brain disorder that slowly takes away a person’s ability to do walk, talk, focus their eyes and control body movements.

The Mayo Clinic says that “progressive supranuclear palsy worsens over time and can lead to life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia and swallowing problems. There’s no cure for progressive supranuclear palsy, so treatment focuses on managing the signs and symptoms.”

Coughlin wrote that watching Judy battle the disease has been soul crushing for him and the entire family.

“Our hearts are broken,” he wrote for the Times. “Judy has been everything to our family. For the past four years, we’ve helplessly watched her go from a gracious woman with a gift for conversation, hugging all the people she met and making them feel they were the most important person in the room, to losing almost all ability to speak and move.”

Coughlin and his wife have been married 54 years. Judy has been a significant part of his world outside of football, too, a regular at Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund events. Coughlin started that foundation 26 years ago and it has given away more than $15 million in grants to help in excess of 5,000 families who were battling cancer.

Judy is an honorary board member at the Jay Fund.

While his football legacy is now written in ink in the history books, his legacy and the legacy of the Jay Fund, now in its 26th year, continues to be written. The foundation has given away over $13 million in the 26 years it has been in operation.


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.