Lifestyle & Human Interest

Father of 4 with Human Form of Mad Cow Disease Dies Less Than 1 Year After Diagnosis


On Jan. 30, Danielle Gibson held her dying husband’s hands and sang his favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

Tennesee father-of-four Tony Gibson, 33, could no longer speak, communicate, or move, but Danielle watched as her confused, agitated husband calmed down at the sound of the music.

“I knew he was in there,” she told Inside Edition. “That’s his favorite hymn.”

Danielle and Tony once lived a pretty typical life, raising their two sets of twin girls, ages 11 and 2.

But in late 2017, Tony’s behavior took a scary, confusing turn for the worse.

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It started with short-term memory loss, Danielle said. Tony would forget where he was going or get lost while running simple, everyday errands like going to the grocery store.

Danielle recalled a night when Tony didn’t come home. The police found him wandering around the Nashville airport, trying to remember where he had parked his car.

“I wondered, ‘What is causing this man to be like this?’ I took care of him, but his decline was so rapid,” Danielle told PEOPLE.

“Each week it would get dramatically worse. I had to label our bedrooms, bathrooms in our home. It got to a point where it was like a psychosis. It was unreal. It was scary.”

Endless doctor visits eventually led the couple to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee where Tony was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The rare, degenerative disease causes the brain to deteriorate very rapidly, and is 100 percent fatal. Doctors refer to the disease as the human form of mad cow disease.

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Tony’s family still doesn’t know how he contracted the disease, but were told it could have come from bad meat, could be genetic, or it could be from an unknown source.

Danielle and her kids had to watch Tony suffer a heartbreaking road. He lost his ability to read and write, use his arms and legs, and eventually could not speak.

“It was a very rapid decline,” Danielle said. “It’s just terrible. If I try to sort it out in my head, I would lose my mind.”

Tony died on Jan. 30, leaving Danielle to raise their four girls on her own. She has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her family’s immediate and ongoing needs.

She hopes that by sharing her story, people will be made aware of CJD and work towards a cure.

“Our hearts are broken,” Danielle wrote, “but we take comfort in knowing this fight is over.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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