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After two weeks of grueling medical tests, Hawking received terrible news.
Stephen Hawking, a recent graduate of Oxford, was a 21-year-old Cambridge graduate student in theoretical astronomy and cosmology when he began to exhibit unusually clumsy behavior. He fell down a flight of stairs and seemed to be stumbling more frequently as he walked. Hawking felt a growing numbness in his limbs. While visiting his family during holiday break, he fell down during an ice skating session with his mother and was unable to pick himself up. His parents urged him to visit the family doctor, who referred him to a specialist. After two weeks of grueling medical tests, Hawking received terrible news. He was suffering from Motor Neuron Disease (known in the US as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or more commonly as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”) Over time, doctors explained, the nerve cells in Hawking’s spine and brain would gradually crumble, causing his muscles to cease functioning. He would soon enough be confined to a wheelchair, and as he neared death he would find it nearly impossible to swallow or breathe. There seemed to be no hope that Hawking would live to complete his degree; indeed, the doctors prepared him for the likelihood that he would suffer an agonizing death within two years, or sooner. .
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