The Tragic Death Of Bob Saget's Sister Explained

Veteran stand-up comedian, actor, director, writer, host, and author Bob Saget has died according to TMZ. He was 65. On Sunday, January 9th, the star of the hit '90s sitcom "Full House" was pronounced dead at the scene of his Ritz-Carlton Hotel room in Orlando, Florida. No foul play is suspected, and no cause of death has been revealed, according to TMZ. Before completing his degree at Temple University Film School, Saget had ambitions to become a doctor, per Married Biography — an area of interest the comedian would be reacquainted with later on in life after his sister became ill.

As Saget himself wrote for Today, in 1992, Gay Saget, Bob's sister, was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called scleroderma, just a few years after another sister, Andrea, died of a sudden brain aneurysm (via People). Unbelievably, this would be Saget's second experience with the rare disease. According to Saget's Today article, founder and one-time CEO of the Scleroderma Research Foundation, Sharon Monsky, was a close friend of Saget's, and an influence on his early career. She was also diagnosed with the disease, and eventually died of complications due to it. Bob Saget died on his sister Gay's birthday, according to Heavy.

A hardening of the skin

Per Mayo Clinic, symptoms of scleroderma include a tightening or hardening of the skin due to an overproduction of collagen — the name literally means "hard skin," via University of Michigan Health — and it affects more women than men, typically between the ages of 30 and 50 years of age. There is no cure.

In many people, according to the Mayo Clinic, scleroderma just affects the skin, making it appear tight and shiny (and potentially changing your appearance) and making it harder to move that part of your body. Raynaud's disease, where the tips of your fingers or toes go numb, contract, and change color, is often an early sign of scleroderma. In other people, scleroderma affects more than just the skin, in what is known as systemic scleroderma. The most serious form of scleroderma, systemic scleroderma can impact the function of the heart, lungs, kidneys, or digestive system and is potentially fatal.

Causing a whole host of other symptoms and complications, doctors are unsure what causes the rare affliction, but genetics plays a part. Exposure to certain chemicals may also trigger scleroderma, but most people diagnosed with the disorder do not have a history of exposure to problematic toxins, according to Rheumatology.

Gay's short fight against scleroderma

Gay Saget, a school teacher working outside Philadelphia, was diagnosed with scleroderma when she was 44, and died just a few years later. 

"She got treatment, but it was just treating her symptoms with drugs like prednisone and cortisone," Saget said of his sister's struggle in an interview with NIH's MedlinePlus magazine. "She had to move to Los Angeles to live with my parents because she needed so much help. She passed away just two years later."

In memory of his sister, Bob Saget began working in close collaboration with the Scleroderma Research Foundation and with patients living with the disorder. "It is incredibly painful to have a loved one experience a condition like this," he said to MedlinePlus. "It is a very painful disease. My family is still having post-traumatic stress disorder. I don't know how my parents endured."

Bob Saget's work with the Scleroderma Research Foundation

Following Gay's death, Saget helped the Scleroderma Research Foundation raise $35 million in funds for research into treatments for the autoimmune disease. Work is being done at many of the world's leading research institutes including Johns Hopkins, Duke, Stanford and UCSF, among others, according to Saget in Today.

Saget also directed a 1996 TV movie for ABC called "For Hope," loosely based on his sister's experience with the disorder. The movie, starring Dana Delany and Harold Gould, was the first narrative movie Saget would direct (via IMDb). Later, Saget would join the SRF Scleroderma Research Foundation Board of Directors.

"I will spend the rest of my life dedicated to helping our amazing Board of Directors at the incredible Scleroderma Research Foundation to work with the best medical minds as we fund a cure," Saget wrote for Today. "We are still at the stage where we need attention and much more funding. But as much as I love the Foundation, I want even more to hear that we have found a cure and that we have put the Scleroderma Research Foundation out of business," he said.