Why I Walk – Karen Garner

15 Oct

I’m walking to help reclaim the future for millions. By participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s?, I’m committed to raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer research, care and support.

A few years ago, Jim and I started the process of trying to figure out what was going on with him. Things just weren’t right and since there is not a test, like cancer or diabetes, to give you an answer right away, we started the very long process of ruling out everything else. No, he hadn’t had a stroke, didn’t have a brain tumor, didn’t have high blood pressure, heart problems, thyroid problems, AIDS or syphilis. He endured long psychological testing, MRI’s, CAT scans, a spinal tap (very painful) and so much more. We are at the beginning stages of a disease that has no cure and really no hope. Unfortunately at some point our children, ages 8 and 11 will realize this and realize they are slowly, very slowly losing their father.

I already miss him. The man I married is no longer living with me. Instead, I have a man that is struggling to remember names, what we are doing this afternoon and what he did this morning. Some days are better than others.

Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease is sometimes hereditary, as in Jim’s case. His brother and Mother both had this slow, horrible disease.

Please help find a cure. I am counting on you. My children are counting on you. Millions of others are counting on you. One day, if you haven’t been touched already, someone you love will no longer be able to explain to you how you know each other. When that day comes, you will pray and cry and desperately search in vain for answers, help and a cure.

Currently, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. Our future is at risk unless we can find a way to change the course of this disease.

I need your support to do my part! Please make a donation to help the Alzheimer’s Association advance research into prevention, treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s. For the millions already affected by the disease, the Association offers care, education, support and resources in communities nationwide.

Karen Garner

Why I Walk- Tammy McCullough & Teresa Sanders

17 Sep

We walk for our grandmother, Georgia Green Johnson and for our dad, Eugene W Johnson, Jr.
Our story starts back in the late ’90s when we lost our grandmother to this horrible illness.
We can remember walking into the nursing home to visit. She would be so scared and in a fetal position because she didn’t know who we were. It was horrible to watch how this illness had taken the strength of such a strong willed woman and turn her into this fragile person. Near her end we had stopped in to visit with her, I said, “hey Granny, it’s Teresa” she looked up at me and as she stared at me she had a tears roll down her face and then she smiled at me. I felt at that particular moment she knew who I was. It would only be a month later she would pass.

In Oct 2010, our father was rushed to the hospital. He had a stroke. It was then our lives would change forever because our dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For me (Teresa), I immediately went into denial. I actually couldn’t bear to think that this man who was a work horse had this horrible illness. Our dad was the “Jack of all Trades” he had bulldozers, cranes and dredges.. the kind that build bulkheads and widen canals. He even had a fish farm raising red striped bass and catfish. When he was a younger man, he and our grandfather worked on building the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnels (they were involved in the actual sinking of the tunnels and connecting them to the road).
For me, I felt if I stayed away, it wasn’t true. As for my younger sister, (Tammy), she stepped up. She went to all his doctor appointments and would take him to her home over the weekends to give our mother a break. She and her husband went above and beyond to help care for our dad.
As the illness progressed, our mother, his wife of 53 years vowed to keep him home. To keep him in the home he built for her some 54 years ago and had raised their 4 children in.  At this point, I knew I had to start helping, I would go in the afternoon to sit with our dad while mom would do her bus route. It would be sometime later that we would start getting help in the mornings and then later we would receive help in the afternoons. Last year he had another mini stroke which left him really weak.

Tammy could no longer take him to her home anymore due to him not being able to walk very well, so she would stay a night on the weekend to help mom out. By January 2014 things started turning worse with the illness. He would know us one day, the next he wouldn’t and the next day we were much younger in age which would confuse him as to why he knew us but just not at the age we were. By April things were steadily declining.  My father was requiring constant care 24/7. We would have an aid in the morning and the afternoon. I would relieve the aid Monday-Friday and Tammy would relieve me. Weekends were a toss-up on whoever could do what.
At one point, things were so bad that the hospital sent an RN to evaluate him. She told us that we could have until August but felt things were progressing faster than that. What our father did do before he started the spiral downhill in the earlier stages back in 2010, was he put a DNR in place, he released us of the burden to make the decisions of what he wanted…. his wishes were plain and simple. (with that said, that was easier said than done).
Our normal lives were no longer. We were devoted to providing the best care that we could give to our dad. Our homes, our spouses, and our children were set aside because our plates were full. They were supportive of what we were doing for our dad.  It was at this point Tammy, mom, and I knew what the meaning of “his caregivers” meant.
In July 2014, Hospice was called in. Dad was no longer eating and his fluids were consistent to a cap of water every hour until he could no longer drink or swallow. For the most part he was incoherent and unconscious. Then one morning he just sat up as if he was never sick. He looked good, he knew us all but Hospice had told us before this that we would go through what they call “false hope”. It was 3 good days that we would cherish forever….as we watched as he slowly slipped away from us. On August 9th, in his home of 54 years with his devoted wife of 53 years, Tammy and I beside him, he lost his battle to this horrible illness.
We walked last year for the first time. Our team “Forget-me-Nots”. This year we will walk again in honor of our dad.
We walk to raise awareness.
We walk to raise money to help other families and to help fund the research to end this thing.

Why-I-Walk-Wed_TammyAndTeresa

Why I Walk – Anna Jiannine

10 Sep

I walk . . . because both of my Grandmothers and my Sweet Mother, my Aunt (her sister) and my Uncle (her brother) cannot.

I walk . . . because my family has been devastated by this horrific disease, which took their precious memories of loved ones and friends. The years of joy and tears they shed over happy occasions were no longer a memory to them. We were left to watch helplessly and with broken hearts. With this disease they still showed us daily their inner strength and deep faith and they continued each day with grace and dignity.

I walk . . . because that’s the only way I know to get the awareness out. Awareness is in numbers in people and dollars. The more attention we get as walkers, the more donations we will achieve for research and a cure.

I walk . . . so one day my Children and/or my Grandchildren won’t have to, and if they walk it will be a walk in celebration of a cure and honoring those whose memories and lives were taken.

Why I Walk Wed_Anna Jiannine

Why I Walk – Jessica Hubbard

3 Sep

I walk for my father, Walter “Butch” Delaney Jr.

My father started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s right before my 18th birthday in January 2008 at the age of 59. He would become very irritable and would mistake the television remote for the phone. By May of that year we had no choice but to place him in a facility because it was too much for me and my mother to handle alone. Weekends for the next 6 years were spent traveling to North Carolina to spend time with him. We would go to Wal-Mart to buy snacks, go to lunch and take long car rides.

In 2011 I married my husband and we held a small ceremony at the facility so he could be a part of our wedding. We quickly had our daughter Aubree Grace in 2012 because I wanted to make sure my daughter met her grandfather. Although he could never remember her name it was a blessing to see them together.

Unfortunately my father took a turn for the worst in February 2014 and was put on hospice. He passed away on April 25, 2014, the day my daughter turned 18 months old. I am 24 years old and I have lost my father to Alzheimer’s. I walk in his name in hopes that someday there will be a cure so that my daughter does not have to witness me going through the same horrible disease.

WhyIWalkWed_JessicaHubbard

Why I Walk – Sheryl Prendergast

27 Aug

Alzheimer’s was a part of my life even before I spoke my first word, took my first step or even opened my eyes for the first time. My grandmother developed early onset Alzheimer’s before I was born. When other little girls were being doted on by their grandmother, I was helping my mother to care for mine. She lived with this horrible disease for nineteen years and I watched a piece of her slip away day by day.

Later in life, this memory stealer attacked my beloved aunt and just a few years later, my Mama, and then much later two uncles. Watching all of them change from the loving kind people I had known into strangers was very painful.

Today, I am facing this stage again with my mother and father in law. It makes me sad seeing my husband endure the pain of seeing his always independent, smart and funny parents change each day.

I walk so hopefully, my children and their children do not have to endure the enormous strain it puts on seeing your loved one slip away little by little.

The stress of being a care giver also takes its toll on you and your loved ones. I walk so caregivers have a place to vent, to cry and a friendly shoulder to lean on. I walk to insure that there are funds to provide help and insight. When you reach a point when you need someone to lead you in the right direction, Alzheimer’s Association is there. I walk so they can continue to be.

Sheryl and her Mother

Sheryl and her Mother

Why I Walk – Janet Hastings

20 Aug

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.  It’s fatal…..Yet I am a survivor of this horrible illness. How can that happen?  A miracle?   I just said that there is no cure.

I’m not sure when I first noticed the symptoms. It was actually several years before the diagnosis.  It took a long time to get the devastating news, since there isn’t a definitive test that could give me the answers I so desperately sought. 

Why couldn’t I find things?  Why didn’t familiar foods taste the same?  Why were colors of clothes not quite as bright as they once were? Why did everything in my life seem to be changing so quickly? Why was I so tired? I didn’t sleep well at night. Why did it seem as though I cried all the time? I was so depressed.  I had bruises on my arms that I could only explain to a select few.  I went to church and I prayed for a cure. My family prayed and went to many doctors with me.  I felt as though I lost everything…..my life as I had known it for over 50 years, my freedom, my home,  my joy…and at times, my God and my faith. 

The cure may be just around the corner…..just over the next horizon.  That’s why I’m at this event today. We need to band together.  My walk for a cure began years ago.

It was my mother who had Alzheimer’s. It was in my parent’s home that I could not find things.  All of a sudden things were disappearing from their usual place.  Mom didn’t know where the salt and pepper was even though it had been kept in the same place for the last 58 yrs.  Her mashed potatoes didn’t taste the same, because she left out the salt. My parent’s clothes started changing colors because she forgot to separate the colors from the whites. Sometimes, she forgot to use laundry detergent.  The bruises on my arms were from my mother’s grip when she was angry with me…..because I wanted her to eat, drink, shower or go out for an afternoon ride in the car.  They were simple, everyday things in life, but terrifying to her.  

My mother, father, brothers and I desperately sought medical answers to a disease that has no blood test or single x-ray to diagnose.

I was her primary caregiver.  My 85 year old father and I cared for her for many years. We were both exhausted.  Caregiver’s roles don’t end at 5pm or even 11pm.  It is an all day, every day role…..until the end of life.  I was sleep deprived, sad, depressed and longed for the time when life would return to “normal” for my mother & our family.  We learned to live a “new normal” every single day.  

My life changed forever the day that my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It changed the lives of our entire family.  We lost my mother, Kay Hastings, on Oct 3, 2009.  I was holding her hand.

Our family had gathered to say our goodbyes that afternoon….. we knew that she wouldn’t live much longer.  My dad was experiencing the saddest event in his life.  He was losing the love of his life, his Sweetheart of almost 60 years. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, nurse & much more.

Dad died in Dec of 2010.

I am learning to live life at a different pace, love & laugh once again.   I sing, swim, smile, volunteer, teach & nurse. I have learned to ride a horse & a jet-ski and enjoy new adventures in life. I received my Master’s degree in patience.

Research, Education & Support …..helped me Survive Alzheimer’s Disease.

JanetHastings

Why I Walk – Sarah Smith

13 Aug

It’s hard to imagine but Alzheimer’s disease has been a part of my family for over 17 years.  My grandmother, Annie “Jo” Ward, was the first to be diagnosed.  She was an amazing woman with many talents who loved to stay busy.  My grandmother would sit for hours, at the kitchen table, working on crossword puzzles.  She also loved to work in her yard.  Eventually, Alzheimer’s robbed her of being able to do either of those things.  She was a great mother who loved her children and grandchildren deeply.  Alzheimer’s robbed her of the ability to recognize those she most loved.  When she passed away a little over two years ago, she was bedridden and unable to communicate.

Sadly, a few years ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  His decline has been quick and he is currently being cared for at an assisted living facility.  It saddens me to know that our family will once again have to experience “the long goodbye”. 

One of the worst aspects of dealing with Alzheimer’s is the feeling of helplessness.  That’s where the Walk to End Alzheimer’s comes in for our family.  There was little any of us could do for my grandmother and very little we can do for my father-in-law.  But, we can WALK!  We can walk in memory of those we’ve lost and in honor of those living with the disease.  We can raise money to support the programs of the Alzheimer’s Association.  We can walk in support of research that will one day provide treatment and a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  We can walk because it gives us hope.

AnnieWard

Annie “Jo” Ward

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