year 2, week 38:  this week i'm gonna... find a cure for Alzheimer's.

Vicki and her mom  (photo credit: UsAgainstAlzheimer's)

Vicki and her mom (photo credit: UsAgainstAlzheimer's)

Vicki was excited to take her mom to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. This was Vicki's second trip to the festival, and she looked forward to watching her mom's reaction to the quaint town surrounded by all the beautiful mountains. 

One evening after dinner, Vicki and her mother agreed to meet at a certain spot to attend a movie together. Vicki waited for her mom for 15 minutes, then 30.  No sign of her mom. The ushers starting letting people in and Vicki went in to save a couple of seats, thinking that her mother was just running late. Finally the movie started, and it had now been 45 minutes since their arranged meeting time.

Vicki left the theater and walked back to their hotel room. Her mother wasn’t there. It was now completely dark outside, and in a near panic, Vicki jogged back up to the main street. There was her mother, standing on the corner looking lost and frail. Vicki says, "I will never forget the feelings that surged through me in that moment of seeing her – immense relief, anger, guilt, and then sadness." 

image credit: UsAgainstAlzheimer’s

image credit: UsAgainstAlzheimer’s

Vicki's mother burst into tears saying she couldn’t find the theater and had gotten confused. Not knowing what else to do, she had just stood on the corner, getting more and more anxious as she waited for her daughter to find her. "Never before had I seen my mother this way," states Vicki. "She was always so strong and self-confident. I put my arms around her as she cried, told her it was okay. I was just worried... much like a mother worries when her children don’t come home on time."

A year later, Vicki's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

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UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) is building a movement with a single, powerful mission: to end Alzheimer’s disease by 2020. 

UsA2 is an innovative non-profit, using an “all hands on deck” approach to eradicating Alzheimer’s disease. They seek to engage and mobilize millions, addressing the most devastating public health crisis in our country.    

UsA2 believes in the power of collaboration among diverse partners. They do not seek to work alone, nor would they want to. UsAgainstAlzheimer’s powers vital philanthropy, revs up research, partners with industry, engages diverse audiences, and has energized a movement. The organization has worked with elected officials to increase federal funding for research; amplified patient and caregiver voices in all stages of the research process; established a growing cohort of clinical trial participants partnered with leading academic institutions; and activated networks of those most deeply affected by Alzheimer’s, including: women, African Americans, Latinos, researchers, veterans, youth, the faith community, and others.

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s is proud to be “engaged and enraged” and commits to leaving no stone unturned in its quest to end the suffering of individuals, families and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s disease is the only top 10 cause of death in the United States with no treatment or means of prevention, yet federal research funding is a fraction of what it is for other major diseases. Alzheimer's disease claimed 500,000 lives last year in America, with more than 5 million victims slowly dying of the disease and approximately 44.4 million people world-wide battling some form of dementia. Despite these dire statistics, there is cause for optimism. Leading research suggests that disease-modifying treatments and a cure are within reach if we commit the necessary level of funds to research.

Trish and George Vradenburg  (photo credit: James Brantley)

Trish and George Vradenburg (photo credit: James Brantley)

Trish and George Vradenburg, the founders of UsAgainstAlzheimer's, understand firsthand the impact that Alzheimer's can have on individuals and families. In 1988, the Vradenburgs were asleep in their
home in New Jersey, a few miles from Trish’s mother, Beatrice. At 3am, the phone rang. “There’s a strange man here,” Beatrice said. “He’s trying to rob me.”

The drive took five minutes. George and Trish found Lerner’s windows closed. Her door hadn’t been forced open, but she was on guard. She pulled her daughter and son-in-law aside and whispered, “That’s him. Who is he?” Beatrice was pointing at her husband, Joseph.

After that night, Beatrice became more paranoid and forgetful. Cell by dying cell, her brain shut down, followed by her body. She became immobile and slowly declined until her death in 1992. 

Watching her mother’s struggle scared Trish. Watching it scare Trish - seeing her wonder and worry  every time she misplaced her keys or her cell phone - scared George. How many times can someone forget something until the problem isn’t just forgetfulness?

Sadly, Trish passed away suddenly from a heart attack in April 2017, but UsAgainstAlzeimer's builds upon her legacy and forges ahead in her powerful memory. Their goal remains focused: Find a treatment for Alzheimer’s by 2020. 

Story sourced from the Washingtonian, "One Couple’s Battle Against Alzheimer’s," by Shane Harris

Notes for this week:

  • September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day!
  • Our collective givetwig donation will help find a cure for Alzheimer's by 2020.
  • For more information on UsAgainstAlzheimer's, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to UsAgainstAlzheimer's.

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