What did you do when you first woke up this morning? How many times did you hit the ‘snooze’ button? Did you lay in bed thinking up an excuse to not go to work? Maybe you rolled over to your partner and started the day with a fun tumble amongst the sheets 😉 When I woke up this morning I felt frustrated …and no, not that kind of frustrated. Mitch and I recently returned from our trip to New Zealand and I am still feeling a tad annoyed over a few things that happened while we were over there. Even in my sleep I couldn’t find any peace. To help take my mind of what was bothering me, I picked up my phone and flicked through my personal Facebook page. As I scrolled through my friends and families latest posts I came across this –
It is so difficult to type right now. See this photo? The young lady on the left is 17-year-old Brittany. The young man on the right is her younger brother Jacob. Their sister Emma is out of the shot, and it was their dad Mick that took this photo. The woman in the middle, her name is Sarah. She is 37 years old. A heart of gold!
I met Sarah when we both lived in the small town of Bright, in North-East Victoria. Sarah, her hubby Mick and their 3 children had moved to Bright from Ballarat after visiting Mick’s aunt who managed one of the local motels. They loved visiting the small town so much that they decided to move their permanently. The girls were so young, Jacob was still a little chubby bub in nappies, Mick was a painter, and within no time at all he had full-time work, and Brittany was in my daughter Rachael’s year level at school. They got along so well that it wasn’t long before Brittany was coming over for sleepovers and vice versa. Mick and Mitchell became great friends, travelling around Australia setting up large-scale events such as the V8 Supercar Series.
Each time Sarah and I got together, we had so much fun. I remember organising a girls night out, for the release of the movie Sex and The City. I invited 7 friends, organised a limousine, booked a table for 8 at a local cocktail bar and restaurant and arranged tickets and seating for a late night screening at the Wangaratta Cinema. After drinking a “few” Cosmo’s we all got into the limo and got comfy for the 40 minute drive to Wangaratta. Sarah was so damn funny that night. She was trying to pour a glass of wine in the limo and each time she tried, the car would go over a bump, or turn a corner and Sarah would spill on her dress. She didn’t get angry or upset, she just cracked up laughing each time. We stopped at a store on the way and purchased straws and two more bottles of bubbly. What a night that was!
Being a parent was one of Sarah’s most proud achievements. Her 3 kids were her most valuable treasures. I was always entertained by the way Sarah parented her kids. She very rarely got angry, and when she did, it was never for long. The kids could have burnt the house down but she would still give them a hug and tell them everything would be ok. Jacob would terrorise the dog and Sarah would grab hold of him and give him a hug, tell him to leave the poor dog alone and give him a big kiss on the cheek. As the girls grew older, Sarah would often joke about their future husbands. She would say things like “Who could handle them?” or “They will give them a run for their money” and laugh…she laughed all the time.
Mick, he is the sparkle in her eyes. Always was, and always will be. Her love for that man, if he was the most poorest man on earth she wouldn’t care. She loved everything about him. Mick had to travel for work often, whether it was with the V8 Supercar Series or with his own painting business, but Sarah just got on with what ever it was that had to be done. She may not have been completely happy about it, but that was life and she rarely complained. If Mick told her he had to travel to the moon and mine rare rocks, she wouldn’t be upset for long. She loved him then, and she always will.
Mitchell and I drove over to Geelong and caught up with Mick, Sarah and the kids a few weeks ago. When I saw her I was shocked, hurt, surprised, upset… I was feeling every damn emotion. Sarah would never leave the house without straightening her hair, putting on makeup and looking smart but casual. But this Sarah…it wasn’t her. I was looking at someone who looked a little like her, even sounded like her, but looking into her eyes, she was not there. You know that feeling when you’re about to cry, your nose starts to tingle, your chin quivers and your eyes start to water. I tried so damn hard to keep it together. Mick, Brittany, Emma and Jacob were smiling and having fun and my heart was breaking for them. For Sarah.
We all hugged, and sat back with a few stiff drinks. The kids played in the yard while Mitchell, Mick and I tried to catch up, find out what each of us had been up to and basically give Mick our support and love. The entire time Sarah walked around the yard, talking to herself. Then she would go inside and chat to her reflection in the mirror. At one point, Mick sat her down and helped her drink some water from a plastic cup. After a while, Brittany took her inside and helped her down onto the couch. It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep. I remember checking on her to see if she was comfortable and I felt so angry. Why did this have to happen? She has never done a bad thing in her life, not one damn thing! She was kind, generous, loving and the best mother and wife in the world. Why?!?
Sitting outside with Mick, we spoke about when her symptoms began to show. For Mick, he said things became obvious after they moved to the Geelong area 7 years ago. When ever she went to the supermarket she would always park in the exact same spot. Like she was afraid she would forget where she parked. Then she became more and more forgetful, and even became angry with those around her, including her loved ones. I mentioned one particular day, when we were all still living in Bright. Sarah was standing in the kitchen rinsing coffee cups in the sink. She was staring out the window. She looked lost…confused – blank. It was only a short moment, but it was enough for me to ask her if everything was ok. Sarah told me about her father. That he had passed away in his late 30’s from Dementia and Sarah was worried she would have the gene. She said she was going to have some tests done and talk to Mick about it. Not long after that, the family moved away.
I have been online and read quite a lot about Dementia. I know that there is no cure and no treatment that can help slow or even stop its progression. I know there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms, but not much else. I also know there needs to be more help for people like Mick, who sleeps on average 5 hours a night because Sarah wakes and wonders the house. I know the kids need more help, more support. There simply isn’t enough being done. A carers pension, someone who can come to the house once in a blue moon – it’s just not enough. I asked Mick what his future plans are? Would he put her into palliative care? Mick simply told me “When I said for better or for worse, I meant it. I promised her I wouldn’t put her in a home. I loved Sarah back then, and I still love her now.”
If you would like more information, or if you would like to join Mick and his family in raising more awareness for Younger Onset Dementia, there will be a family fun day on the 17th of April, from 10am to 4pm at the Johnstone Park in Geelong. If you would like to come along, or wish to send your support, simply click on the banner below.
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