How my grandma recovered–somewhat–from her Alzheimer’s disease
Following an experimental treatment, Mumcie was able to remember my mom’s name for the first time in nearly two yearsBy Stefan Carlos Golangco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
People are shaped by their experiences. Memories become the foundation of every person’s understanding of the world in which he or she lives.
For example, when you walk into a kitchen to make dinner, your actions are almost unconscious. You know where to get the ingredients or which ones you need, how to make the food and how to plate it so you can eat it. Your memories are a foundation, and they provide the context for what you’re supposed to do in a given situation.
But when you have dementia, all of those environmental cues and awareness are ripped away. You struggle at every stage of action, because that once reliable foundational support has disintegrated.
Living with dementia is like living life as a series of single photographs, going from image to image without any context, understanding or connection. As a result, you are in a state of constant frustration and confusion. You are trapped in a body with a malfunctioning mind.
It’s a disease that chips away at your memory, thinking, language and, eventually, judgment and behavior, such that simple ideas such as your favorite food or trying to remember who your loved ones are disappear. Concepts that make you who you are are lost.
My grandmother, or Mumcie as I call her, has this debilitating disease. Some have said she developed symptoms of dementia after her husband’s passing, given the immense stress and sorrow she felt at the end of a fairytale 68-year marriage. Their passion, commitment and love for each other are what classic love stories are about. So losing her husband was a big blow to my Mumcie.
The gravity of her condition soon became evident. Her mood was in constant flux, swinging from anger and aggression to depression and indifference. She became disoriented and lost 40 lbs without her ever realizing it. She did not recognize her children and family, and her primary caregiver, my mom, did not know how to help her.
Then we read an article about an experimental treatment being conducted by UCLA’s Institute of Neurological Research. After doing their due diligence, my parents scheduled an appointment. When they got to visit the medical facility, there was one major caveat—the doctors warned them that the treatment was still in the testing stage, and to not expect any miracles.
But with no other remedy available for Mumcie’s spiraling condition, my parents made the brave decision to give her this experimental treatment. And wonder of wonders, the results were immediate. Although the doctors said not to expect a miracle, you could not help but think that God had granted us one.
Following treatment, Mumcie was able to remember my mom’s name for the first time in nearly two years, and was able to focus on her surroundings in addition to eating on her own. This is not to say that the treatment has cured her dementia entirely. But at least it seems to have arrested any further deterioration.
She is able to have conversations with people now, and has an appetite that does not require force-feeding. She even has energy and interest in doing things outside of her home.
The only disadvantage of the remedy is the rigorous treatment schedule and cost. The medicine needs to be injected on a weekly basis by a trained medical professional. It would not be practical to shuttle Mumcie between Manila and Los Angeles weekly for the duration of her natural life. Thus, the Institute recommended finding a doctor whom they could train to perform the procedure at home.
After an exhaustive search, Dr. Arnold Isidro was chosen, and he was able to complete the training required to administer the remedy. Now, Mumcie has weekly visits from Dr. Isidro in the comfort of her own home.
In spite of the permanent effect of the disease on Mumcie’s mental capacity and character, the treatment has been able to recover some of what she has lost. She is not as confused or frustrated as she once was.
It is very comforting to know that the medicine has extended her life, and gave her a better quality one at that. I am thankful that God has answered our prayers through advances in science.
If you have any loved ones in similar situations, please contact Dr. Isidro for questions at 0917-8742300.