Mamma Jo, A Personal Alzheimer’s Story

I have a personal story to relay to those who read my blog. It brings this blog full circle. Nadine lives in California and has been following my blog with her mom since its inception a year and half ago. I did not have a direct relationship with Nadine or her mom (Mamma Jo) other than a comment submitted after my first blog thanking me for telling my story.  I gave her my contact info via private email and thanked them for following the blog. I didn’t hear anything further until I received a phone call today.

I found out Nadine’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014.  Mamma Jo did not have health insurance. She was just an “unemployed poor black woman” (Nadine’s words). Mamma Jo was unable to work after 2009 due to confusion and memory issues. The family believes now that is was probably the early stages of undiagnosed Alzheimer’s . As her condition continued to decline, Nadine and her family were financially able to place their mom in a care center during the winter of 2015. Nadine printed my blogs and would take them to read to her mom in the care center, I was known as “Omaha Mike”. For some reason she remembered me and would often ask if I had written to her. Mamma Jo thought I was writing the blogs directly to her. Sometimes they would have to reread one of my posts and Mamma Jo would act like it was a new “letter”. For some reason something in her mind made her fixated on the blog.

 Nadine called me today to let me know her mom had passed at the age of 57 and to tell me thank you for giving her mom something to look forward to, she had kept my “letters”. I was in shock. If you have read my blogs, you would know that they are informational and talk about my journey with the disease. I have not dealt with loss associated with Alzheimer’s since my outreach began because I mostly talk to individuals in the early stages. I try and offer hope that there will be advances in drug trials that will slow the progression.

The family does not know if her Alzheimer’s was genetic, money was not available for genetic testing. The family also does not know if they carry the gene. I have overwhelming sadness in my heart as the family deals with arrangements for their mother. I wish there was good news for others who, along with me are diagnosed with the disease. I wish I had words of comfort.

We lost two acquaintances/friends through the blog in the last 36 hours. In both cases, the disease was left undiagnosed until late in the disease progression. I think those of us who are able to continue to raise awareness about this horrible disease should take this story to heart.

My heartfelt condolences go out to Mamma Jo’s family. Thank you for allowing me to post this to my blog. My hope is that others reading this with family members that are symptomatic, that are as yet undiagnosed, would seek medical attention to get a diagnosis.  

This poem by Emily Dickinson came to mind.

Not In Vain

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

 Mamma Jo, your story will impact others.

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