A quick Chat
I watched the second part of Terry Pratchett’s programme about his experience with Alzheimer’s where he travels to the
The treatment had been developed in
Terry is half way through his 37th book and wants to finish it before the disease progresses further. He notices clumsiness and says it’s like his brain is at war with his body. He is being treated with Arocet which is meant to slow down the disease and his latest medical tests show that his results are similar to one he had 4 months earlier - or better - but not worse. He will carry on with the treatment and is cheered by what he regards as good news.
Earlier he had been invited to talk with other sufferers on Radio 5 where one man, who had had it for 7 years said he was able to ‘get over the wall but couldn’t get back again’. Another said he had enjoyed the programme but couldn’t possible say what it was about. Terry was very interested to talk to Becka the daughter of one patient too ill to speak, to give him some idea of how his wife and daughter would be affected
She tearfully admitted that part of her was glad when the disease progressed because it would be over sooner. This may sound heartless but maybe you have to see a loved one in this state to understand. Terry is ‘buoyed up’ by meeting fellow sufferers as they understand, but he himself is very anxious that he shouldn’t be a burden.
In California Terry meets a Professor of Neural Imaging and asks why one would develop Alzheimer’s, to be told it’s just ‘bad luck’. Again he is told there is a cure somewhere on the horizon but as he says ’too late for me.’ He goes to meet the doctor said to have discovered the controversial treatment and tells him he doesn’t know whether to address him as a Saint or Barnum (another very Terry like quip – if he’s going to end up a vegetable he’d like to know which one.)
Terry watches the Admiral – an 88 year old being injected with something which is said to dissolve the excess protein gumming up the brain cells. It is repeated every 2 weeks and the Admiral’s son says it makes a remarkable difference to his father. Apart from the fact that he had a smile on his face afterwards there was little difference to be seen and Terry says the family will see what they want to see – to be kept alive at 88 – kept alive for what?
Terry says he needs some head space to think and goes to do some Tai Chi on the beach. He wonders what his future will hold and goes to see a Care Home for Alzheimer’s and all forms of dementia. His first impression is good as it seems more like a good hotel. He says to the very efficient woman showing him round, that he doesn’t want to seem like the Duke of Edinburgh inspecting and apologises saying it’s a British thing and she says ‘This is California.. Chill!’
There are 5 units graded by the amount of care required and on the higher levels the woman warns there will be a lot of pacing and some agitation. The final level is the hospice stage. Terry says he doesn’t have to worry about the End Game because he won’t be there to worry. He talks to some o f the patients and is quite comfortable with them. Rob meanwhile didn’t want to go in the first place and clearly finds it stressful.
Terry says his wife is resolutely optimistic and encourages him to check on everything and to accept what they cannot change. He says he has to consider what is best for his wife and daughter and at one stage is thankful that his books have earned enough to help so that he would be able to afford such a place, which was nothing like as bad as he had imagined. Rob said it was his idea of Hell.
They go to
‘How long’ asked Rob
‘Don’t answer that!’ says Terry. ‘We can cope with this and we will!’
Terry says when this jaunt is over he’s like to slow down a bit more. He wants better awareness of the disease and that when people are diagnosed instead of being shown the door they should be shown a path. He himself is determined to live in hope – not fear. What a wonderful, brave gutsy man he is.