My name is Usha Norman and my story is worth sharing. My career began in the world of Information Technology where I stayed for 20 years. Then on November 11, 2013, I had a close encounter with death and a terrifying insight into the world of Alzheimer’s disease.
On the morning of January 3, 2008 my husband suddenly died of cardiac arrest. The grief was long, hard and sporadic as I journeyed towards healing.
It was in those moments of anguish that I felt the need to channel my grief into something more worthwhile. I decided to become a hospice volunteer. I was hopeful that in attending to the suffering of others, I would find answers that would explain the sudden and untimely death of my husband. Hospice volunteering turned out to be a transforming and life-affirming experience. I began to understand that each life journey is unique and that sudden death was perhaps a blessing that prevented long term suffering and pain.
Most of my hospice experience was in caring for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. During those years of volunteering, I witnessed the heart wrenching experience of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers whose lives were gradually being erased from memory by Alzheimer’s. Each day brought new sets of challenges to face and conquer. The toll on their families and caregivers was equally challenging.
Then on November 11, 2013, I experienced a short term memory loss of my own where I gained insight into the dreaded world of Alzheimer’s disease. My normal perception of reality shifted into an obscure place where everything within my consciousness slowed down and each task became a challenge.
The first sign that something was amiss came when my niece called that evening of November 11, 2013. That morning I had left her a message to call me back to coordinate an upcoming trip. From that point on, my self-awareness gradually began to falter. I remember walking into the kitchen and opening the refrigerator door in an attempt to make a sandwich but I did not know how. My ability to retrieve and process information and act upon it began to fail.
At around 6 p.m. my niece called back. Finding me incoherent and repetitive, she called my daughter who on arrival found me wandering aimlessly from one room of the house to the next.
Since my memory loss was significant, a family doctor was consulted and the decision was made to rush me into the emergency room of a nearby hospital. The route that I knew so well was now an intricate maze. Once in the hospital, the emergency room doctor was asking simple questions that made no sense.
The diagnosis reveled that my blood pressure had reached unsafe levels leading to the memory loss that I was experiencing. I was admitted to the hospital and over the next 24 hours, my blood pressure was stabilized and miraculously I recovered with no serious injuries.
It is from that moment on that I made a conscious decision to explore, research and follow the guidelines of cognitive health and spread the word that simple lifestyle choices can preserve and save our memories for a lifetime.