Alzheimer's disease Patient stories

Early-onset Alzheimer’s diminishes Carol’s memory, but not her willingness to help others

Carol Browne

Carol Browne was in her early 50s when she started having trouble completing basic tasks such as writing a sentence or paying bills. This made no sense, since at the time she was a highly effective senior bank manager.

Carol and her husband Mike began a journey to search for answers. Their quest led them to Sunnybrook, where they met Dr. Sandra Black, a neurologist and research director of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program. Dr. Black is a world-leading researcher in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Dr. Black’s lab is dedicated to understanding – through brain imaging, pathology, genetics, clinical trials and even sophisticated eye examinations – what causes brain disorders and what measures can be used to detect them early and treat them effectively.

Carol Brown and Dr. Sandra Black.

Carol Browne and Dr. Sandra Black.

Her lab is attracting international attention for her valuable contributions on the links between dementia and vascular disease.

Dr. Black diagnosed Carol with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, devastating news for someone as young as Carol. While the disease is not curable, Sunnybrook provides families like the Brownes with a deeper understanding of what they are facing and which treatments may help curb symptoms. Dr. Black explained that Carol’s illness would progress over time, and suggested the couple go out and have fun while they still could.

They did just that – travelling to Las Vegas and Jamaica several times. Mike traded in his Chevrolet Impala for an SS Camaro and they took a few road trips. “We took our retirement and crammed it into three years,” he says.

Now settled back home in Curtis, Ont., Carol is committed to aiding the research work of Dr. Black by participating in clinical trials. She hopes that soon a treatment will be found that will benefit future generations of people with this devastating illness.

“When Sunnybrook asks me to be there, I’m there,” says Carol, who has two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

“Being involved in research makes me feel like I’m doing something for others, which I feel good about,” says Carol.

Dr. Black is grateful. “It is only through such willingness to help that progress can be made in combatting dementia, which may be the defining disorder of our generation,” she says.

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