Wednesday, November 29, 2006


There was an article about Alzheimer's disease in our Monday paper.

The title was...'I have lost myself'

When I first started writing this journal about Peggy, she made this statement to me, I lost me!

NOVEMBER 4th 2003

Peggy said something today that gave me chills and made me cry. I asked her how she was doing and she answered in a loud, scared voice.

She said... M. L......I lost Me!

I asked her how she was and if she was going anywhere today ( her sitter takes her out every afternoon).

She said, I don't know...I don't know and sounded so scared.

I assured her that it was O K and not to worry.

She said, all the babies were there and so was Barbara ( sister who lives in Atlanta ).

Barbara is not there and I knew it.

I  told her that I loved her today and she said, I know and I love you too.

Then, she said, I can't go anywhere.

 I said why Not, Peggy?

She replied...I can't go anywhere because I HAVE LOST ME!!!!!

The Long Goodbye to my Sister, my Friend continues every day!


That entry was made in 2003 after Peggy had been losing her "self" for quite sometime. She was still able to communicate and let me know how she was doing.

Now, she is really lost.

Peggy is lost forever and as hard as I try........

I cannot find her!

The reason that I cannot find my sister was discovered by Alois Alzheimer 100 years ago this November.

Article by David Shenk. The author of The Forgetting: Alzheimer's, Portrait of an Epidemic 

( abridged by Mary Louise Ross Harris)

Alois Alzheimer was a 42 year old German psychiatrist and neuropathologist.

He shocked his colleagues with his description of one woman's autopsied brain.

The woman was named Aguste Deter. Five years earlier, her husband had admitted her to Alzheimer's psychiatric hospital in Frankfort, Germany with  disturbing set of symptoms: memory trouble, aphasia ( loss of the ability to use words), confusion, bursts of anger and paranoia.

When she died in April of 1906 at the age of 55, Alzheimer was able to look inside her brain.

Ernest Leitz and Carl Zeiss had just invented the first distortion free microscopes.

Franz Nissl had revolutionized tissue-staining, making various cell constituents stand out, opening up what was characterized as "a new era" of the study ofbrain cells and tissues using various colored stains.

Alzheimer studied the frozen tissues of Aguste Deter's brain at a magnification of several hundred times and he finally saw the disease.

It looked like measles or chicken pox of the brain. The cortex was speckled with crusty brown clumps ( we now call them plaques) too many to count. They varied in size, shape and texture and seemed to be a hodgepodge of granules and short, crooked threads, as if they were sticky magnets for microscopic trash.

The plaques were nestled between the neurons, blocking their communication with one another. Alzheimer could see them with any stain at all but they showed up best in a blend of magenta red, indigo carmine and picric acid. 

A different stain revealed what Alzheimer called, " a tangled bundle of fibrils" ( weedy, menacing strands of rope bundled densely together). These tangles grew inside the nerve cells, strangling them together.

Alois Alzheimer had discovered that Aguste Deter had not lost herself.

Rather, her "self" was taken from her.

Thank You...Alois Alzheimer!

Peggy's brain is the description of Aguste Deter's brain.

Peggy told me years ago that she was losing herself and the way that she talked to me, I knew that in some way, she felt responsible for her condition. She tried so many things to get her function back.

She was ashamed and embarrassed that her memory was failing and that she would get lost driving.

Oh Peggy! I wish that you could understand me today!

It was not your fault! You did not lose yourself!

Your "self" was taken from you.

You are too far advanced to remember who you were but Peggy....

I remember you...just like you were before Alzheimer's disease took your mind from you.

I made a promise to you before you completely forgot your life and I am keeping that promise.

I am writing about what this disease has done to us, to your family and to everyone who knew the Peggy Jane that we knew.

Your brain was taken from you but the "you" that is in our hearts will always be....


I Love You Today, Peggy!

Mary Louise



dbaumgartner said...

God bless you and Peggy!!!!!

Hugs and much love.


siennastarr said...

We just found out that's what my brother has.. and he is deteriorating quickly.  However he is 70, which is not old by today's standards.. but, still.. your Peggy was far to young to have this kind of thing.

God Bless you and Peggy, Mary Louise..


reconcilinglife said...

I have a patient with this disease right now that two weeks ago told me that she disappeared somewhere. I think many patients with this horrendous disease feel this way. Bam

wendy4145 said...

I think Peggy can sense deep concern for her.  You have told her it's not her fault.   I think she senses how much you miss her and love her.  She misses and loves you too.  

I didn't know that Alzheimer's was like chicken pox on the brain....  I sure hate the damage it does to people and their families and friends.

In a way, Peggy's suffering has already ended.  It's YOURS that is continuing on.  I pray for Gods comfort to surround you this Christmas and always.


ajquinn354 said...

Mary Louise, so words about your Sister Peggy are so touching, she's blessed to have your for her sister.  How wonderful you have so many touching memories of times shared with her, may that help with your own pain you go through daily. Bless you and Peggy....remember she's always going to be with you in your heart and I believe she carries the same feelings in her heart even now.   Arlene (AJ)