By Clinton Gill
Glade Sun editor
A few years ago, Carolyn Lambros was an ordinary resident of Cumberland County. She was a devout Catholic who attended Mass every Sunday, even volunteering to be a sacristan. She often worked as a substitute teacher. Overall she lived a normal life with her husband Chris, of whom she has been married for 32 years.
But life has a funny way of turning upside down when everything seems to be going well. For Carolyn, she began noticing things about herself that were cause for concern about two years ago. She was increasingly forgetting what she was doing, and becoming confused about things ever more frequently. These occurrences were not a matter of forgetting where she put her car keys in the morning, which is something we all experience; she was forgetting things that had been, up to that point, like second nature.
"I was teaching one day over at Martin Elementary. I had first grade, and I had left my class down in Special Areas. I completely forgot them. It was like I was in a different world," she said. "About an hour and a half later, a voice came over the PA system: 'Mrs. Lambros, would you please come pick up your class?'"
That was the first time she suspected that something might be off.
Shortly after that episode, she had another while driving through Crossville. All of a sudden, she didn't know where she was, where she was going, or even who she was. She was completely blank.
"Now that's scary," she said.
The final straw came while serving Mass one Sunday. She got completely lost, forgetting a routine that she had performed hundreds of times before. She knew that something was terribly wrong.
A trip to the doctor's office confirmed what she and Chris suspected; she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Immediately, she was told that she could no longer drive.
"My freedom had just been taken away from me, and I became very depressed," she said. "You lose your humanity."
Alzheimer's disease is a death sentence. In fact, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and every 68 seconds it develops in someone new. This year, an estimated 450,000 people will die with Alzheimer's, which is 150 times as many people that died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is the only cause of death in the Top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Since 2000, deaths from the disease have increased 68 percent, while deaths from other major diseases have decreased. Currently, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia.
These are statistics that Alzheimer's Tennessee wants to change. On Sept. 7, they are sponsoring the second annual Plateau Alzheimer's Walk in order to raise awareness and educate the public about this horrible disease. This is a free event that will take place at the Central Baptist Church, located at 1346 S. Main St. Crossville, TN. For more information, and a complete list of activities and area support groups, visit www.alzTennessee.org.
As many as 16 million people are expected to have this disease in 2050; with research that statistic could change.