The University of Southampton
International Voices

Living with passion and courage

The mind of man is capable of anything because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. -Joseph Conrad

Dementia is a disorder capable of cruelly wresting our memories and our past. And for all of us, it is the past that makes us who we are.

A 51-year-old woman, Auguste Deter, had memory loss, disorientation, among other symptoms related to pathologies of a psychiatric nature. The first symptom was jealousy toward her husband, followed by alterations in memory and a terrible clinical picture of paranoia. An autopsy of the brain evidenced the existence of generalized atrophy, as well as strange structures in the neurons. Later, in November 1906, the German Doctor Alois Alzheimer presented to the scientific public his theme “A peculiar process of severe disease of the cerebral cortex” in the 37th Meeting of Psychiatrists of the German Southwest, held in Tübingen.

This was the first description of one of the most devastating type of diseases named as the biggest killer of the 21st century. According to current data, dementia affects nearly 44 million people and concerns us all.

Alzheimer’s Research UK: Living with Dementia 2017

Living with Dementia 2017 was held at the University of Southampton conducted by the Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) charity of the South Coast Research Network (SCNC). The event consisted of a series of free talks attended by researchers with a significant track record in research of neurodegenerative disorders, university members, and people living with the disease closely. The main objectives were to expand scientific knowledge about interesting aspects of dementia as well as to know the personal experience of patients and their families who somehow have found a way to live their lives with passion and courage.

In particular, the word dementia describes a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells in specific areas stop working properly. This can affect how a person thinks, remembers and communicates. But how can we understand the disease and that human being who is confused, terrified, and aware that his identity is fading? How can we understand the family member who, without having wanted to, has suddenly become the most important pillar of his loved one? How can we contribute to supporting them in the journey along dementia’s path? It is true that part of the answer lies in the scientific advances but it is equally true that we ourselves can contribute to breaking the barriers that exclude us from them. Because the reality is that anyone of us could fall prey.

While families, caregivers, and researchers work in silence to improve the quality of life for those who suffer, there are communities willing to support research and educate society. As does the organization of Alzheimer’s research UK. Because prevent and defeat dementia depends on understanding, knowledge, and solidarity. And commitment with society is the driving force behind leading research to develop effective treatment and diagnostic approaches in a large collaborative network across the country. we all together can do something. The actions we take will bring us closer to finding a cure and, most importantly, give everyone the support they need.

Here I leave the link of this great organization so you can read a little more and find out how you can help and have all the information you need.

My words will not be able to describe the emotional impact that this caused on us. And I will not make an attempt to describe that day. Even so, what I would like to do is take the opportunity to thank the people who make possible the existence of charitable organizations. People who donate, campaign and allow the growth of these. To the researchers who put all their capacity and their commitment to this cause. To the University of Southampton for being part of this network and always showing great commitment to society. To you, who embrace imperfections and differences. Especially you, who strive to live with passion.

My respect and admiration for all the people who have found a way to face the world and express their reality. In this regard, I would like to mention William Utermohlen, who with great courage began to portray himself in an attempt to understand his illness. An action that was clinically attractive. Like Utermohle, there are people out there who  find comfort in art and help others to understand the inner feelings of the condition of their illness.

William Utermohlen

William Utermohlen, was a painter diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease who exposes in his art the progression of the disease from a heartbreaking perspective: blurring his identity.

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