I was greeted at the door by a smiling receptionist and the smell of freshly baked brownies. This was a pleasant surprise to the heart-wrenching screams of patients and the smell of urine I had expected. It was a charming place. There were poor attempts at making the hallways seem warm and inviting, but we learned to live with it. My Grandma had no problems with the decor, and that is all that mattered to us.
Yet, despite the attempts to brighten up the place, visiting her always had an eerie feeling to it. It was unsettling to see her bedridden and confused all the time. Alzheimer’s can play odd tricks on the brain, something I experienced on one of my last visits. My mom left the room to speak with one of the nurses; I was alone with my grandma for the first time since I was five. Everything was going smoothly. We sat watching Family Feud together, as we did every visit, to keep her in her routine. I asked her a question – about what I don’t know – when the inevitable finally happened.
She looked at me puzzled. I saw the confusion in her eyes, which quickly faded to terror. She screamed out to the nurses, “Help! Help! She is trying to hurt me! Who are you?” My mom had always warned me of this possibility: Grandma would get confused and not remember who I was. She couldn’t have prepared me for this. I froze – not knowing whether to stay and help or to leave and never come back.
The nurses ran into the room as everyone in the hallway watched from the doorway. One nurse pulled me out of the room, as the others rushed to comfort my deranged grandma. My mother and I left shortly after that horrifying scene. Our visits were never the same and she passed shortly after that fateful night.
Watching my grandma slowly lose everything that made her, her, was difficult. She no longer told me stories of her time as a nurse in World War II. She no longer held my hand when a sad dog commercial would air. Most of all, she no longer called me by the nickname Peanut. Not because she didn’t remember the name, but because she didn’t remember who I was.
After I heard the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, I did everything I could to research and learn the disease inside and out. I read article after article, book after book, to find anything that would help. I would tell my mom about all the new case studies I found. One study, in particular, was of researchers who injected transgenic “Alzheimer” mice with beta-amyloid, a large membrane protein that plays an essential role in neural growth and repair.
This injection prevented plaque build-up and other brain changes that are shown to lead to Alzheimer’s. This research gave me hope. It gave me hope for other future projects and case studies. While I was only twelve, I was old enough to understand that the current research would not be able to help my family. I knew, however, that it could help someone else in the future.
The discovery I read about was enough to push me in this direction. I had a newfound interest in behavioral sciences and the study of the brain. I had the drive to read any article I could or watch any Ted Talk that had anything to do with Psychology or Neuroscience.
That unforgettable visit allowed me to see deeper into the importance of Neuroscience research. I realized that there was nothing we could do for my family, but there were things to be done for the future families of Alzheimer’s.It is my mission to become a person of importance in the Neuroscience field, and to help families similar to mine.
I share this story with you so that you can understand where my passion comes from. While I’m committed to finding the cure for these dreadful disease, I must attend college and graduate school to gain the experience and knowledge I’ll need to accomplish this task. With the help of the Unified Caring Association scholarship, I’ll be one financial step closer to my goal.
Scholarship Essay by Jade Davis
UCA’s most recent Scholarship Essay Contest for High School Juniors and Seniors officially ended on May 15, 2020. While the theme has always been to explore ways to make a more caring world, our most recent Essay Contest specifically asked how they would make a more caring world in one of four categories – Children – Animals – Reforestation – Elderly. The winning essays have been posted and awards distributed.
Because there were so many impressive essays submitted from across the U.S., we decided to share many of these students’ inspiring caring actions with you in this publication. Through their essays, the students provide a refreshing insight into their minds and hearts, offering an in depth view of our world that we often overlook. They take us on a journey rich in knowledge, personal experience and creative solutions. It is our hope you will feel as informed and inspired as we do. We are proud to present to you the writings, thoughts and dreams for a more caring future through these articles.