After losing both parents, New Mexico teen becomes caretaker for brother with autism

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – She’s 18 and carrying the world on her shoulders. With both of her parents gone, this Albuquerque teen is a full-time caretaker.

“He’s amazing. He’s autistic as well as being nonverbal. He is just my world,” 18-year-old Mackenzie Sydow told KRQE, speaking about her younger brother, Michael.

Now a senior in high school, Sydow said she, happily, always played a big role in the care of her brother.

“I’ve always been his rock, always been there for him, always doing things for him. Of course, my parents played a role, but I also played a pretty big role,” Sydow said.

However, things first started changing back in 2015.

“She was a people person. She was very outgoing. So when she went missing, it was a pretty big shock,” Sydow said.

Sydow’s mom, Sara Sydow, went missing in September 2015. Her body was found in a dumpster six months later. The man who put her there said they were partying and she was dead when he woke up.

“She was a good mom. She was a good mom but she had her battles,” Sydow said.

Then Sydow put a normal high school life on the back burner to become Michael’s primary caretaker.

“Well, I’m sure some of the kids at my school don’t have to come home from school and take care of an autistic brother. I’m sure they get to go to football practice or go to football games,” she said.

The siblings settled into a new normal with their dad, Brian, until last Wednesday.

“He texted me on Wednesday, December 11, and said, ‘Michael had a rough morning. He stayed home from school, but I gotta go to work, so do you mind coming here straight after?’ That was at 11:00,” Sydow said.

An hour later, Sydow arrived at home.

“I got here and I noticed he wasn’t in here, and Michael was in his bedroom,” the teen said. “I called him, and I heard his phone ring on the balcony. I found him. It was hard seeing that. I had to do CPR on him while I was on the phone with police. Then I just stayed in the room with Michael while they did what they had to do with my father so that he didn’t have to be alone.”

Medical officials believe Brian Sydow died of a heart attack. While the Sydow siblings do have a support system, they’re now without both of their parents.

“My biggest concern is definitely finishing high school. I want to finish high school. I know they’d be proud of me for doing that and to do what I can to take care of him, my brother. He plays a big part in my life. I’m going to do whatever I can to take care of him,” Sydow said.

To do that, Sydow needs help. She is still going to high school and is waiting to hear back on college scholarships.

“Definitely want to go to UNM. Definitely want to go to college and get a degree of some sort and start my own life. I’ll carry him along with me,” said Sydow.

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