FAIRWAY, Kan — A clinical trial taking place at the University of Kansas Medical Center could change the future for people facing Alzheimer’s disease.
Barbara Walker met her husband Harvey when she was just 12 years old, and as an adult, spent 38 years as his wife.
“We had plans for our future and things we were going to do after retirement and all of the sudden this illness came along,” said Walker.
Henry passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s, a progressive mental deterioration of the brain which causes senility. It usually hits people in their 70’s and 80’s, but Harvey Walker was just 56 when he was diagnosed.
“When we would drive and go places he always knew directions. He could look up at the sun and tell you this is east and west and north and south and uh, he couldn’t do that anymore. He would get lost,” described Walker of the moment she knew her husband’s forgetfulness was something serious.
It would be a six-and-a-half year battle for the Walker family.
“He would tell people he wasn’t married, he didn’t have a wife, he knew he had three children, he always knew he had three children and he could tell you their names but not a wife,” said Walker. “It is a complex disease.”
Doctor Jeffrey Burns, Co-Director of the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center calls it a complex disease. He grew up in Prairie Village, graduated from Shawnee Mission East, and after professional stints in Virgina and St. Louis, Burns came back home to work on finding the cause of and treatments for Alzheimer’s.
“I was interested primarily because it is such a big problem and I feel like we are just getting started,” said Burns from his Fairway research center.
One in three people over the age of 85 will suffer from Alzheimer’s and 90 percent of discoveries about it have come in the last 15 years. Doctors can now spot Alzheimer’s before it starts.
Dr. Burns is running a clinical study to figure out how to prevent the devastating disease.
“The only way we are going to get to a cure is through clinical trial and the biggest thing that holds us back besides funding is finding participants for trials,” Burns said.
Barbara Walker is participating in the KU Alzheimer’s study and encourages others to do so.
“My dream is that they will just eradicate the disease completely.”
KU Medical Center is looking for 700 people with and without memory problems to participate in the Alzheimer’s Study. It does not require much time and there is no medication involved.
For more information, log on to www.KUAlzheimer.org or call (913) 588-0555.