My aunt was born was downs syndrome some 50 or so years ago. My grandparents made the radical decision to keep her instead of sending her off to a home for the mentally ill. The doctors told them she would never walk, talk, recognize anyone, have a personality and if she did happen to have a life of quality, she would not live past the age of 30. Boy were they wrong!

Elaine is in her 50's. She walks, talks, feeds her self, has a great personality and just has a wonderful soul. My mom nick named her Geppetto after Geppetto in Pinochio. She is just like him, the kindly old Geppetto. She is the favorite sister of the 7 siblings. She is the favorite sister-in-law of four outlaws. She is the favorite aunt of the 16 neices and nephews. She was the favorite daughter of my grandparents.

She lived at home, with my Grandma and Grandpa, until she was in her 40's. She was then moved to a home where other's with the same disease as she live. She lives in an old three story home fixed up in a quaint neighborhood in a small town. She has her own bedroom, with her own tv and personal space. She has chores to do around the house. They all help with the cooking and eat together as a group. They all work together outside the house and are all the best of friends. The house is staffed with dedicated, freindly personel who genuinely care for them.

About three years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The disease has progressed even though medications have been used to try to slow the progress. She has slowly lost skills such as walking up steps and has been forgetting things regualry for quite some time. The disease is eating her brain. It sucks. She is still able to live at the house, but her disease is starting to get out of the range of capability for the staff. She will stay there for as long as she can.

Friday Geppetto collapsed at work. When taken to the doctor she was diagnosed with bronchitis and sent home, much to the dismay of her personal attendant. Friday night she wouldn't eat and was trying to grab imaginary things out of the air. She stood up only to fall over. The staff in the home put her in bed and called a family member to alert what was going on. By the time my other aunt reached the home, Geppetto had a rash all over her body and was raging with fever. An ambulance was called and she was checked into the hospital.

She was diagnosed with pneumonia, a severe UTI and they feared she had toxins in her bloodstream. She was put on an IV and three different antibiotics. She couldn't sleep. She was shaky, fidgety and when she dozed off, she would jolt herself awake. Not only that, she had a blank look on her face.

My mom and I headed up there Saturday not know what we would find. We walked in the hospital room and the Geppetto we knew wasn't the one laying in bed. She was glassy eyed, shaky and not at all perky. She was polite. Stranger polite that is. She dozed on and off and then finally fell into a deep sleep. Those of us at the hospital sat around her bed and chatted while she slept.

When she awoke, I tried to get her to drink so her bodily functions wouldn't stop. She drank some water, grape juice and ate a dish of sherbet. She then dozed on and off. Mom and I decided we would stay the night since things were still so iffy. I left, checked into a hotel, ran to the store to buy a pair of pants and by the time I returned, Geppetto was sitting in a chair, eating toast and laughing. The antibiotics were starting to work!

Through the night she regained some of her strength. She responded with the sparkle in her eye again and would joke with us. She was very emotional with my mom asking her for kisses all the time. The Elaine that loved my mom was showing herself again warming my mom's heart emensely. We left the hospital about 8:45 for the hotel.

Elaine had a good night and rested most of it. Sunday morning she was still jittery, but the jolts had stopped. She ate a good breakfast and chewed on gummy bears through the morning.

When lunch came, the nurse jellied her toast and asked if she could cut up the pears for her. My mom took over and mixed the pears with the cottage cheese and jello. Geppetto ate two peices of toast all of her cottage cheese and was working on her jello when the nurse came in and said, "those are potatos, NOT pears." Mom took a peice of it out of the jello and sure enough, it was potato! It mattered none to Geppetto. She continued eating, as happy as can be. Of course the rest of us were laughing so hard we had tears coming down our face. We each made mental notes NOT to have mom help us if we are hospitalized!

In the afternoon the Dr. examined her again and diagnosed her with septic shock. Basically her blood stream had a raging infection. The Dr. then stated it was a good thing she was brought to the hospital on Friday because there wouldn't have been a Saturday.

If that didn't hit home. Geppetto has such a permanent place in all of our hearts. It sucks to see her losing her memory. It sucks that she doesn't recognize us most of the time any more. It sucks to see her laying in the hospital, wide eyed, not knowing where she is. It sucks the first doctor misdiagnosed her and wrote it off as "just downs". But it would really suck to lose her now. She is such a kind soul. She is loving and has never hurt anyone. She depends on all of us so much and to think we almost let her down sucks most of all.




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