Monday, August 22, 2011

SPOTLIGHT: Margaret L. Furman

Each week we will be picking members to spotlight to tell their Alzheimer's story and why they are running in this year's New York City marathon. Check in each Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for new updates on who will be spotlighted and get to know your teammates...(each person is picked at random)

My story begins in 1999, two days before my birthday, when my father underwent open heart surgery for a valve replacement. I was a third year medical student and wasn't even allowed 24 hours off. I never saw him come out of surgery and two days later I was not allowed to talk to him on my birthday. I have always been really close to my father and this was hard. After surgery, his memory began to decline slowly. Alzheimer's disease wasn't even on the radar of my siblings and I, all physicians. He wasn't forgetting the classic things we had all learn in medical school or residency training that tended to make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. We thought he had vascular memory problems related to his bypass surgery on pump. In 2007, as his memory continued to decline we finally convinced my father to see a specialist in NYC. Then the call came from my brother. I was at a cardiology board review in Rochester, Minnesota over my birthday. We were told my father had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy dementia and had six months to live. We didn't accept this. And in 2008, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Medications didn't help and my family and I have had to sit idly by watching him decline, helpless to do anything. We looked at drug trials and some seemed to risky and others showed no promise.

My father is a self made man who I look up to and has worked hard to provide the best for his family. He taught me I can achieve anything I set my mind to. My love of history and the New York Giants comes from his influence. I have fond memories of sitting on the couch together watching history movies, Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, and more. If we weren't at the Giants game, we were together watching the game. Food was always the same: 1 pm games -- cold cuts, 4 pm games -- Chicken Nest fried chicken and Monday nights -- fried chicken. I miss those times as he is no longer able to follow movies or the football games.

He has been my biggest supporter as I worked toward my degree in cardiology. What drew me to cardiology is the ability to prevent, diagnose and treat patients; improving their longevity and quality of life Cardiology has had the resources to make an impact on people's lives. This is my wish for Alzheimer's disease and hope of what we can achieved. Our ability to prevent, diagnose early, or effectively treat people with Alzheimer's Disease is not enough nor are the resources and the laws to address the issues faced by families.

I became involved with Alzheimer's junior committee almost a year ago as a way to have an impact and be among peers who were going through similar experiences having a loved one with Alzheimer's. I became a runner two years ago after thinking I could never run more than a mile. Now, I have embarked on one of my greatest challenges and endeavors of my life, ING NYC Marathon, in honor of my father. I know I can do it with my father as my inspiration and the knowledge I am fighting Alzheimer's Disease.

I am running in honor my father, and for all those who have been robbed and will be robbed of their cherished memories and all those extraordinary people who care for them.

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