'Genius of Marian' tells gripping story

Posted by John Kanelis on

This story is going to hit me personally.

"The Genius of Marian" will be broadcast Sept. 8 on Panhandle PBS at 9 p.m. It tells a story of a 61-year-old woman, Pamela Hill, and her family coming to grips with the tragedy that awaits them.

The special is part of PBS's POV documentary series. I've seen the trailer and it tears my guts out. I hope I have the strength to sit through the entire special.

Why the special interest? Well, I'm not unique in having intimate knowledge of Alzheimer's disease. Millions of us are out here, having been through the tragedy of watching a loved one vanish before our very eyes.

My mother died of Alzheimer's-related complications. Pneumonia eventually took her life on Sept. 17, 1984. She was 61. She'd been exhibiting symptoms for years prior to that. We didn't get an official diagnosis until the spring of 1980. The doctor told us he'd tested her for every known pathological cause for her behavior change. He found none and told us that Alzheimer's disease was the only possible diagnosis.

The neurologist was blunt. The disease is fatal, he said. There is no cure. Your mother will lose cognitive skill. Eventually, she won't recognize you. She won't be able to perform basic functions, such as bathe, brush her teeth, care for her personal hygiene.

A bleak future awaited Mom and those of us who loved her.

"The Genius of Marian" will show an early-onset patient who's still able to communicate. Pamela Hill can speak in complete sentences. Many of them make sense to those who hear her. At one point in the trailer, she notes how her mother, Marian, died of Alzheimer's disease, but doesn't realize she's been diagnosed herself with the disease. She gets reminded.

"The Genius of Marian" looks like a must-see for anyone. Those who haven't gone through this tragedy surely know others who have. For that reason, it's good to watch to seek to understand at least a little bit the immense heartache that awaits those who are caring for an Alzheimer's patient.

I am quite sure I'll feel Pam Hill's family's pain.

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