Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Brave Sarah Travers deserves our thanks

Happy memories: Sarah Travers and her father Ian enjoy a day out
Happy memories: Sarah Travers and her father Ian enjoy a day out

One of the most distressing illnesses to afflict people and their loved ones is Alzheimer's disease and in today's Belfast Telegraph, the television presenter Sarah Travers talks movingly about the loss of her much-loved father.

It has taken considerable courage to do so, but by being so frank and also deeply caring, her words will bring some comfort to other families facing a similar challenge.

Sarah's honesty is also compelling. She describes how she became angry because the illness robbed her of such an important person in her life. She says there were two fathers – the brilliant handsome and funny man who was her rock, and the vulnerable, tragic man whom she and her mother, sister and wider family supported in his last years.

There are many families who will identify with such emotions, though perhaps not so many who can put such private and raw emotions in to words. Nevertheless, in doing so, Sarah has spoken what so many others find literally unspeakable and has shown that talking it out can also be a kind of therapy.

She relates how her father Ian had so loved his job as a salesman and how, at 62, he was approaching retirement when he was given the bad news about his illness, which developed so quickly and which so disabled him for the next few years, until he death earlier this month.

These were years which required great courage and care from Sarah, her mother and other members of the family, as they watched the man they once knew now living with an illness which robs individuals of their memories and identity.

Sarah Travers also describes the decision which her family took to donate her father's brain to science, in the hope that this will help doctors and other health professionals to gain more knowledge about this dreadful illness.

Their action was in keeping with her father's decision earlier to carry a donor card. This is a reminder to all of us to think carefully about organ donation, in the hope that this will in some way help others in the years to come.

In talking about her father's illness, Sarah has drawn attention to the need for greater awareness of Alzheimer's disease and the importance of reassuring others they are not alone. She deserves all our thanks for doing so.

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