March 24, 2010

UK: Teenager gets perfect score for her 2,500 word essay on grandpa's Alzheimer's

. BRISTOL, Avon, England / This is Bristol / Life / March 24, 2010 Ashley White, 17, with perfect GCSE score wins prize for moving essay on Alzheimer's Teenager Ashley White, thought to be the only pupil to have ever achieved a perfect score in her GCSEs, has won a prize for a moving essay about her grandfather's struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Ashley, 17, of Old Sodbury, stunned her family, friends and teachers at Brimsham Green School in Yate last summer when she secured 11 grade A* results without dropping a single mark. Now studying for her A-levels at Westonbirt School, she has continued to shine academically and has won the school's annual St John essay prize. Her 2,500-word entry told of the impact on her family of her grandfather Norman Chappin's illness. She also described how his memory failed to the extent that he began to call his granddaughter by his daughter's name. Mr Chappin, who lived in Luton, died six years ago and since then Ashley has helped raise money for Bristol-based charity Brace – Bristol Research into Alzheimer's and Care of the Elderly – including organising a non-uniform day at school which raised more than £200. She also recently completed the tough Hogweed Trotters road running club's hilly half-marathon, also in aid of Brace. Ashley, of Cotswold Lane, has so far raised more than £600 for Brace, with more pledged. She said: "Alzheimer's research is woefully under-funded. It is a disease which affects so many people but is a silent killer compared with more high profile diseases which hit the headlines. It deserves much more support." In her essay, Ashley said her grandfather was not the first person in her family to suffer from a form of dementia as both his mother and elder brother had Alzheimer's disease. She said: "Subsequently, not only was my grandfather unfortunate enough to witness his dearest ones losing their cognition before his very eyes, but tragically his life was destined to shadow their heartbreaking ordeals. "As a consequence, when my grandfather initially began to forget that he had literally moments beforehand requested a tea or coffee or that he had in actual fact not taken a shower – despite his unremitting insistence to the contrary – my family's prior experience of the matter prepared them for the merciless diagnosis." Ashley, who joined the sixth form at Westonbirt after receiving a special award to study chemistry, history, maths and further maths, has set up a Justgiving page – – for anyone who would like to support her fund raising. FROM THE HEART - EXTRACTS FROM ASHLEY'S ESSAY
“My grandfather’s transition into the moderate phases of Alzheimer’s was heartbreaking. My mother, Mandy, had always been exceptionally close to him. “However, his gradual failure to recognise even his closest relatives was indicative of the oppressiveness of his condition. “When he began to address me as ‘Mandy’, my mother’s inner torment was evident. It was nevertheless indicative of a vague connection between the young, blonde girl before him and the one that he himself had nurtured a lifetime ago. “Whilst a few months previously he had been susceptible to uncontrollable anguish at the prospect of separation from my grandmother’s side, she, like the rest of us, had now become a mere presence from my grandfather’s perspective. Agonisingly, he had gradually begun to fail to recognise each and every one of us.” “And so my grandfather’s life mirrored that of his mother’s, and of his brother’s, and of every other victim of Alzheimer’s disease. “He lost the ability to interact with others, he lost the intrinsic ability to execute everyday skills. He couldn’t wash himself, nor dress himself, or even feed himself. He was stripped of all humanity in the most undignified manner imaginable. “My grandfather’s one remaining enjoyment in life was his love of food, sweet food in particular. Being a diabetic worked only to accentuate the tragic nature of his predicament –the care homes restricted his intake of sugar. “His everyday existence was merely dominated by pills, pills and more pills. And so, whenever we visited him, we would surreptitiously present him with a small chocolate bar. “It was by no means much but it gave us the illusion that we could at least contribute to some form of happiness in his harrowing existence.”
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