Sunday, 30 November 2014
DEMENTIA FRIGHTENS FAMILIES
In the final stages of AIDS, the sufferer not on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment will suffer increasing dementia as their brain continues to be affected by collateral damage caused by the HIV attacking the small intestine and brain.
Damage to the gut wall will stop absorption of nutrients, salts and water. The water-salt balance will change, blocking passage of oxygen, nutrients, salts and water to the cells, including brain cells.
In final stages, people with AIDS will suffer dementia and memory loss. They forget where they live and how to get home. The stove will be lit and the person forgets and walks away.
I have had experience with several people in the final stages of AIDS, particularly as caretaker of 3 Angels Care at East Boroko.
Linda lived with me for three years and gave birth to our son. She was the one who would be the mother to my daughters. But she was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1999.
LInda was happy, friendly and loving to my daughters. Life was good until diagnosed HIV positive.
She had the virus for 6 years at that time but never tested. She had given blood at her work place three months before but never told she was HIV positive.
Her personality slowly changed. She ceased leaving the house believing that the girls’ mother had sent highlands men to kill her. She was violent to my daughters after I left the house.
She became quite paranoid in believing that she had killed the girl friend of her first husband and was being hunted by the woman’s mother from Samarai who waited for her at night as a black bird with fiery red eyes.
Linda would tell the family who believed her hallucinations. They blamed me for allowing my daughters’ mother to harass Linda. It was not true.
A characteristic of dementia is the belief of being hunted and killed by real people or spirits. The person spends the last part of living terrified of being killed. Health workers may get the blame for any delusions suffered. Linda blamed me for starving her while the family ate. Not true.
Sameo came to live at my house after 3 Angels Care was full in 2004. She stayed with me for 8 weeks before she died. She was suffering the full blast of dementia at the time. Looking after her was hell.
One night, she asked to be let out of the back door to wash her clothes. After a few minutes, I noticed no movement in the laundry. She was not there. I searched the streets but could not find her.
At 3 am she came back and said she had never left but was playing cards under the house with a group of men. Not true.
Some days later, she told the neighbour that she had won a large sum of money. But the police came and arrested the white man and took him to the cells. She caught a taxi to the police station and paid K1000 bail. I wish I had been told.
Then she told me that her room had been broken into by a gang of raskols who attacked her. But she was saved by the Prime Minister who arrived at the window in a helicopter.
She died two weeks later after what seemed like suffocation. My daughters said she would go through my trousers pockets and send them down for cigarettes.
Damon Courtenay died in 1991 and his life struggle recorded by his loving father Bryce Courtenay in the book April Fools Day. He was infected with HIV through blood transfusion as a haemophiliac.
Damon suffered massive dementia caused in part from smoking marijuana. He had all kinds of delusions.
Over his time with HIV/AIDS he believed he was a famous doctor who had discovered a cure for HIV/AIDS and was being pursued by the CIA.
He claimed the US Government had introduced the HIV virus and wanted to kill him to remove the cure. Doctors and nurses at the hospital were CIA agents.
He believed he was the chief of police and general of the armed forces who was leading his troops to oppose the CIA. He was not popular at the local police station.
His father said in his book that the family was strong and supported Damon until his death.