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In My Community
Rhonda and Rob Sutherland - We Take Little Steps and Run with Them
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Rhonda Sutherland enjoyed her job as a physical education and health instructor at St. Joseph’s Parish School in Grafton.  It was hard for her to retire prematurely, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 56.  For about 3 or 4 years prior to her diagnosis, Rhonda’s husband, Rob, had noticed that his wife was experiencing problems with time management and repeating herself frequently.   But it wasn’t until the summer of 2012, when the problems became serious, that Rhonda and Rob sought medical consultation.  They were referred to Dr. Larry Sullivan, a neurologist at Froedtert Health in West Bend.

“One of the real tipping points that caused us to seek medical assistance was Rhonda’s growing inability to remain focused at her job,” said Rob.  “Her eventual diagnosis of Early On-Set Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease caused Rhonda to retire long before she expected.”

While Rhonda is no longer employed, she is still functioning fairly well, although Rob admits that he can see that the disease has progressed over the last year.  “Rhonda takes Namenda and Aricept” says Rob, “and I stir a little coconut oil into her oatmeal and fruit in the mornings.”  Rob knows that there is no medical science to prove the benefit of coconut oil, but he is willing to go the extra mile if it might make a difference to Rhonda.    “There are days where I see improvements.  Rhonda wanted to wear a watch the other day.  That surprised me.  She even noticed that the watch she was wearing was upside down.  She hasn’t been able to do something like that for a couple of years.  We take these little steps and run with them.”

There is no history of Alzheimer’s disease in Rhonda’s family, and the couple did not know a lot about it before they embarked on this journey.  After the initial diagnosis and a second opinion, the couple was referred to the Alzheimer’s Association Southeastern Wisconsin chapter for information and support. 

Last year, in honor of his wife, Rob Sutherland formed “Team Sutherland” which became the top fundraising team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Washington County.  This year, Rob joined the Washington County Walk steering committee, and his team continues to lead the way as the number one team.  “Last year, I had a lot of response for Team Sutherland from our good friends and family, even from friends of our kids,” said Rob.  “I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this journey, but the support that Rhonda and I have received really speaks volumes about our West Bend community.”

And this year, the Sutherlands daughter, Abbey, will join the family effort to generate greater community awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.  Abbey is the head coach of Women’s Volleyball at UW-Stevens Point, and she has dedicated the teams October 1st game against Eau Claire as an Alzheimer’s Awareness event.  “She hopes to turn the stands purple,” said Rob. 


 

Alzheimer's Association

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