I first met Roberta when my son, who was 5, needed a babysitter. My usual sitter was busy but she recomended her friend. It was a bad move for her because Bertie became my full time babysitter and dearest friend. Although she was much younger than I and ten years older than my son, she became like a little sister to me. Bertie went on family vacations and day trips with us. She had Christmas Eve at our house.
When she graduated from college with a chemist degree, she went to work for a large power company. She worked in the radiation waste department. She was in her early twenties when it happened. She had a massive brain "outage". They called it a seizure at first. Then someone said it was a mini stroke. Then doctors at one of the best hospitals said it was Multiple Sclerosis. She had the plaques in her brain but they weren't exactly like MS plaques. She was unconscious for several days and when she came to, she couldn't talk plainly and could not write or read. Her walking was non-existent. She couldn't stand alone. She couldn't feed herself.
I stayed with her in the hospital for three weeks. Her mom was there but her first instinct was to baby her. I took over for lunch and supper and taking a shower. I started to teach her how to take care of herself.She went home after three weeks. In the years that followed, she went back to college for more course work and even stayed in the dorm. Then her father built her own house next door to theirs. She had her own house and even got married for awhile. All the time her disease got worse. Then her older brother started to show symptoms of the disease. His progressed very fast and he went from walking on his own to bedridden in less than a year. As she watched him deteriorate, she began to do the same. She often told me that her brother's condition was her future and she hated to see it.
She was ill for over 20 years and living on her own. Her brother's condition remained static. A few years ago her mother convinced her to move back in with them. She cared for the two of them with some help.
It was only three years before Bertie's brother died. It was terrible for both her and her mother. Then, less than a year later, Bertie's condition turned from bad to worse. She could no longer swallow solid foods and her seizure disorder increased. Then the mother got lung cancer. She died within a year. Bertie found herself at age 50 going to live in a nursing home with people at least 20 years older. She still lives there(it has been less than a year since the move) and deteriorates daily. When I visit (I live 800 miles away now) she is glad to see me and brightens up. She is my heroine. I am proud of her perserverance. She smiles and has a kind word for everyone. Her magical wheelchair takes her on imaginary trips all over the world.
She travels in her mind to far away, exotic places through television and her laptop computer.