Microscopic image of neurons

A Family’s Brave Choice

A Need For a Cure

Brian and Fran FitzSimons were enjoying life since Mr. FitzSimons retired at the end of 2012. Their home near Lake Erie in Euclid, Ohio, served as home base in between their travels and visits to their out-of-town daughters and their grandchildren. In their mid-60s, the FitzSimonses had mapped out their plans for many happy years ahead.

Their retirement plans shifted course in 2014, beginning with a simple stop for gas. Mr. FitzSimons pulled out a credit card to pay for his purchase and stood there, looking at the card, not knowing what to do. “That triggered memories of my mother who years before had similar complaints. Looking back, I think I diagnosed myself,” he recalls.

Alan Lerner, MD, Director of the University Hospitals Neurological Institute Brain Health & Memory Center at UH Cleveland Medical Center, confirmed what Mr. and Mrs. FitzSimons suspected. Mr. FitzSimons was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Since the diagnosis, Mr. and Mrs. FitzSimons have come to appreciate firsthand the significance of research into potential new treatments that may slow or even reverse the disease. When Dr. Lerner presented the couple with the option of participating in a clinical trial of a new medication, one of more than 70 Alzheimer’s trials underway at UH, “I decided right away to do it,” Mr. FitzSimons says.

“There are a lot of new treatments being worked on,” he adds. “I want to do whatever I can to be helpful to others.”

Mrs. FitzSimons chimes in, “It’s not just the hope that this new medicine will help Brian, but the idea that every medication he can take, other people with Alzheimer’s at one point were willing to test. That’s why we did it.”

Mr. FitzSimons’ current medication trial ends in November 2016. He is optimistic there will be another one in which he can participate. At this point, Mrs. FitzSimons says, their best hope is that her husband’s condition, with the help of the latest drugs, will plateau.

For now, she says, “We do anything we can, and we are having fun.” The couple travels as much as possible and spends time with their family, particularly one of their daughters who relocated back to the Cleveland area from Boston. Another daughter has taken sabbatical from her university job in Madison, Wisconsin, to be with her father. A third daughter lives in India but stays in close contact with her family.

“We all are staying positive. There is so much research to try,” Mrs. FitzSimons says. “Hope, that’s what we have.”