Posted by Monica Heltemes on 4/21/2012
Eight months after being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Tennessee women's basketball coach stepped down from her position this week.
Her reputation as a great coach is well known. In fact, her 1,098 career wins are more than anyone - man or woman - has achieved. She has taught her players immeasurable lessons about the game of basketball.
Now Pat is teaching us about the game of life. The lost thoughts and misplacing of items that Pat experienced was placed in the category of Early Onset Alzheimer's. What does Early Onset mean? - A diagnosis given to someone who is under the age of 65. It is actually more common that you might think. This is one of the lessons Pat has taught us: Alzheimer's happens to even the strongest of people, even at younger ages.
What else does she teach us? The fact that she did not immediately step down as head coach of the Lady Vols after being diagnosed, but finished the season out, teaches us that this diagnosis does not mean the person with dementia stops living. They may live a bit differently and with more support from those around them, but they still LIVE.
This may be harder and harder to see as a person with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia loses more and more skills, but it should not be forgotten. Pat may have had a few "penalties" come against her, but she has not "fouled" out of the game...and with help for her (and others in her situation), we will not let her.