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Ramsey Man With Alzheimer’s: 'You're In Your Own Little Box'

Steve Donnelly of Ramsey.
Steve Donnelly of Ramsey. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

RAMSEY, N.J. — Alzheimer’s crept up on Steve Donnelly of Ramsey.

“It started with a sinus issue,” said the 65-year-old. “My wife pointed out I was snoring a lot more.”

He had sleep apnea, which causes breathing disruptions that deprive brain neurons of oxygen.

Scientists have linked the condition to Alzheimer’s.

In 2013, a spinal showed Donnelly had a very high plaque and tau count in his brain. That meant he probably had the disease.

There’d been other indications, though.

Trouble had surfaced three years earlier while he was in the midst of conducting a computer demo in England.

“I was showing them how to do an order, how to fix something, and all of a sudden, there was nothing,” he said. “The screen went blank in my mind.”

One of his colleagues stepped in.

Today Donnelly is on long-term disability and determined to use every conscious moment to help eradicate Alzheimer’s.

He’s participating in a Merck drug trial.

“It’s a blind test so you don’t know whether you’re getting the drug or a placebo,” he said. “I don’t care. If it helps somebody else, great, let’s do it.”

With the help of his son, Donnelly also works with Alzheimer’s New Jersey, a support and research organization staging Sunday’s Walk to Fight Alzheimer’s at Bergen Community College in Paramus.

The event, which starts at 10 a.m., is expected to draw some 4,000 people.

There’s something about having all those people together that’s comforting to Donnelly.

Because, he says, Alzheimer’s is “an alone disease.”

“You’re in your own little box trying to make sense of all the things your brain is telling you,” he said.

Today, Donnelly doesn’t drive. He willingly stopped.

Day to day, he approaches things asking a single question: Is it safe for me to do? Is it not safe?

If it’s safe, he does it.

From time to time, he said, new realities enter his brain.

“The other day I had what I call TV camera vision,” he said. “Everything I looked at looked like I was viewing it out of a camera.”

At this early-onset stage, Donnelly has resolve and said he would give his life to find a cure.

His daily existence also is full of gracendue to his caregiver – his wife, Marybeth, who, he said, gives him care, consideration, and love.

“That makes things a whole lot easier,” he said.

Anyone interested in walking Sunday can show up at the college and register. For more information, CLICK HERE.

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