LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- It steals your memories leaving you confused, scared and a stranger to your own life. It is Alzheimer's. And it can be especially hard when the diagnosis comes suddenly and at a young age. One central Arkansas family is dealing with a recent diagnosis and quick progression.
Jennifer says, "I looked at his face and I could see on his face, it was, help me. I need some help. And I really don't know what's happening."
It's only been three months since Jennifer Webb found out that her husband, Tom, had Alzheimer's. But the symptoms started nearly a year ago. Tom says, "I didn't noticed anything at first. Jennifer was the only that was noticing all the stuff.
Jennifer says, "My son passed away in September and my family went through turmoil. I noticed that there were slight changes in Tom's behavior."
Those changes, Jennifer said, barely noticeable. She says, "It started very small at first with, I hate to say it now, we didn't realize he was sick. But it started with annoyances. 'What day is it?' 'It's Tuesday.' Then 5 seconds later 'What day is it?' ten seconds later 'Did you tell me what day it was?'"
It got worse over time. Tom recalls the moment he knew something was wrong. He says, "I was sitting doing reports and I just went blank. I had no idea. It was like everything turned into Chinese, everything was disoriented. I had no idea what I was supposed to do at that time. And I just broke down physically."
The couple visited Jennifer's doctor. She says, "He interviewed tom for about a half an hour. And I went outside and I said 'Dr. Summers is it me or there really something wrong?' and he said 'No, there's definitely something wrong.'"
That doctor recommended that Tom visit with Dr. Pham Liem, a geriatrician at UAMS. Dr. Liem said Tom's case of dementia is very rare. Dr. Liem says, "My first impression was that he is relatively young to have this condition and he had no significant family history."
Dr. Liem said a tragedy, like losing a child in the Webb's case, could trigger Alzheimer-like symptoms. He says, "A very stressful event will increase the level of cortisone and when it gets to the center of the symptom the high level of cortisone will elevate or accelerate the brain damage."
With the diagnosis, Tom says education became the next step. He says, "We just knew that we had to get into some kind of program that benefits both of us with this disease I'm going to need a lot of help in the very last stages."
Although the dementia is progressing rapidly, Tom says the long term memories are still intact. Tom says, "But I can still remember September, Roger Maris, 1961 hit a home run. We were talking about the other Dickey and Yogi Berra both wore the same number. My data, my long term memory, facts and stuff are still there."
Jennifer says, "Just don't ask him what he did last weekend or this morning." Tom chimes in, "I have no idea!"
Meantime, Jennifer and Tom are making the most of every day. Jennifer says, "We know our time is limited. We're valuing every single day together. We're doing little trips. We're revisiting things that we enjoy doing. There's nothing that can be done. There's no cure. So we've just have to face it that we're going to enjoy what we have."
Doctors officially diagnosed Tom with Lewy Body Dementia in March of this year. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's.