Blackpool born Becki McEvilly-Rendell was an active woman with a generous spirit who loved rescuing animals.
Now her family are desperate for help after the 40-year-old graphic designer became severely ill with young-onset Alzheimers.
Doctors were baffled when Becki was admitted to Werribee hospital in Melbourne, in early December 2021. They couldn’t understand her unusual symptoms.
Within weeks the mum-of-one couldn’t speak, feed herself, or recognise her family.
She lost her fine and gross motor skills and is gradually losing her vision.
Her body’s natural systems and processes appeared to be shutting down, and Becki was stabilised in ICU.
After three and a half weeks of tests, she was eventually transferred to a specialist neurology ward at St Vincent’s in Melbourne.
40-year-old Becki was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
The condition is rare - around 5% of people with Alzheimer’s disease are under 65.
There is no cure.
Becki had moved to Australia in 2013 after meeting her future husband, Stuart, on holiday in Bali. They had a son, Faelan, in 2018.
Then the former Baines school pupil, who had a ‘thriving happy life’ noticed changes in herself.
She saw a GP and was sent for tests, but they wrongly put her symptoms down to mental health issues.
She was seen by various kinds of medical experts including neurologists, psychiatrists, and a speech pathologist.
But they couldn’t pinpoint anything wrong, and insisted that it was a mental health issue, rather than a neurological condition.
Amy May, from Bispham, was Becki’s best friend when she lived in Blackpool. She is desperate to help.
She speaks with Stuart, and Becki’s mum, daily. But she hasn’t spoken to Becki since she went to hospital in December 2021.
Amy said: “Her mum says it's too upsetting for her to see people, because she gets confused. Some days she’s calm, others she’s really confused and doesn’t know who anyone is.”
They have been in regular contact for 19 years since they met through a mutual friend.
“She was very active and fit. She had a few issues with back pain but she did a lot of martial arts when she was younger and put it down to that.”
The family has racked up over $14,000 in medical bills, and $10,000 on flights to get family members to Australia - including flying Becki’s mum over from Bulgaria.
With debt mounting, Stuart faced having to sell the family home - until a friend, Tiron Rodwell, helped him to set up a GoFundMe page.
Amy said: “He found it really difficult to accept the help, because it meant admitting something was wrong.”
So far the campaign has raised $39,753, from 373 donors who have been moved by their story.
“She’ll have to stay in hospital, but it will mean Stuart can afford to take time off work to care for Faelan, and be with Becki for the limited time she has left. There is no cure. It could be days or months, we don’t know.”
Covid restrictions meant Stu was unable to see Becki for the first 3 and a half weeks in hospital. Since early January he has been visiting her once a day. Faelan has not seen her since she went into hospital at the beginning of December. He is unlikely to see his mum again.
Amy added: “Faelan just thinks mummy lives at the hospital because she’s not well. Stuart can’t even comprehend what’s happening so how does anyone tell a four year old such awful news?”
Around 5% of people with Alzheimer’s disease are under 65. This is called young-onset Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms can appear in more unusual ways in younger people, making it harder to detect.
It is often misdiagnosed, as symptoms can be attributed to depression, perimenopause, or stress.
Delays in spotting the condition may mean that young people miss out on vital treatment and their progression can seem faster.
Learn more at https://www.dementiauk.org/