Mentors hope to help families coping with Huntington's
The Huntington Society of Canada hopes others will help by offering advice and support
A Halifax woman whose father died just two months ago from a debilitating brain disorder, is hoping she can help others through her experience dealing with Huntington's disease.
Brittany Carmichael is one of seven youth mentors in the country who have a family member with Huntington's.
She said she didn't see how Huntington's was affecting her father until she was in elementary school.
That's when Steven Carmichael, a former brick-layer, started having jerky arm movements and staggering when he walked. He went into care at Northwood in Halifax.
By the beginning of this year, he was struggling to stay alive.
"He fought for a very long time. But in the last six months before he passed away, he was unable to swallow so he became very emaciated, very weak and his body just gave out on him," said Carmichael.
She said it wasn't easy growing up with a seriously ill dad. Her father started showing signs of the disease when she was two years old.
"I felt a little bit hopeless. I had a lot of questions," she said.
The Huntington Society of Canada is hoping others will come forward to help by offering one-on-one advice and support.
Carmichael said she's speaking out because May is Huntington's awareness month. She worries, year-round, whether she may develop the hereditary disease.
She and her brother Bradley, who also volunteers with the Huntington Society of Canada, have a 50/50 chance of developing the disease.
"My dad was sick and I just felt so alone when I was younger," said Carmichael. "I didn't have anyone in my life who knew what it was like to have a father with Huntington's."