SAN ANTONIO –
Terri Bratton is still trying to piece together the puzzle that took the lives of her brother and sister who suffered for years which a complex assortment of psychological, behavioral and physical symptoms.Doctors had diagnosed depression, bi-polar, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses for years before finally determining it was Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, or FTD. Bratton’s brother, Michael Bratton, was a police detective for 29 years with the San Antonio Police Department and had a stellar reputation prior to the onset of the brain disorder.
However, as is always the case with FTD, he began acting recklessly, then dangerously, with no regard for the law or anyone’s feelings. The symptoms began in his mid-30s with unusual behavior, paranoia, slurred speech and more. FTD robbed him of his life at the age of 53 and frustrated his family who sought desperately for answers but got none.
Bratton says two weeks before he died, a doctor told him to take two Tylenol and that would make him better. “Without a diagnosis, we are led to believe that they were just nuts and that they were bad people, because doctors told us nothing was really wrong,” she said. But when Bratton’s sister began having the same symptoms in her 20s, a diagnosis of FTD was made and treatments for her many symptoms did appear to have some affect. Drugs for depression and bi-polar can treat the psychological effects, but by the time she died, she had lost the ability to speak as well. “We have no family history of it. … Not even Alzheimer’s,” said Bratton, who hopes to spread the word to doctors so that they can begin giving patients better quality of life and spark research to find answers. There is currently no cure and no known cause, except a suspicion that concussions to the brain may trigger the brain to begin its slow degeneration. She says the difference between FTD and early onset Alzheimer’s is in something she calls “The What, Where, and When.”
Whereas Alzheimer’s patients lose their memory of events, FTD patients know what happened, where it happened and when it happened. What they don’t exhibit is any caring or compassion about the event. There will be a fundraiser for the local support group for FTD in honor of Michael Bratton, who was an avid golfer. For more information on the disease and the golf tournament that bears Bratton’s name, visit www.ftlda.org.