For Don, Life Became More Memorable

When Donald Green started having memory problems a few years ago, a lot of it was attributed to age. The rural Gobles resident had good memories of the past, including his years as a millwright and electrician at The Upjohn Co. and Perrigo, but was beginning to show signs of short-term memory loss.

“When we went to Florida in 2007, there were times when he didn't know where he was, where the stores were, nothing,” said Janet, his wife. “Sometimes when he couldn't remember something he would get so upset, so angry.”

Green was well aware of his memory problems. “The only thing I could remember was if people owed me money,” he said, laughing.


Later that year, however, one incident made the family acutely aware that the memory problem was more serious than they thought.


“What alerted my sister and I happened after they returned from Florida,” said his daughter, Nancy Maxwell. "Dad was driving near home when he passed a car and forgot to pull back into the right lane.”


A police car coincidentally happened to be following Green and pulled him over to see if everything was OK. He was, but the family was concerned. “We called a family meeting and decided that dad needed help,” Maxwell said.


A short time later, after being diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease by his primary care physician, Green underwent an assessment by Dr. Phillip Green, a Kalamazoo neurologist and Director of Neurological Research for the Borgess Research Institute. Dr. Green (no relation to Don Green) confirmed a definite Alzheimer's disease diagnosis and enrolled Donald Green in a clinical trial for Aricept, a prescription medication used to treat people with mild to severe Alzheimer's disease. It can help slow the decline in memory and learning in people with dementia.


“We enrolled him in a trial with a higher dose of Aricept than normally prescribed,” Dr. Green said. “He did quite well.” By enrolling in the clinical trial, Green received medical exams with Dr. Green, laboratory tests and medication free of charge.
Every three months or so, Dr. Green and the research coordinator would assess any changes during brief visits to the Research Institute. “Dr. Green is wonderful,” Maxwell said.


Family members did their own assessment and were delighted with what they saw. “When we first took dad to Dr. Green, dad couldn't tell time on a clock,” Maxwell added. “But I started seeing a big difference within four to six months. He started to retain more and not forget as much. His mood changed, too, and he was happier.”


Don was one of 10 people enrolled in the higher dose trial at Borgess, Dr. Green said. “The dose was more than twice the typical dose and there have been other cases of people on higher doses who do quite well, too. Green regained the capacity to do things in areas where he had been unable to function for a year or more.


“His case was quite dramatic, but higher doses don’t necessarily work for everyone,” Dr. Green said. When the clinical trial ended, Green still continued taking the medication. “There was no way we would have taken him off Aricept,” Janet Green said. “He felt really good.”


Donald Green passed away from an unrelated illness on August 2, 2009. His story was published with his family’s permission.


The clinical trail Donald Green participated in is now completed. However, new Alzheimer’s disease trials are in progress and continue to be added. For more information, please call the Borgess Research Institute at 269.226.5407 or visit research.borgess.com.