The HELEN & EMANUEL POTERIS AWARD - Inspiring conversations for a cure. In honour of two beautiful people who were denied a long and happy life together due to illness.
Both my parents emigrated from Kythera in 1955 and found love on-board the Australia bound ship.
Madly in love and absolutely adoring each other my beautiful mum Helen and very handsome dad Emanuel married in 1959.
They worked hard in fish and chip shops, raised three kids, enjoyed socialising, and often gathered family and friends together for wonderful meals.
Mum was an excellent organiser and a great cook making her catering to a crowd look so easy and natural.
Dad was the cheeky joker, the life of the party and always making others laugh.
They were a gorgeous couple.
Our world was shattered by dad’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Mum’s world came crashing down around her at the time of his death at the young age of 68. She was just 56 and absolutely devastated. Their intertwined hopes and dreams gone. Their desire to watch their kids and grandkids grow – gone. Their belief of growing old together – shattered. After that, she was never quite the same again. Always putting on a brave face for everyone else, whilst deep down her own life and soul were tortured and torn apart.
Sadly when mum was 67, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was a huge shock and the future was now completely blurred. We did not know what to expect and learned together as the disease took hold of our beautiful mother who still had so much to give and to live for. Eventually, she barely managed living by herself in the family home. Existing home care services were not really of much benefit to dear mum.
Following an agonising and painful family meeting, a decision was made to place mum into a nursing home in Newcastle. That day in February 2010, when I escorted my mother to her ‘new home’ will be forever burned in my mind as one of the most painful days in my life and hers. It was horrible and so very sad to tear mum away from her own home filled with memories of dad and the life they shared.
Mum’s Alzheimer’s journey led her and us, into the dark abyss of the unknown. The demands of every-day life, the distance between home (Canberra) and the nursing home (Newcastle), combined with feelings of inadequacy to provide what I believe to be a level of care and comfort that my beloved mother deserves, resulted in finding out about NeuRA’s work and a change-of-life that now revolves around advocating and fundraising for a cure.
I have made it my life’s mission to raise a million dollars to help find a cure. With the support of my husband, we have knocked on doors and asked for help in many ways. We cooked snags at Bunnings, organised movie nights (in Sydney and Canberra), dinner events, we even cooked Greek doughnuts at a Winter Fair in Newcastle and most recently, a huge Fashion fundraiser.
It doesn’t matter how big or small, we are always having a go at keeping true to our goals of Awareness, Action, Fundraising, and Cure. We are constantly looking for ‘that one thing’ that will make our fundraising shoot for the stars.
We are determined to keep our eye on the prize, and not lose sight of the fact that the fundamental core of our fundraising is to help find a cure for the two diseases that were so cruelly dealt to my parents. I don’t want anybody else to have to travel on the same path of pain and suffering.
It is my fervent desire that the cure for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is discovered by scientists working in Australia. Just like a half a turn of a screw made Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone device a working invention, it is possible that a slide presentation or a CONVERSATION BETWEEN RESEARCHERS could start an avalanche of discovery.
To this end, the Helen & Emanuel Poteris Award was created in honour of my parents to provide PhD students researching Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s with some financial support to assist their research expenses, including attendance at relevant courses or conferences here in Australia or overseas. Opening a door for a researcher to present their work, to meet their peers, to learn more and expand their networks, we feel is a worthwhile cause.
My parents started out with nothing and built their new lives in Australia from nothing. They both used to say ‘every little bit helps’. They would be feeling both humble and proud to be honoured and remembered in this way.
We hope that this award will in some however small way, assist a researcher to build on their knowledge, and finally put an end to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s all around the world by discovering The Cure in Australia.
Mum sadly passed away on the 20th May 2018, aged 81, reunited with her beloved.