AARDA celebrates with "25for25"
March 17, 2016
BENEFITING: American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
Sarah J. Carter wanted to be remembered foremost as a loving mother and wife. From her early childhood dreams of running an orphanage to her work as an elementary and preschool teacher, she has always loved children. She and her husband, Robert J. Carter, had we three kids, who were raised to appreciate the wonders and mysteries of the world around us. Our mother loved us unconditionally and encouraged our curiosity and independence. It is because of her that we all share a love of exploration, learning, and adventure.
Regrettably, the exact cause of our mother's sudden death will never be known. Unable to arrange for an autopsy, we submitted to her ultimate wish and had her cremated. She will be buried beside her husband, our father, in Arlington National Cemetery. Her written request was that there be no service other than the one provided by Arlington. We do not yet have a date for this event.
Regardless of what precipitated our mom's death, her doctors generally agreed that the precarious balance of her body systems was such that, were one system to fail, it might be expected the rest would follow. We have decided to focus not on why she died, but rather how her health issues affected her life in the weeks, months, and even years leading up to her death.
Shortly after our father's death on June 5, 2011, our mother was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG). This autoimmune disease weakens the body's muscles and causes fatigue, both of which are exacerbated by exercise. Our mom frequently found these symptoms to be severely debilitating. Unfortunately, it can take a very long time for MG medications, known for their harsh, far-reaching side effects, to prove effective. With every hint of progress, the family had hoped our mother was on the verge of remission, but her apparent improvements proved transitory.
In the months leading up to her death, our mother experienced extreme frustration as it seemed that her MG symptoms could not be brought under control. Then, just weeks before her death, she started to suffer unbearable pain attributable to the side effects of her MG treatments. Although none of her conditions were considered terminal, and doctors and friends alike were shocked by her death, there can be little doubt that her recent quality of life was tremendously diminished.
Our mom hated to depend on others for help, and it has become clear that she hid the true extent of her suffering. She was so grateful to everyone who looked after her, but it went against everything in her nature to be a burden. The fact that she even mentioned her difficulties in bearing the pain and exhaustion goes to show how dire her circumstances had become.
All three of Sarah's children had plans to visit her later that month. It breaks our hearts that she passed away before any of us got there. However, we take comfort in knowing that she heard from each of us on Mothers' Day, the day before her death, and that she passed away in the house of her dreams on the shore of her cherished Lake Michigan.
Like our mother, we dislike being helpless. We feel so much sympathy for others whose quality of life has been destroyed by autoimmune disease and the devastating side effects of presently available medications and treatments . Therefore, we have created this memorial in our mother's honor, to allow her friends and family to donate to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA).
The mission of the AARDA is to raise awareness of autoimmune diseases and further public awareness, collaborative research, and patient services in seeking to alleviate the suffering caused by these terrible afflictions. All proceeds will go directly to this organization. If you have anything to spare, your contribution would mean a lot.
- Julia, Ryan, and Bryce Carter