Judi Polak has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She is fighting the disease and refuses to suffer from it. In October 2018, Judi participated in a groundbreaking clinical trial at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, where a multidisciplinary team, led by Dr. Ali Rezai, performed the first procedure in the world using focused ultrasound to temporarily – and successfully – open the blood-brain barrier.
Married since 1982, Judi and her husband, Mark, have been fixtures in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital for nearly 40 years. Judi has served as a nurse, advanced practice nurse, mentor and educator, member of the hospital’s supportive care service, and, most recently, as a cuddler volunteer in the NICU. Mark has been involved as a medical student, pediatric resident, and attending neonatologist. He currently serves as professor in the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Section of Neonatology in the WVU School of Medicine.
In 2013, Judi sensed that something was not right. In addition to becoming increasingly forgetful, she had trouble concentrating and navigating the electronic medical record. Studies showed the undeniable signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Judi retired from the School of Nursing and the NICU in 2015. Rather than watch her memories fade away, she and her family decided that memories are worth fighting for, and resolved that they would be part of the cure.
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