Woman turns double-tragedy into mission to spread awareness of little known disease

Woman turns double-tragedy into mission to spread awareness of little known disease

If you're ever looking for some authentic Chicago style pizza, cheese steak, or hot dog, Wise Guys is the place to go. Terri Bratton opened up the first Wise Guys in San Antonio on Nakoma and West about two years ago. This one here on Thousand Oaks and Jones Maltsburger opened up about 6 months ago. Ask anyone who comes in, the food is delicious. But it's the inspiration behind the restaurant that is most special.

"One of the reasons for the restaurant was I needed a revenue stream to help send some money into the organization," said Terri.

The organization she is talking about it Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Association or FTLDA. A non-profit Terri founded when a little known disease took the lives of her brother and sister.

"So we were really tight knit family. I had two older brothers and an older sister," she said.

Terri's brother Michael and sister Patricia suddenly started acting strange.

"When they were both in their late 30's. Behaviors started to change. Marriages were falling apart. Aggressive behaviors, executive functions started going," she explained.

Mike was a prominent SAPD detective at the time.

"And that's the thing that's unique with FTD. You can actually still work, your executive functions are what go. Your intelligence doesn't go, your memory doesn't go. It's your executive functions. So early on with the disease you're able to work," Terri explained.

After many doctor's visits, the family always got the same answer.

"You really didn't think anything was wrong because as it progressed, the doctor said well maybe they're just a little depressed. That was the answer over and over again," she said.

But after some years, it was clear something else was wrong. But before they could figure out what it was, Mike took his own life just before his 52nd birthday. At this point, Terri delved into researching, in hopes of saving her sister. One day, she found a research article on -line.

"It was about one in the morning, and I was reading an article on the internet. And I put a graph together of the behaviors of my brother sister because it was about their behavior that was so odd," she explained.

She wrote the author an email.

"He wrote me back immediately. He said, you're probably right," said Terri.

She reached out to specialists in Houston, who soon diagnosed her sister with Frontotemporal Dementia, or FTD. It's believed her brother suffered from the same disease.

"You know Evy, it meant everything because at one point," explained Terri, "with a diagnosis you're able to, look at your brother and sister and go, they're not crazy. There's a lot more to it. They have a brain disease. There's a reason they were acting inappropriately."

Terri's sister died from FTD a few years later as the disease progressed and eventually her body shut down. She was 55. Terri started a blog, sharing her experiences.

"People from all over the world started contacting me," she said.

It became clear to Terri, she needed to do something more.

"Unfortunately most doctors don't know anything about the disease. It's very hard to diagnose. So maybe I can do something to help with that. So, we started a nonprofit in 2009," explained Terri.

Their main fundraiser is a golf tournament held every November. The mission of FTLDA is to raise awareness, promote education of medical professionals and advance research of FTD. Currently there is no cure. Which brings us back to Wise Guys. In the restaurant you can pick up flyers and learn more about the disease. And a portion of the monies raised, goes right into the non-profit Terri hopes, will continue to bring more awareness and hopefully one day, a cure.

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