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Gidea Park woman thanks comedian David Baddiel for raising dementia awareness

PUBLISHED: 13:00 15 March 2017

Joanna Smith and her mother Jennefer Smith who lives with a rare form of dementia. Photo: Joanna Smith

Joanna Smith and her mother Jennefer Smith who lives with a rare form of dementia. Photo: Joanna Smith

Joanna Smith

A young woman has thanked one of the country's top comedian's for raising awareness about a rare and cruel disease that has affected both their parents.

David Baddiel attending a premiere in Leicester Square. Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Archive/PA Images.David Baddiel attending a premiere in Leicester Square. Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Archive/PA Images.

Comedian and author David Baddiel painted the painful reality of having a relative with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) otherwise known as Pick’s disease in his Channel 4 documentary The Trouble with Dad and also in his stage show My Family: Not the Sitcom.

The mother of marketing manager Joanna Smith, 33, from Gidea Park - retired university lecturer Jennefer Smith, 67, is one of 16,000 people in the UK thought to be living with the rare form of dementia.

“FTD is such a horrible disease,” Joanna said.

“I have watched helplessly as my beautiful, wonderful mum’s personality has changed beyond recognition. I feel very passionate about raising awareness of dementia and its many forms including those most prevalent in younger people.”

Jennefer was diagnosed aged 64, but doctors initially thought she was having a mental breakdown and she was sectioned.

“Visiting my mum on a mental health ward whilst battling to find out what was causing her behaviours and juggling a full time demanding job very nearly broke me,” she continued.

Joanna Smith in her National Brain Appeal running vest with her medal, gained after completing a half marathon to prepare for the 2017 London Marathon. Photo: Marie ManganJoanna Smith in her National Brain Appeal running vest with her medal, gained after completing a half marathon to prepare for the 2017 London Marathon. Photo: Marie Mangan

Joanna now attends rare dementia support sessions funded by The National Brain Appeal will take part in the London Marathon on April 23 to raise money for the charity.

Frontotemporal dementia is caused by the loss of cells mainly in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Its main symptoms are a progressive change in personality or behaviour such as a loss of inhibition, obsessive behaviour and becoming withdrawn.

“When people hear the word dementia they immediately think of memory problems and old people,” she continued.

“What David Baddiel has helped to do is get the message across that there is a whole spectrum of diseases that come under the umbrella term dementia with a whole array of different symptoms.

“I have a lot of respect for him for sharing something that is very personal and painful.”

“He has done a wonderful thing by using his fame to help raise awareness of what frontotemporal dementia is and how it affects the person with the disease and everyone around them.”

To support Joanna visit justgiving.com/fundraising/Jo-Smith43

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