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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
'Mike Baldwin told my dementia story'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Keith Turner and his wife Lillian
'Alzheimer's affects the whole family'
Keith Turner is an avid Coronation Street fan and was delighted to see them tackling Alzheimer's.

Over the last few months the Manchester-based soap opera has seen one of its best known characters, Mike Baldwin, develop the disease.

This week Mike, who has also had a stroke, dies after contracting pneumonia.

Keith, who has Alzheimer's himself, said the portrayal of the condition was very realistic.


"I used to wander. I could not remember where I was and used to get myself into such a state that I would go into a corner and cry until help came.

"I was just like Mike Baldwin, that was my story, it was absolutely me. That was just how I was. He was acting the way I used to, all confused.

I would love to meet him and shake his hand and tell him what he has done is tremendous
Keith Turner

"The actor Johnny Briggs has done a fantastic job.

"I wrote a letter to Granada congratulating them on the way they handled the storyline and saying I would love to meet him and shake his hand and tell him what he has done is tremendous.

"I think the Mike Baldwin story has been absolutely brilliant. The actors and producers have done a wonderful job bringing it to people's attention and out into the open.

"It would have been brilliant if they could have extended the storyline."

Johnny Briggs' portrayal of Mike Baldwin's Alzheimer's descent has been incredibly moving
Sandra D, York

Keith, a former chiropodist, was first diagnosed in 2003. Three years later and after taking the drug Aricept his condition is much improved. But he said that initially he was very frightened.

But he said that, as in the Mike Baldwin story, his family were the first to become alarmed by his odd behaviour.

"Initially I did not recognise there were problems, but the family noticed them. I was falling asleep in front of the television.

"I would watch a programme and at the end of it would be able to say what I had been watching, but not what it was about.

"I gave up reading because I would read a line and then could not remember what I had read.

"Also my speech started to go and I was saying things like 'I am going to the library for a loaf of bread."


But Keith, aged 67, from Hastings, was critical about the speed at which the screen character declined. He said people watching the soap would get an unrealistic timescale and worry.

Johnny Briggs plays Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street
Johnny Briggs campaigned to raise awareness

"I do think they made the character's decline too rapid.

"People do not die of Alzheimer's they die of the complications caused by it, like pneumonia. But that can be five or six years down the line, not as quickly as this."

Susanne Sorenson, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, agreed that Mike's decline had been atypical.

"For many people the onset of Alzheimer's is much slower. Mike's symptoms have rapidly deteriorated because of secondary conditions, he has had a stroke and also develops pneumonia.

"Most people with dementia live with the condition for much longer and require several years of extensive care giving. Just like in Mike's case it affects everybody around them but for an average of seven years."


But she said that on the whole they thought the story had been covered responsibly.

"The society has been working closely with the soap's researchers to make sure that the drama is as realistic as possible.

"Whilst the society does not have control over the storyline we were delighted that Coronation Street researched it in a responsible manner.

"Mike's Alzheimer's story is just that: a story.

"Every individual experiences Alzheimer's disease differently. Mike's storyline has shown that Alzheimer's disease is a medical condition of the brain, that can affect anyone, and is not a natural part of ageing.

"It has helped to challenge the stigma which still surrounds dementia.

"It has got people talking about Alzheimer's disease - which for too long has been a taboo."

Johnny Briggs has actively campaigned to raise awareness of the condition on behalf of the Alzheimer's Society and said acting the role had brought it home to him how much everyone involved could suffer.

"I was lucky when the director said cut I could walk away from Alzheimer's disease. Thousands can't.

"To see someone like Mike affected by Alzheimer's does bring it home that it is not just older people who develop this dreadful illness and it isn't just the person with dementia who is affected, its everyone around them too.

"That's why the work of the Alzheimer's Society is so important.

"To make sure those who are going through this don't have to go through it alone."

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