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Gympie couple take on NZ mountain track for Alzheimer’s

ALZHEIMER'S QLD TREK. Gympie's Karen and Andy McSweeney on the Alzheimer's Australia (Qld) fundraising adventure across New Zealand's Routeburn Track.
ALZHEIMER'S QLD TREK. Gympie's Karen and Andy McSweeney on the Alzheimer's Australia (Qld) fundraising adventure across New Zealand's Routeburn Track.

CHALLENGES are nothing new to Gympie couple Andy and Karen McSweeney, however their recent Alzheimer’s Australia (Qld) fundraising adventure across New Zealand’s Routeburn Track is one which typifies a growing resilience.

The couple got in early, clocking up the kilometres in the lead up to this Sunday’s Brisbane Memory Walk/Jog fundraiser to be held at UQ St Lucia.

Almost a year and a half ago, at just 51, Andy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Despite an obvious memory decline, he and wife of 30 years, Karen, refused to simply become a statistic among a continually growing Australian population living with younger onset dementia.

The couple successfully sought an early diagnosis through their Sunshine Coast specialist which has since allowed them to prioritise their time to family, fun and adventure.

Described as an epic 32km alpine walk of a lifetime, the three-day Routeburn trek through the South Island of New Zealand provided one of the most memorable experiences for the duo, who in the process raised more than $300 for a charity now very close to their hearts.

“Of course life has really changed for us in the past couple of years, with lots of tears and frustrations as we are all unable to stop Andy’s Alzheimer’s from progressing,” Karen said.

“At times we feel positive and hope for the best, but of course we know there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and so plan for the worst. This includes doing things that we enjoy, so fitting in as much time to travel, sooner rather than later.

“Routeburn was something we had always planned to do after also completing a memorable elephant trek through Thailand in 2012.

“We do like a good hike and have walked quite a few 20km day walks in Australia and in the UK, but Routeburn was our first three-day hike. It was quite tough in places, very steep and rocky and carrying a pack certainly slowed us down, but the views and scenery were incredible and we feel very lucky to have done it.

“The timing was also right to use this adventure as an opportunity to fundraise and grow awareness for Alzheimer’s Australia (Qld) in the direct lead up to Brisbane’s Memory Walk/Jog on Sunday, April 17.”


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