Husband's brave fight inspires Robyn to find dementia cure
ROBYN Hilton just had to grin and bear it. There she stood, halfway round the world, next to her husband as he openly flirted with a woman on the side of the road in Africa.
"Peter thought he'd been married off to a lovely lady selling beautifully painted fabrics,” Robyn says.
"She made it clear she liked Peter. It took some talking on my part to convince her that he was spoken for.
"He did have lovely blue eyes, and a cheeky smile, so I could well understand her attraction.”
She recalls the tale with fondness - "it's important to try to maintain a sense of humour” - but it's a poignant reminder of the couple's life living with dementia.
"Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in February 2000 at the age of 66,” Robyn says.
"The impact of that diagnosis was profound. Some time after the initial shock I felt pretty helpless because there's no known cure, there's no timetable for the inevitable decline, and there's little effective medical treatment.”
Peter died in 2011 and that "helpless” feeling inspired a passion to raise awareness for dementia research, culminating in Robyn starting the Peter Hilton Fellowship at the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland.
The fellowship currently supports an outstanding early-career researcher based at Queensland Brain Institute's Clem Jones Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research (CJCADR) and is celebrated this month at the premier event, the Hand Heart Pocket Gala Evening.
The Hand Heart Pocket Gala Evening, generously supported by Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemason Queensland and Morgans Financial, is an entertaining, cocktail-style function held in one of Brisbane's most iconic buildings - Queensland Parliament House.
"The gala, our fifth, showcases extraordinary musical talent in an historic venue,” Robyn said.
"Funds raised at this event are used to further that research, and support the outreach services provided by Dementia Australia.”
However, the gala's true purpose is to highlight the invaluable work being conducted by the researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute.
"(The gala) allows us to inform the community of the valuable research being undertaken at QBI to unravel the mystery that is dementia,” Robyn said.
"Recent internationally recognised breakthroughs have given hope to people with dementia, their families and carers.
"And speaking from personal experience, I know how eagerly awaited that is.”
Gala tickets are $160 (including GST) per person, including a one-hour musical performance, headlined by soprano sensation Natalie Christie Peluso, in the historical Red Chamber before drinks and canapés are served on the rooftop terrace which has spectacular views overlooking Brisbane City.