‘Today is a blessing from God:’ Savannah man with Alzheimer’s is hopeful after FDA announced new drug

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 11:43 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A huge breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The FDA approved the second ever drug that will slow down the disease for patients in the early stages of their battle.

Playing with his dogs is a hopeful Rod Stephenson.

He and his wife Deb live in their Southside Savannah home, throwing toys and reading scripture all the while, with a smile.

In talking with this couple, 23 years into marriage, you might not notice it, you certainly wouldn’t watching Rod play with these beastly dogs.

But a closer look around their home will show you, Rod’s fighting Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed about two years ago, putting both of them through an emotional ringer.

”A sense of a future that quickly looked bleak is what I was fearing,” said Deborah Stephenson.

She’s since moved past that fear and with the FDA’s announcement of a drug that can slow down the disease, the state’s Alzheimer’s Association is hoping other people will join her.

“You know what it’s going to give? More days, more time to plan, more time to make memories and if you have someone you love that means so much,” said Linda Davidson, the executive director of the Georgia Alzheimer’s Association.

It’s a point that couldn’t ring more true with these two.

”I have to tell you, if Deb were not with me in this challenge, I would have a far more negative view of it all,” said Roderick Stephenson.

They’re guided by faith...

”We’re living life between the diagnosis and whenever god calls us home.”

And say this new drug is the opposite of that call.

”Today is a blessing from God.”

Rod said he fits the criteria for the infusions and will be asking his doctor if it’s right for him. The man with the infectious smile says though, this breakthrough is about something beyond a new drug.

“Maybe this will lead to the next thing that becomes more than any of us hope. That’s good too, that’s where hope lies.”

That’s the word... hope... and I think it’s pretty clear where else it lies.

“Today is the day I have, and today is the day I’m going to enjoy and be thankful for because it is here now.”

The drug costs an average of $26,500 per year and the Georgia Alzheimer’s Association chapter says the next step is making sure this drug is more affordable.