JORDAN RIVER PARKWAY, Utah – It’s been nine months since Becky Lockhart, the first female Utah Speaker of the House, died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Saturday, her husband and daughter walked around Jordan River Parkway with other families who have lost loved ones to the disease.
Stan Lockhart was here with his daughter, Hannah, and some of their other family, holding pictures of Becky Lockhart as they walked around the park. It’s part of other walks happening across the country to raise awareness about the rare and fatal neurological disease.
“It’s been hard, we miss her, a lot,” Stan Lockhart said.
Becky Lockhart died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease on Jan 17, 2015.
“Really, in 30 days, we went from knowing there was something serious to Becky passing away,” Stan Lockhart said.
The neurodegenerative disease strikes fast, and most people don’t know they have it. The average life expectancy is less than a year after diagnosis.
“There’s no treatment, and it’s always fatal, so she passed away 11 days after diagnosis,” Stan Lockhart said.
Families gathered at Jordan River Parkway Saturday to remember those who have died.
They released balloons into the sky, each one representing a loved one who has lost their battle with CJD.
“There are many people who have loved ones pass away that we don’t ever see in our daily lives,” Stan Lockhart said. “And when you go through something like this, then you come in contact with many people whose loved ones have passed away, not just from CJD, but from a whole bunch of things.”
Joe Katz, from Taylorsville, lost his father to CJD in January. He talked about the slow onset of symptoms his father experienced and how the family had little time to say goodbye.
“He was golfing on September 5, and his golf game just wouldn’t come together for him and he golfs all the time,” Katz said. “And that’s when they diagnosed him with CJD and told us that the prognosis was fatal. There’s no cure. There’s no treatment.”
Lockhart says the families hope to find a way to prevent the illness.
“Hopefully, someday, we can figure out what causes it, we can get some treatment for it and maybe one day, we’ll be able to stand here and say that it’s not always fatal,” he said.
The Lockharts and other families who participated say they hope to see more research being done into CJD and to raise awareness about the symptoms so that people can get checked sooner and get an earlier diagnosis so they can spend more time with their families.