Karen Williams was chief judge of a federal appeals court and a potential Supreme Court nominee when her family noticed some changes in her personality. Williams, who headed the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was at the peak of her career, the Greenville News (sub. req.) reports. When she began repeating herself and forgetting names, her family assumed she was too busy. “We started noticing something wasn't right,” according to Williams' husband, Charlie Williams II. “But we couldn't put our finger on it,” he tells the publication. And then after Williams was involved in two minor car accidents in two weeks, tests revealed devastating news: Williams was in the early stages of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. In 2009, at the age of 58, Williams retired from the bench. Williams' son, Charlie Williams III, told the Greenville News that today his mother cannot be left alone for more than 15 minutes. She comes to work with her husband and son, but a secretary must help take care of her. The family has helped raise more than $38,000 for the Alzheimer's Association, and Williams' son says he hopes that researchers will eventually find a cure for the disease, which affects about one in eight Americans.
“There are good days and bad days,” Charlie Williams III told the publication. “It's amazing to see one day how things seem like they're normal, and the very next day … to see her look at somebody she has known for 30 years and can't come up with their name. It's pretty tough.”