69-year-old skydiver with Alzheimer’s wants to inspire others

69-year-old skydiver with Alzheimer’s wants to inspire others

Barb Raper lives life to the fullest, despite effects of brain disease

Alzheimer’s disease has stolen the words out of Barb Raper’s mouth. The retired school secretary stutters and stumbles as she struggles to speak a simple sentence.

But she has no problem getting this message across: She loves skydiving.

On her 69th birthday, Barb jumped out of an airplane with her best friend Dorothy. She completed an item that had been on her bucket since she was a child.

With a big smile, arms out beside her and her eyes closed, Barb said “Ahhh” with a tone of complete peace, relief and bliss. That’s how she remembers the first moments as she began a free fall towards earth last August.

Was she afraid?

“No, not at all … I just loved it,” she says.

“It’s the calmest I’ve ever seen my mom in her whole life,” says Deanne Matthews, Barb’s daughter.

For Barb’s family members, including her husband Terry, watching from the ground, the anxiety was considerably more intense.

Barb fulfilled a lifelong dream by skydiving and she hopes it inspires others to keep dreaming after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. She wants people to know that the degenerative brain disease doesn’t mean one has to stop living life to its fullest.

She is being honoured by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. (ASBC) for its first-ever Abbotsford edition of the Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s on Sunday, May 6.

Cyndi McLeod, a support and education coordinator with ASBC, says she hopes Barb’s story is spread to lift the hopes of others with Alzheimer’s.

“What an inspiration, just for anybody,” she says.

Cyndi explains that Barb, like many Alzheimer’s patients, is fully present and aware and knows what she wants to say to those around her.

“What’s impacted in Barb’s brain is the ability to get those messages out,” she says.

Her family began noticing an occasional struggle to find the right words when she was in her early 60s. Her mother had also suffered from the disease and there was little surprise when the official diagnosis came.

Cyndi explains that the disease had likely began much longer before the symptoms became apparent and that much of the current research funded by ASBC is focusing on finding ways to catch it sooner so treatment can begin earlier.

While she has had to say goodbye to some favourite hobbies, such as reading books, Barb has remained active and optimistic. Terry and Barb go to the gym four times a week and, as she puts it, she’s “around, around, around” all the time.

“I mean, I’m not going to sit here all the time,” she says.

“Barbara likes to think that Alzheimer’s lives with her, she doesn’t live with it,” Terry says.

She’s even thinking about going skydiving again.

“I don’t know if I could take it,” her husband says, laughing.

The Abbotsford Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s is on Sunday, May 6 at Gardner Park. Registration begins at noon and the walk kicks off at 1 p.m.

Registration can also be done online at walkforalzheimers.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Barb Raper sails through the skies, crossing off one of her bucket list items.

Barb Raper sails through the skies, crossing off one of her bucket list items.

69-year-old skydiver with Alzheimer’s wants to inspire others

Just Posted

COVID-19 may have indirectly boosted mosquito numbers in one Fraser Valley neighbourhood. (Pixabay photo/File photo)
COVID-19 may have contributed to bad Fraser Valley mosquito season

Restrictions on helicopter occupancy may have resulted in less effective pesticide treatments

Left: Tabor Home in Abbotsford; right: Menno Home (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News; Google Street View)
Fraser Health appoints officials to ‘provide oversight’ at Abbotsford care homes hard hit by COVID-19

Fraser Health says they have provided ‘additional leadership supports’ at Tabor Home and Menno Home

Chilliwack Fire Department responded to a fire in a vacant automotive repair business on Victoria Avenue around 3 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (Facebook/ Beth Leake)
Early-morning fire in vacant Chilliwack business believed to be deliberately set

The fire broke out around 3 a.m. in a vacant automotive repair business on Victoria Avenue downtown

Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver says a recent assignment about residential schools shows the need for better education for teachers on the topic. (File photos)
Sumas First Nation chief ‘dumbstruck’ by residential school assignment, says more education needed

Dalton Silver says school officials are trying to improve understanding, but much work is needed

Archway staff members Mike and Jennifer with the 2019 Prospera Youth Angel Tree gifts. (Submitted photo)
Youth Angel Tree Project underway in Abbotsford

Program at Prospera Credit Union provides gifts for disadvantaged youth

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Sept. 10, 2020 — In the photo is a W.L. McLeod student wearing a mask in a school bus, on his first day back-to-school. This year, due to COVID-19, students will have a different year than most. The President of B.C. Teachers’ Federation told Black Press Sept. 9, that she had a lot of mixed feeling about how ready the education system is for students to be coming back-to-school. Meanwhile, Libby Hart, Principal of W.L. Mcleod Elementary School in Vanderhoof said,” We know some of the families are still unsure, but most of our families have been great in connecting with us and talking to us.” Photos continued on Page 7. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
‘Significant’ changes coming to Fraser Health school exposure notices

Surrey superintendent tweeted there will be 3 letters sent out to a school community

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Most Read