When Georgie Ashforth sent her youngest daughter off to college, it was a joyous occasion; the idea that her daughter would soon develop schizophrenia was the farthest thought from her mind. “At first, we didn’t realize there was something wrong; but after several episodes, we saw our daughter become a different person. We were scared,” says Georgie. After visits with the family physician and many psychiatrists, Georgie’s daughter was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and the Ashforth family was thrust into the terrifying world of psychiatric illness.
Georgie’s daughter was eventually stabilized, though she had difficulty tolerating the antipsychotic medications that irritated her stomach, made her lethargic, and caused her to gain considerable weight. With amazing courage and constant family support, she completed college and obtained two graduate degrees. Still, the illness persisted and she struggled constantly with paranoid delusions, fearing that the people she loved were trying to kill her.
In 2005, after her daughter’s frequent hospitalizations, Georgie learned about the Appleton Continuing Care Program at McLean, where her daughter resided for seven months. “Appleton was just wonderful,” Georgie recalls. “The staff there helped my daughter accept her illness and manage her medication. They never, ever gave up on her.”
Fortunately, Georgie’s daughter is doing well now. “There is no doubt in my mind that the people at McLean saved her life,” says Georgie. To express their gratitude, the Ashforths established the Georgie Ashforth Family Fund for Financial Aid, to help defray the cost of long-term care for Appleton patients in need. The endowment, a commitment of $250,000 over five years, is funded by members of the Ashforth family. In 2009, the first monies were awarded, paying for two weeks of care for a grateful young man.
“When my daughter was at her sickest, I always thought that if she could recover, I would do what I could to help others,” Georgie says. “I hope our gift has made a difference for this patient and his family.”