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Alzheimer's patient delights in re-meeting newborn granddaughter

Every time Setsuko Harmon sees her granddaughter, she's as thrilled as she was the first time she saw the baby. Because to the Alzheimer's patient, it is.
/ Source: TODAY

Every time Setsuko Harmon sees her new baby granddaughter Sadie, she's as thrilled as she was the first time she laid eyes on the newborn.

That's because every meeting feels like the first time for the 77-year-old Alzheimer's patient.

Christine Stone, an office manager from Florence, South Carolina, has been videoing and sharing her mother's reactions on social media, both to share with Sadie when she gets older and to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.

"My mom loves her," Stone told TODAY. "She was here for Thanksgiving and she said, 'Why can't I take the baby? I want to take her home?' It's put some pep in her step."

"But her short term memory is gone. Every time I say, 'Meet your granddaughter, Sadie,' she'll forget whose baby it is again five minutes later. She gets so excited all over again. "

Alzheimer's patient Setsuko Harmon cradles her granddaughter Sadie.Christine Stone

As TODAY reported in June, Stone gained attention when she started videoing her mom's reaction to learning about her first pregnancy — the 39-year-old also has two teenage stepchildren. Originally, the video was just meant for the family. But when she convinced her reluctant father, Robert Harmon, to let her post the first video on Facebook and YouTube, Stone was stunned to discover how her personal display of love amid Setsuko's health struggle inspired complete strangers.

"The original video I made so Sadie would be able to see how much her grandmother loved her and how excited she was for her to arrive," explained Stone. "Originally, I filmed it just for us, because the likelihood of my mom still being around when my daughter is 18 is slim to none."

Christine Stone and her family.Christine Stone

Then she realized her family's story was affecting others when she started receiving appreciative messages thanking her for sharing. ("You've taught me about patience," reads one.)

Sadie endured her own health scare ahead of her Oct. 11 birth. When an ultrasound revealed that her femur bones were too small, doctors warned Stone that eight out of 10 possible diagnoses were lethal. It came as a relief when the baby emerged from a cesarean section with a diagnosis of achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism, but with normal brain function and the prospect of a normal lifespan.

"(Before the C-section), they told me expect her to have facial features that were deformed," said Stone, who credits her Christian faith with helping her through. "With my mom, I was worried she might not understand and it might worry her and freak her out. But that Wednesday morning, my dad said my mom was up before him and she was dressed and ready to go. She remembered I was having a baby."
Christine Stone's daughter, Sadie Mae.Christine Stone

It amazes Stone to discover what her mother does remember. Setsuko Harmon, who first started showing signs of Alzheimer's ten years ago, was born in Japan, and moved to the U.S. after marrying her husband more than 46 years ago.

Bob and Setsuko Harmon next to one of the Cessna plans Setsuko used to fly.Courtesy of Christina Stone

"She remembers the words to an old Japanese lullaby song called "Donguri Korokoro" about an acorn and an eel, and sings it to Sadie," said Stone.

She captured the touching moment on video.

"I only video the good moments, I don't video the bad moments, and there are plenty of bad moments," she noted.

"I don't really feel heartbreak because we've (been) dealing with her condition for so long. For me in my faith and God gives me the strength to make the best of any situation to just accept it and not dwell on the negative."