Gianna Cabo’s symptoms were initially dismissed as long COVID — until they became so debilitating she couldn’t even remember her own childhood memories.
When Gianna Cabo began experiencing memory lapses and withdrawing from family and friends, her mom thought it was long COVID — certainly not dementia.
“I felt like someone had just punched me in my heart. I sat there stunned,” Cabo’s mother, Rebecca Robertson, 50, told SWNS. “I thought this can’t be true, she’s only 19. I never thought it could be dementia — not in my wildest dreams.”
Robertson, from McKinney, Texas, noticed something was wrong with her bright and bubbly daughter in September 2020, when she went from head of the class to unable to keep up.
Cabo had had a rough year. In 2019, she and her mother were involved in a car crash that left Robertson with a severe concussion and compressed discs in her neck.
Then, in June 2020, Cabo was stricken with the coronavirus.
Months later, she struggled with memory loss and the ability to perform simple tasks, like operating a can opener.
When Cabo started to withdraw from her friends, stopped completing her homework, and began falling asleep as soon as she got home, Robertson decided to seek medical help.
“As the weeks went by, she started having more problems in school. The answer to any question started to be, ‘I don’t remember,’” the distraught Robertson recalled. “If she was asked why she hadn’t done her homework, she would say she didn’t remember.”
The mom thought her daughter could be suffering from mental stress due to the pandemic, and she was prescribed antidepressants in June 2021.
Cabo also started seeing a counselor, but her condition continued to nosedive.
“Suddenly I started getting calls from her teachers saying, ‘She’s one of our star students [but] now when she’s in class, she’s in la-la-land and just stares blankly out the window,’” Robertson remembered. “She was becoming more and more detached and apathetic. She said, ‘I just feel lost.’”
Robertson said the severity of Cabo’s memory loss presented itself during her high school graduation. Other students excitedly discussed their futures while her daughter struggled to keep up.
“She just had eyes full of tears,” she said sadly. “She asked me, ‘Aren’t I supposed to be excited?’ But she felt nothing.”
Robertson took the teen to see a neurologist in November 2022, and after running a series of medical tests, doctors discovered no electrical activity in Cabo’s right central lobe.
She was diagnosed with dementia.
Now Cabo, 20, can’t remember her happy childhood memories, Robertson said.
“I asked her what was the happiest moment of your life, and she just looked confused and said, ‘I don’t remember,’” she recounted.
At one point, during Cabo’s deterioration, she took down all of her childhood photos in her room. When her mom asked why, she explained “she couldn’t remember them being taken.”
Robertson admits she feels like her daughter is “slipping away” — and nobody knows what to do.
“I just pray there is a treatment out there that can give me some hope,” the anguished mom said. “She doesn’t laugh anymore. She doesn’t get out of bed. Whatever you ask her, any time of the day or night, she just says, ‘I don’t remember.’”
“The saddest part is it doesn’t bother Gianna,” she continued. “There’s no emotion there. None. She’s 100% apathetic.”
According to the Childhood Dementia Initiative, childhood dementia results from progressive brain damage and has been linked to over 70 rare genetic disorders.
There is no cure, but treatment options include medication, therapy, and nutrition services.