The struggle of a teen caregiver

NPHS sophomore parents her parent


Jewels Zeiler

Sophomore Hillary Menghini does laundry at home. Chores are just a small part of this teens busy day.

By Jewels Zeiler, North Platte High School

A normal day at the lake, water splashing and soaking in the sun, changed 15-year-old Hillary Menghini’s life forever.

In 2016, a North Platte High School sophomore’s mom, former NPHS science teacher, Tammy Menghini was bitten by a mosquito at Lake McConaughey. She started feeling ill so she went to the hospital and later that day was informed that the mosquito had transferred West Nile into her body. West Nile is an infection spread through the body by a mosquito. 80% of people who get West Nile don’t show symptoms. Unfortunately, Tammy was part of the 20% that did show symptoms. She experienced dizziness, vomiting, fever, and constant headaches.

“It was really bad for about a year,” Hillary said.

The symptoms Tammy was having were the least of her concerns. The West Nile had also caused fluid to gather in her brain, which is called hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus can cause people to develop dementia. Dementia is an impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss or judgement.

“She had a needle stuck in her spine to get the fluids out and it didn’t really work,” Hillary said.

During that year, Tammy’s memory started to get worse. This is when things got harder for Hillary. Her mother was too young to be diagnosed with dementia but Tammy’s doctors recognized early signs.

“She’s taking medicine now to slow down the process of dementia,” Hillary said. Even with the medicine her mother takes Hillary still notices the signs. “Sometimes I just sit there and watch her and she just sits there and looks lost,” said Hillary.

It’s really sad because it’s not the mom I know.”

— Hillary Menghini

All of this took a toll on Hillary fast. She now had to stay home more often and help take care of her mom. Things were never like this before her mother got sick.

“She would cook for us and was like a mom. She would drive us around, take us to a friend’s house, and we had friends over,” Hillary said.

Now things are reversed for Hillary, as if she is the mother. “I have to cook now and drive everywhere, it’s kinda like we switched places,” Hillary said. She has to help her mom with everyday tasks that people usually do on their own such as driving, getting in and out of the shower, cooking, and shopping.

“Everything’s frustrating but the hardest is probably shopping,” said Hillary. Hillary is always brought along on shopping trips with her mother. The things that make shopping the hardest for Hillary is when her mom wanders off or when her mother will think she lost Hillary and start saying her name, searching for her when she’s right next to her.

Hillary had hope that her mother would get better. “When she didn’t it was hard to process because I wasn’t able to have her drive me to my friend’s house or drive me to go get something,” Hillary said.

So many emotions like frustration, anger, sadness, and irritation come from Hillary but they come from such a deeper place than her mother not being able to drive or cook for her. The way her mother changed is what effects Hillary the most.

“It’s really sad because it’s not the mom I know,” Hillary said.

This story was originally published on The Bulldogger on September 27, 2019.