KENNEBUNK, Maine (CBS Connecticut) — A rare brain disease that is related to “mad cow” disease has claimed the life of a Maine mother.

Sandra Kennedy, 38-year old mother of four, died Monday after being diagnosed last month with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the Portland Press Herald reports. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it is a “rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder” that affects about one person in every 1 million people per year worldwide.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is part of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies family, which can be found in animals that include bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as “mad cow” disease.

The York County Coast Star reports Kennedy began suffering symptoms last November when she had a cough and vertigo. She was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve with symptoms of a stroke, but doctors said she didn’t suffer one. She was then hospitalized again in January, losing her motor skills and being unable to walk.

Last month, the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston finally diagnosed her with the incurable disease.

“Sandi was a lot of fun to be around She had this laughter. … It was just everything. It made you so happy to be around her,” family friend Nina Pratt told the Press Herald. “Sandi was my strength through everything in my life. I could always lean on her and she was always there for me.”

Friends and family raised more than $80,000 on the Hope for Sandi website to help with the medical costs.

“Our hearts are very heavy but with the love and support from all of you, we find strength through our tears. Sandi has passed away and although our sorrow is overwhelming for a life taken too soon, we find comfort knowing she will live on though those she loved so dearly. Your continued prayers, support and love for the Kennedy and Tucker family has been truly heartwarming and amazing,” website organizer Erin Small Guilshan said.

Kennedy worked as a nurse at Maine Medical Center and is survived by her husband, Jake Kennedy, her four children: Tucker, 9; twins Asher and Gunner, 5; and daughter Skyler, 2.

Her funeral will be held Saturday at St. Martha’s Church in Kennebunk.


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