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Idaho Falls mayor announces memory disorder

The Idaho Falls mayor revealed Thursday that he has been diagnosed with a mild-short term memory impairment.

Jared Fuhriman said the diagnosis of MCI does not significantly impact his performance as mayor, and he intends to stay on the job.

Fuhriman sat down with Local News 8’s Jay Hildebrandt to talk about the diagnosis and what it means.

Fuhriman: “I was recently diagnosed with mild cognitive memory impairment, and basically what the means is I have a few issues with short term memory.”

Jay Hildebrandt: “How does that manifest itself in your daily life?”

Fuhriman: “For example, just walking into another room to talk my assistant or to my wife, sometimes I forget what I went into it for, and I think that’s somewhat normal. It gets a little frustrating when I want to talk and communicate with those I work with and associate with, and not remembering their names and some issues that we’ve discussed.”

Hildebrandt: “So how do you compensate for this in your job as mayor?”

Fuhriman: “Lots of notes, I take copious notes and I constantly have a handheld with me that keeps me on task.”

Hildebrandt: “You decided you wanted to go public with this.Why did you feel that was important?”

Fuhriman: “We want to be transparent, even though I feel this is a low-level issue. But maybe to constituents they feel a little bit different and that’s why we came forward — just so we can set the record straight and be as transparent as possible.”

Hildebrandt: “Dealing with the pressures as mayor and the decisions you have to make — it’s not affecting that is what you’re telling us?”

Fuhriman: “Not at all, not at all. This memory issued has nothing to do with the decisions we make on a day to day basis. If I had any doubts whatsoever I’d be the first one to say, ‘OK, I’m finished’, but I don’t see that happening.”

We wanted to find out more about MCI and learned it’s a fairly recent diagnosis to cover memory issues that do not fall into the category of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“MCI means ‘mild cognitive impairment,’ and it’s a term that was devised to include patients that have primarily memory or amnesia and they don’t have the other problems in cognitive skills such and judgement, decision making, visual spatial skills, language problems,” said local neurologist Erich Garland.

To let the community better understand how MCI is affecting him, Fuhriman gave written and oral permission for his doctor, Richard King, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Utah, to talk to us.

This information is normally confidential, but the mayor asked King to answer our questions.

King said Fuhriman has amnestic mild cognitive disorder.

But is Fuhriman still capable of performing the duties of mayor?

“Part of that’s the proofs in the pudding, and if you sort of watch him and what he does, and if he is still able to make good decisions, it kind of answers itself in some ways,” said King. “From my point of view, I know that he’s going to be having more of a challenge than he has in the past because of his memory loss. So he’s going to be more forgetful as far as remembering names and specific events, but the information is in there. So with support, somebody to help keep track of specific details – he’s still quite good with concepts. And so it really depends on the job. If the job is more leadership and setting the tone and setting big-picture goals, he can still do that quite well. If the job is micromanaging little details, he’d have a hard time with that.”

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