Brain bleed wipes 10 years of memory

Woman suffering a brain aneurysmSarah Thomson is 32 years old, and a mother of three kids, 14, five and four years old. She used to be ‘prim and proper’ and dress conservatively, and was the archetypal homemaker, baking cakes and keeping her house looking like a show home.

But that was before she ‘lost ‘ about twelve years due to a blood clot on her brain in November of 2011, the Daily Mail reports (29 September 2012).

What started as a ‘pinging sensation’ in the back of her head, and what she mistook for the onset of a migraine, was in face a brain aneurysm, more commonly called a brain bleed.

After spending three weeks in a coma, she awoke as a 19-year-old, and had no recollection of her present husband (they’d been married about ten years), barely recognised her kids, and thought her mother looked awful. “It was weird,” she says, “they all looked so old”.

The biggest shock was still to come. When she looked in a mirror, she couldn’t believe the middle-aged woman’s face staring back at her was actually herself. As a result of the bleeding on the brain, her memory had been severely affected, to the extent that she’d virtually forgotten everything that had happened since 1998.

Waking up after a brain bleed

When she eventually went home, she didn’t recognise the house, but she liked it. A different story when she opened a wardrobe though, and saw that it was full of clothes she wouldn’t be seen dead in! Bit by bit she is learning about the person she is, although she still sees her as a stranger. There are physical symptoms of her brain aneurysm to cope with as well – she has seizures and she suffers from quadruple vision, which makes walking difficult and hazardous. “Patterned carpets are like seas of writhing snakes,” she says,” I have to adjust to every new floor covering”.

The children all find the situation both confusing and amusing. They can hardly believe their mother has become ‘one of them’, a sort of honorary teenager. Chris, her husband, tries to steer her along without upsetting her too much or appearing like a stern uncle. She has the sense of humour (and decorum) of a teenager, and with kids in the house it can sometimes be a poor example for them, not the sort of thing she would have stood for in her previous life.

Sarah has been shocked at the rate of technological advance in the last ten years or so (which is to say, overnight, effectively) – Sky TV and the wide range of channels is amazing to her, as are mobile phones, and broadband internet. The atrocities of 9/11 were devastating news to take in, and the fact that the US now has a black president came as a shock, like something out of a work of fiction.

Bit by bit, she’s getting used to living in the twenty-first century, and she imagines the old her would have been dismayed at the way she carries on. But she finds it all vaguely amusing. Without her sense of humour, this would be a much harder cross to bear.

What is an aneurysm?

brain aneurysm

A brain aneurysm is a swelling of a small blood vessel, which can burst and bleed into the brain itself

This is just one more example of the devastating effects of brain injury. A stroke or aneurysm can strike in an instant, and often for no apparent reason. The effects can be transient, or they can be both permanent and crippling.

A ruptured aneurysm can bleed into the meninges or the brain itself, and can cause paralysis, vision disturbances or difficulty speaking or understanding language. Memory is often affected, sometimes in a very dramatic way, as in Sarah’s case, and sometimes the lost memories are gone for good, although sometimes they return, in dribs and drabs.

What to do if someone is having a brain aneurysm

If you suspect someone is having (or has had) a stroke or a brain bleed, get medical assistance immediately. Time is of the essence. If the person shows signs of weakness in one side of the face, and has trouble raising both arms, or has slurred speech, waste no time – if you’re in the UK dial 999 immediately (911 in the US and Canada, various other emergency numbers elsewhere), and get an ambulance on the way.

The sooner medical aid is administered in the case of a brain bleed, the better the chances are of a good recovery.

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