Amnesia After Severe Brain Injury: Zach Part Three
Zach believes that his amnesia after severe brain injury ends and he remembers the moment he awoke from his coma. For a coma that is not drug induced, this would be highly unusual. However, to the degree his coma was induced, it is possible that even with his amnesia after severe brain injury his memory might have been returning to normal during the time he was still under the drugs.
You were in a drug induced coma. Do you know what your specific traumatic injuries were?
No. I just know I hit my head here, but the blood pooled on this side so it killed like all the nerves, everything on this side. So that’s why I have left sided neglect, and that’s why I have trouble with my lungs, it generally regulates your breaths and that’s why I had to learn how to talk again to know when to take the right breaths to talk and everything like that.
Did they do any brain surgery on you?
Did they put a Intracranial pressure monitor in?
You were on a trach?
Yes I was.
Now when you say you were in a drug induced coma, would you, were you unconscious before they put you in that?
I, yeah, I believe so.
So your coma may have lasted longer because of the drugs, but it was still initially caused by the trauma.
I assume it was, yeah.
Your accident happened where?
On I-90 going from Worcester, Mass, so south.
And it was on the interstate.
Where did they take you initially?
They Life Flighted me right to U Mass Memorial in Worcester.
So U Mass has a trauma center in, in Worcester?
You were there the entire time you were in the coma?
The memory you described for us of thinking you were in Maine at your friend’s beach house, you would have still been at U Mass at that time?
No. Well, yeah U Mass. I thought you meant where I went to college But, U Mass the hospital, yes.
Right after that they transferred you to rehab?
Where was the rehab?
Spaulding in Boston, Mass?
You were at Spaulding for how long?
Two months. Two months of inpatient rehab.
Do you have a memory of the beginning of your rehab at Spaulding?
Yeah, yeah I do. Right when I got there they had me sit up in my bed, and I couldn’t even hold myself up. I fell – I slid back down. I had no muscles, no core strength.
I know from reading some of the stuff you have online that you actually have logs through much of the period of time in your recovery; is that correct?
Yeah, yeah, my entire college career I wrote everything down.
When did you start doing your logs?
The first month of freshman year in college.
So you wouldn’t have logs then of the period of time in the six months after your injury?
Do you have any logs from your senior year in high school?
No. I wrote my college essay to get into college, and that was all based on my coma, my rehab so that’s the only thing really.
So now when you are talking to me about the memories that you have when you get transferred to rehab, and do you know what day you went to rehab?
No, it was a month after April 19 though.
So would your friends have still been in school?
Yeah. They were.
And baseball season wasn’t over yet?
No, I missed it. Yeah.
So your memories of rehab are good, and that’s a month after your wreck?
The reason I ask these questions, I always try to assess the extent and the length of amnesia, and amnesia isn’t just end the first time you remember anything. For example, you could have this memory of waking up and being confused and then have a very cluttered memory for the next two, three, four weeks where you remember a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Do you think you have continuous memory, meaning do you remember almost everything from a day beginning when you get to Spaulding, or is it a little bit of this, a little bit of that for a while?
I’m sure I, I do forget things that had happened to me, but for the most part I remember a great deal of it so.
The interesting thing in categorizing the length of Zach’s amnesia, is that his writing of his own story has clearly strengthened that. The lesson in that is not to disregard his excellent early recovery of memory, but to utilize writing to help survivor’s improve memory. While the standard has been “write everything down”, there is a far more complicated cognitive process involved in writing a story about what you remember, than just taking notes. For Zach, the writing the story of his recovery from a severe brain injury has obviously made a real difference.