A teen whose memory was erased by a rare brain disease can’t remember anything about the first 16 years of her life, except for her teddy bear.
Rosie Paley, 18, was hospitalized with encephalitis at the age of 16. The effects of the disease left her unable to recognize her mother and two younger brothers, and she has to rely on old photographs and the memories of her loved ones to piece her life together.
She still suffers from short-term memory loss, and has to write down basic tasks.
“Looking back at pictures I can see I had an amazing childhood. I just wish I had memories to go with the pictures,” she said. “Life is now about making new memories. It’s like I’m starting from the beginning.”
Though she can now recognize her mother, Helen, and her two younger brothers, she has no memory of her school friends.
“I’ve lost all my childhood friends as I can’t recognize them or reminisce about old times and so it’s hard to be around them as they knew the old me before the memory loss,” she lamented. “When I first came round, mum brought my two younger brothers to see me. I had no idea who they were and I panicked.”
Aside from her teddy bear, Baa lamb, Paley’s memory was completely erased. Her family tried to jog her memory by exposing her to photographs and even taking her to a performance by her favorite band, but nothing seemed to work.
Encephalitis is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is also responsible for cold sores and chicken pox. But Paley showed no symptoms before she suffered a seizure and fell down a flight of stairs in 2011.
Though having her memory erased has been “stressful,” Paley says that her routine helps her get through each day. She is studying to be a hairdresser, which she says is perfect for her.
“Hairdressing is great because it’s repetitive and so I can keep practicing until I learn things and remember them.”
Losing your memory from encephalitis is rare, but for those afflicted, it’s unlikely that they will ever remember everything they lost. But, “what sufferers can develop is better ways of coping with their condition,” said Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society.
Could you imagine having your memory erased at 16?