I experienced a sudden — thankfully, temporary — episode of memory loss on April 2. The medical term is transient global amnesia. During a TGA episode, your recall of recent events simply vanishes, so you can’t remember where you are or how you got there.
I essentially lost three months of memories in one day, then gained most of them back over the next few days. What started out as a mundane Friday morning turned into a day my family will never forget — and that I am still struggling to remember.
Here’s how it went on Friday: I’d become aware that I was in the Swedish Edmonds ER, parked on a gurney in the hallway all day because the overcrowded hospital didn’t have room for me. My husband had written a list of things that were true, and so I’d read that list over and over again.
“Today is Friday April 2, 2021. You got a COVID vaccine two weeks ago. It is almost our son’s birthday. He is 16 years old. We think you have transient global amnesia. Instagram is not a good idea right now.” By the time I finished reading the list, I had already forgotten it.
Some people have asked me if the doctors think that my TGA was related to the vaccine — and no, they do not. My husband wrote that on the list because we were waiting next to COVID-19 patients and he didn’t want me to freak out. Instead, he got to hear me exclaim: “There’s a COVID vaccine? Wow! That’s amazing!” at least 100 times.
Thankfully, the tests they ran at the hospital ruled out stroke, transient ischemic attacks and seizures. I presented like a classic TGA patient. The onset happened while exercising that Friday morning. I remembered who I was and my long-term relationships, but I had forgotten more recent happenings.
To cheer me up, my husband would show me pictures of our new couch. “Wow, that’s beautiful,” I kept saying. “How did I talk you into that?”
Losing my memory was scary. I couldn’t remember paying bills. I confessed to my husband that I hadn’t paid the mortgage in years and that we would probably lose our house. Plus the water would be turned off — and the electricity! I couldn’t remember turning in my column, and was positive I had let my readers down.
Since Swedish Edmonds was too crowded, they moved me to the Seattle hospital that night. COVID-19 regulations meant that my husband couldn’t come with me.
For some reason, I was put on food and drink restrictions until 11 p.m. the next day. For a coffee drinker like me, this meant that by the time a nurse did bring me caffeine, I had a massive headache.
I left the hospital with a migraine that lasted for five days. It could have been multiple migraines overlapping; I’m unclear on that. I haven’t had a migraine for years, but this one was a doozy and impacted my cognitive functions. So while my memories were trying to resettle from the TGA, the migraine walloped me.
A week to the day later, I was almost completely recovered. I hopped on the Peloton and biked for 45 minutes, checked my email, drove to the post office and cooked dinner. There were still parts of April 1 and April 2 that I couldn’t remember, but the rest of my brain worked fine.
The only real hit has been to our bank account. Pro tip: Don’t shop online when you are recovering from amnesia because you’ll buy duplicates that you have to return. Oops! Roger that.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.