General Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

What caused this memory loss?

Asked by Dutchess_III (26647 points ) December 21st, 2012

As some of you know, I spent most of November in the hospital recovering from a collapsed lung. I don’t remember any of it, except the last day when I finally started feeling coherent again. Don’t remember going to the local hospital, don’t remember the frantic ambulance ride to Wichita, don’t remember anything. Well, when I finally came to, I told Rick that I felt like I’d lost 4 months of my life. I couldn’t remember the week before I went in…I couldn’t remember the entire month of October! Apparently, for example, I had put a big dent in our new truck, turning too sharply…and I don’t remember doing it. In fact, it finally hit me that I don’t really remember anything from July on! I was working, I was taking pictures and videos of the kids…just doing normal things. But I don’t remember.
The doctor told Rick that I had been a very sick girl for at least the last 4 months…..
I had 280 pictures and videos in my camera, which I just downloaded today. There were scenes from summer, pictures that I had taken, and I had to ask Rick where we were and what we were doing. In particular, there was a family get together and someone had erected a KU sun canopy. That got me up off my seat to talk to Rick! I hate KU! Turns out….it was OUR canopy! His daughter had given in to him. I’m looking at him with slitted eyes and he said he TOLD his daughter I was going to kill him! He said she told him we could just paint over the Jayhawks…and a glimmer of a memory came through. I had some serious plans for those damn Jayhawks….but I couldn’t remember what they were….
What happened to me, Doctor Fluther?

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29 Answers

Shippy's avatar

I am sorry to hear you went through this, and I am glad you are better. Where you in a coma at any point? Or not conscious? During these events we can lose memory around the time it occurred. I know it must seem strange and scary, but you sound great now :). That is the main thing. I am no expert by the way. But I know others who have been in coma like state or severely ill who lost memories around the event, and proceeding it.

marinelife's avatar

I think your doctor explained it. You were quite ill during the period that you don’t remember.

zenvelo's avatar

When your doctor said you had been “quite ill”, did he give any reason why he thought that? What prompted you to get checked that discovered the collapsed lung?

I wonder if your brain was not getting enough oxygen.

FutureMemory's avatar

Alien abduction?

wundayatta's avatar

This is the first I’ve heard of such a phenomenon. I suppose if you were very sick, it could affect your memory. My guess is that somehow your brain chemistry was affected. Were you taking meds the whole time? Was there a time when you were sick but didn’t know it?

I would guess that the culprit is most likely some medication. It could also be a change in brain chemistry. But I really don’t know what it is for sure.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No meds during the months preceding the hospitalization. Except maybe beer. :)

@zenvelo Well, he told Rick I was sick for months. My right lung was 80% full of crap. Maybe that’s why. Maybe it takes a long time for it to fill up like that. Well, in the week before I went in, I was ill enough that Rick took me to our local hospital because something was wrong (I don’t remember
.) They took X-rays and….said I had “bronchitis.” Pat on the head and a bottle of meds and they sent me home. Well, Rick was scheduled to go out of town for a week, beginning the very next day. So he went. I don’t remember that week. I do know that I called in sick to work every day, but I can’t remember how I felt. Apparently I stayed in bed all week. At some point I took myself in to our family doctor complaining of paid. He said I had a pulled muscle. Sent me home. Rick got home the following Sat. night. Sunday morning he took one look at me and said “Holy shit!” and took me straight to the hospital in the neighboring town. They took X-rays, and said, “Holy shit!” and packed me into an ambulance bound for Wichita. Those are the immediate events leading up to hospitalization.

@Shippy the day after my surgery I became “unresponsive.” Rick said I told the nurse that there was a buzzing that sounded like a million bees around my head…and then I went out. I was out for a week. They never called it a “coma,” just that I was “unresponsive.”

I just don’t understand how I could lose MONTHS….I don’t understand how simply being sick could cause memory loss…

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Trauma often interferes with the consolidation of short term memory into long term memory. This is a common effect and the more prolonged the effects of the trauma, the longer the period in which memory storage and thus the longer the time span for this form of amnesia. It is called Retrograde Amnesia. Look up that term for a more complete explanation.

Rarebear's avatar

This is very common in the elderly. :-)

Seriously, it’s common in people with serious illnesses, especially when they’re on pain medicines.

linguaphile's avatar

When I got H1N1 in 2010, I ended up in bed for 2 weeks. The only memory I have of that time is my daughter coming in to show me her Halloween costume.

I had complications and was sick for 11 months—for the first 6 months, I had absolutely no functioning short term memory. I’d be teaching Brit Lit and right in the middle of a lecture, I’d lose my train of thought and have to ask the students, “What was I talking about?” to pick up again. The only reason I know I taught well was because I forgot to return the graded semester final exams to the students and, few months later, I re-read them and they did a wonderful job!! I don’t even remember giving the final. That whole 6 months was horrible—

I don’t remember anything from that time period unless someone told me about it later or supported my memory with photos. So, I understand what you’re going through and I can’t explain it either. I wondered if was like what happened to people with Mono—they get so tired, sick and foggy that their brainpower doesn’t function to remember things??

I’m SO glad you’ve gotten well. Yes, being sick affects your memory—just don’t think it happens often enough for more people to have that experience (thank goodness). If you’re like me, your brainpower will pick up and be just fine with no residual effects.

(I wasn’t on medication and am not elderly… it can happen)

jerv's avatar

For things to sink into long-term memory, they have to stay in short-term memory for a while. When your body is using much of it’s energy to heal, it sometimes doesn’t bother devoting much/any energy to keeping things stored in short-term memory long enough to sink in. Sometimes not even long enough to finish a sentence.
Oxygen deprivation probably didn’t help either; low oxygen levels reduce energy levels. You were probably a bit drowsy throughout as well.

filmfann's avatar

Do you remember Sammy Jankis?

I have this problem when people call me when I am sleeping. I can talk to them coherently for 4 or 5 minutes, and later have no memory of it whatsoever. When I do wake, and find myself talking to someone on the phone, it becomes a game to me to figure out what has been said already.
It isn’t always fun. I awoke to find myself on the phone, and didn’t recognize the voice on the other end. A woman was talking to me intensely about someone in the hospital. It was 5 more minutes before I realized it was my sister-in-law, and that my brother had had a heart attack.
She was quite upset when she realized that I had not woken during the first part of our conversation. SHE knew SHE would wake up when news of a family member in the hospital was made. It doesn’t work that way with me.
I remember a friend of mine becoming very upset with me because I didn’t remember her telling me to get tickets for her and her husband to a Springsteen concert when I went to the box office the following morning. I still don’t remember that call.

Mariah's avatar

Take it from a young’un – this happened because you were sick, not because of age (if you were worried about that).

I’ve been physically ill enough to have mental changes. Not the amnesia you experienced, but I’ve also never been so acutely ill as you must have been. That is really scary, and I’m so sorry you’re feeling that chunks of your life are missing. That must be very disconcerting.

But what happened to me, as a previously fit 14 year old, was I started having a very difficult time keeping up with conversations. I had to focus all my energy and attention on people’s words, otherwise I wouldn’t grasp it and would not know how to respond. It was scary. Goes to show how the brain is just another organ and will be affected by physical illness.

augustlan's avatar

@filmfann That happens to me, too. I can sleep-talk quite convincingly on the phone, and will have no memory of it later. Pisses people off!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m not freaking old enough to have memory loss all you people, whoever you are! ..... Why do you have a bear on this site giving medical advice?!? And what the hell is an “Auggie”?? Is it short for “auger”??? You know, one of those things you put in the sewer pipes to clean them out? No wait. Those are called “snakes.” Which reminds me…our pipes were clogged up for THREE DAYS this last week, My husband went to WM and bought a wimpy little snake. Husband had no luck with his wimpy snake. He finally broke down and called a plumber. We were standing on the deck watching the plumber work with his electric snake (why is it so damn fascinating to watch plumbers work??) Anyway, I couldn’t resist. I leaned over to my husband and whispered into his ear “His snake is bigger than your snake!” Wink! :)

Seriously you guys….I feel better just talking to you about it. I’m glad that some of you have experienced the same thing. And I DO wish it was more common, because I’m sure tired of some people peering at me looking for some sign of mental retardation. I make a joke that people would have laughed at before, but the same joke now makes them look at me like I’m an idiot. The ironic thing is….I’m sure I was much more of an idiot in the months leading up to this, but no one noticed THAT!

jerv's avatar

I’ve been forgetting stuff for… I can’t remember how long.

I have certain acquaintances (mostly co-workers) that I am accustomed to think of as idiots. When I see them do something intelligent, it takes me off guard. Maybe it isn’t that they think that you are an idiot so much as perceiving a small personality change now that you are more hale and hardy.

Jeruba's avatar

Fever can do that, can’t it?—distort or prevent formation of memory?

Someone I know, who went into the hospital suddenly for heart problems and had some serious surgery, said the same thing you said: he has no memory of about 4 months and very little of 2 more. He is a retired physician, and he can’t (or doesn’t) explain it. I can’t help wondering if it’s something about the drugs they use these days.

This man had completed a book manuscript before he got sick and was looking for somebody to read it. I told him he was lucky to be able to read it now as if it were all new to him. That turned out to be true.

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Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow you guys. I keep learning bits and pieces of things that happened leading up to the hospitalization. Apparently I underwent a pretty massive personality change. My daughter said at one point she said something to me, and I just looked at her like I had no CLUE who she was. I was short tempered. I was like that for about two months before I went it….Scared the crap out of my kids….. I have a lot of people I need to apologize to. :(

Rarebear's avatar

@Dutchess_III You actually sent me one absolutely incomprehensible Facebook message the day after you had surgery. I chalked it up to the medicines.

linguaphile's avatar

@Dutchess_III Eek… that makes me uncomfortable… I’m not sure you need to apologize—explain maybe, but not apologize. I feel like apologies should be reserved for when we actually do something wrong. I don’t feel you did anything wrong—you were sick, were taken over by some virus and it was outside of your control.

Apologizing might make some others feel better, but I would not be comfortable if someone apologized to me for something they couldn’t help—my reaction would be, “No, no, it wasn’t you.”

But, now that I think about it, I apologized profusely when I had H1N1. Is it’s our cultural construct for sick people to have to apologize for being sick? Something’s wrong here.

Stay strong, and whether you apologize or not, DO NOT hold it against yourself at all!!!! HUGS!!!!!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m sorry Rarebear….wait. Just read @linguaphile post! No I’m not sorry! But…then again, I am. I’m sorry that it ever happened just like…you’re sorry when someone gets in a car wreck that was outside of their control. I’m REALLY sorry that it happened. Thanks for the hugs @linguaphile.

Rarebear….the day after the surgery was when I went “unresponsive.”....now I know it was probably because of something you said! Now YOU apologize to ME!! ;)

Rarebear's avatar

Here was your post: Name redacted.

“How cool XXXX! Col to talk about not cool to have stuck in!”

Dutchess_III's avatar

When I walked into my house for the first time coming back from the hospital, I didn’t recognize it AT ALL. But I distinctly remembering that I really liked the decor! I think I asked my husband, “Who did the decorating? It’s beautiful!”
Knowing my husband, he probably took the credit! Hey…this is the same guy who kept whispering “You love football! You love football!” on the way home! I said, “I don’t think so!!!! Bit fat liar!!”
Very interesting perspective, that. And I remember it well….

Dutchess_III's avatar

BTW, I’m thinking I’d been “discussing” some procedure with the doctors, or they had been telling me what they were getting ready to do. I probably found it interesting to talk about, not fun to have it done. I had more tubes and shit stuck in me…bleh. My side STILL hurts from the drain tube in my lungs…

glacial's avatar

@Dutchess_III “kept whispering “You love football! You love football!” on the way home!”

Hilarious. I love it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@glacial Yeah, it was funny…It wasn’t just Rick, either. ALL my kids would tell me this off the wall stuff….and then they’d laugh and laugh! “Let’s play the Mom’s Gone Insane Game!” A fun time was had by all! :) Yeah, coal in THEIR stockings this year!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah…they told me I was in the hospital for 9 years!

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