Woman who had memory wiped by rare brain infection needs daily diary to remind her to eat and wash
In 2015, after complaining for years about terrible headaches, Clair Bennett collapsed and suffered a near-fatal brain infection. It turned out that she'd developed encephalitis, a serious brain inflammation, and as a result, her memory has been left ravaged.
Now, doctors say that the computer analyst's brain was 'wiped' as a result of the infection, and her powers of recall have been affected so badly that she now relies on a daily diary to remind her to perform basic day-to-day functions, such as drinking, eating and showering.
Clair, who is 29, and hails from Kent in England, is now cared for by her 60-year-old father David.
On one memorable occasion during a family vacation, Clair asked him 48 times in the space of a 90-minute journey if he had her passport. Routine and repetition are what helps her through the day, and ticking off her daily tasks in her diary ensures that she doesn't go hungry or neglect herself.
Commenting on his daughter's situation in a recent interview, Clair's father David stated: "Clair is so positive and always smiling, but she couldn’t dwell on the negatives even if she wanted to, as she forgets them. As a family, we do all consider ourselves lucky when you see how encephalitis impacts some people, but her short term memory has been hugely affected."
He added: "Now, she forgets things within a few minutes. For example, if you tell her a number and ask her to repeat it 10 minutes later, it won’t be that she can’t quite recall it – she’ll have no recollection of ever being told it."
Commenting on the day that Clair ended up in hospital, David stated: "They told my wife Penny – Clair’s mum – and I to go home and get some rest, as she’d be in intensive care overnight. The next morning, we came back and she was awake but very disorientated. She kept asking if we had missed Christmas and then, when I asked if she knew who we were, she said no. As a dad, that still makes me emotional – for your own daughter not to recognise you."
"She needs to be able to physically tick things off to remind her she’s done them, or she’ll have no idea. For example, she still loves cooking, but she has to follow recipes with a tick list, otherwise, she’ll forget she has already finished a step, and start peeling a load of potatoes or prepping veg again. She can very easily get disorientated in new places, too."
Clair has asked Mark to speak out on her behalf for World Encephalitis Day 2019 on February 22. To learn more about this event, visit the official homepage of the Encephalitis Society.