“Where did all of these packages come from?” asked my wife. She pointed to a collection of shopping bags on her bed.
“Why, I haven’t the foggiest idea!” I said, playing along. She’d gotten a bit carried away shopping for our grandson’s birthday.
“No, really.” she said. “Did you go shopping today?”
“Uh, no. You went shopping today.” I said, starting to feel like something was off here.
“I didn’t go shopping today.” she snapped. “I just spent an hour or so dropping some things off at a friend’s house.”
“Honey, you just walked into the house five minutes ago carrying those bags. I watched you through the window.” I said quietly.
“No. That’s not. No, that didn’t happen.”
“We discussed it this morning. I gave you extra money specifically so you could birthday shop.” I replied.
“What money? No you didn’t! Quit messing with my head. I’m tired and don’t want to play any games.” she replied tersely. The phone rang and I went to answer it. One of my wife’s friends was calling. She told me that she was worried about my wife. That she seemed to have forgotten important things. Things like her mother passing away. Certain things she said made no sense, as if conversations between them only minutes old had not taken place. I explained that I was seeing some confusion and memory lapses myself, and thanked her for calling, promising to get back in touch later.
“That was Sally.” I said. “She’s concerned about you.”
“Sally? My Sally? My former sister in law?”
“That would be Sally, yes.” I said.
“What did she want? I haven’t spoken to her in ages. And how come she called you?”
“Honey, you had lunch with her today. You left Kohl’s at noon and then went by Sally’s house for lunch and stayed for almost three hours.” I told her.
“What are you talking about? I haven’t had lunch yet. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. And I certainly haven’t been shopping.” said my wife. She was getting angry.
“Sally says you came to her house from Kohl’s and you showed her some clothes you bought.”
“I haven’t been to Kohl’s!” she snapped. I reached over to the pile of bags and pawed through them. I came up with a receipt and showed it to her. It was for the purchase of a few clothing items, bought with her charge card. “I don’t understand.” said my wife. “That’s just all wrong.”
There are a number of different things that can affect memory. A temporary ischemic attack, a mini-stroke, is not uncommon and results from temporary blood blockages to areas of the brain. Thus,a mini stroke. It may be due to clots or plaque moving through the bloodstream until they lodge, temporarily, in the brain. A TIA incident might last a few minutes and leaves no real evidence for diagnosis. They tend to reoccur and should be considered as a warning of a possible full stroke –which can be derailed with appropriate care through medical and lifestyle preparations. A transient global amnesia attack is another memory affect. Often triggered by stress or high emotional trauma, they can last as long as eight hours or more. These, unlike the TIA are not life threatening and only rarely reoccur. However, they are a warning that something is not right emotionally and steps should be taken to relieve the emotional stressors that precipitated the event. While the short lived TIA might be seen as just forgetting a detail here and there, the trans global amnesia attack obliterates the short term memory. Ongoing conversation can be repetitive because the victim literally forgets what he or she heard and spoke about just moments before. They maintain self recognition and can identify close friends and family members, but large life events, even the death of a family member can be forgotten. It’s a very disconcerting situation for people close to the victim who recognize that something is terribly wrong, but cannot convey this to the victim. As soon as they begin to understand, they’ve forgotten the combining elements it took to make them understand that something is wrong. They will become agitated and can have a sense that things are somehow “off,” and sometimes have a sense of doom. In a lot of cases, some particular phrase will be repeated and wound into conversations. Oddly, the victim will show no outward signs, no physical manifestations, save a spike in blood pressure. They will cogitate normally and be somewhat their normal selves, only with a very patchwork set of memories of the past. They may be confused about time and date, the memory lapses making them think less time has passed than actually has in the day, and they may be confused as to the date and year. As the attack comes to an end, the victim will remember more and more and “rejoin” the reality stream. No remaining ill effects will be present when the incident has run its course. In fact, family and, or, close friends who witnessed the victim’s attack are likely to be more adversely affected and fearful than the victim.
There is also early onset Alzheimer’s. Most everyone knows how this goes with victims. They start by forgetting little details, a similar appearance to TIA, and gradually work up to conditions similar to TGA, except they don’t wear off like with TGA incidents. They continue and worsen to their eventual sad conclusion.
Memory affectation in a loved one is at least disconcerting. But it is most recognizable to spouses or other people close to the victim. If someone is showing a heightened incidence of forgetting small details, they should be steered to a medical checkup in which the doctor is apprised of the concerns. If they are TIA based, the involvement of medical help can save their lives or defray a serious and life threatening stroke. Medical help should be summoned immediately for someone showing TGA indications. It could be a stroke, or it could help identify an emotionally troubling situation for the victim. In no case should the appearance of memory issues be shrugged off, even at the insistence of the victim.
My wife is fine, by the way.