In a story mirroring that of a Hollywood movie, one morning 19-year-old Jessica Sharman’s life changed forever. What started out as a typical day quickly turned to tragedy as Jessica suffered from multiple seizures while on her way to work. Thankfully she lived through the ordeal, however, upon gaining consciousness it was quickly discovered that Jessica had no memory of who she was or who anyone around her was, including her family and boyfriend Richard Bishop.
Despite suffering from epilepsy since 2010, Jessica had never had an experience quite as extreme as this one. She had virtually no memory of anything or anyone and found herself surrounded by strangers. “I was faced with strangers claiming to be family, telling me things about myself that meant nothing to me.” The whole ordeal was scary for her and devastating to those close to her who were trying to help her remember.
Upon rushing to her side at the hospital, her mother had to show Jessica photos of the two of them together to prove who she was. Jessica did not even remember what she looked like and had to use a mirror to compare her reflection to the photos.
Her boyfriend Richard had been there when she had her seizures, holding her up during the episode and bringing her to safety when it ended. Terrified he would lose her forever, Richard decided to be there for Jessica to help her rebuild her life and start their relationship from scratch.
The doctors told Jessica she had suffered from retrograde amnesia following the seizures and that any new memories she was building could be erased during another episode. Overwhelmed by her diagnosis, Jessica wanted to end the relationship she had with Richard so she could figure out who she was, what she liked and disliked, and who her family was.
Richard couldn’t accept not being a part of her life. He decided to win her back and started slow, by taking her on a walk to their favorite park. “Rich took me to what was supposedly our favorite park but I wouldn’t even walk next to him. When he held my hand I pulled away.” Despite being upset by Jessica’s reaction, Richard wasn’t going to give up. His passion for her showed Jessica how much he cared so she decided to date him.
Over time, Jessica found herself falling back in love with Rich and the two of them continued to create new memories together despite never regaining the old ones. She has decided not to fixate on the memories she lost and to look forward to the future,”It’s hard to explain the loss I feel at essentially losing 19 years of experiences. I try not to dwell on it because that won’t get me anywhere – the same way that worrying about my memory going in the future won’t help anything.”
Today, Jessica is back to work, where she says she sometimes suffers from short-term memory loss, but continues to work through it with Rich by her side. “I feel so lucky that he knew me well enough to stand by me even when I thought of him as a stranger.