Monday, April 26, 2010

Medical Mondays: Head-banging and Amnesia



Our question today comes from Lisa and Laura who ask:
We have a question about short term memory loss. Is it possible that someone in a traumatic car accident with a concussion but no other injuries would end up short term memory loss where they can't remember the week leading up to the accident?


"Concussion" and "Mild traumatic brain injury" is what's thrown around in the medical world. From here on out, I'm using different terms, because these aren't nearly as interesting.

After the trauma, many can have problems with dizziness, headaches, irritability, anxiety and attention problems. As for amnesia? It can happen in both directions.

Retrograde amnesia is when you cannot remember what happened before the trauma. Sometimes these memories can eventually be remembered.

Anterograde amnesia is when you cannot remember events that occur after the event, like the hospital visit or conversations just after the event. These memories usually can't be recalled later because the injured brain can't "encode" the new events into the memory.

The worse the head injury and the longer the time the person spends unconconcious, the longer the amount of memory lost. So for someone to forget an entire week prior to the event, that person must have hurt their head so badly they were unconscious for about 24 hours.

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at


I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

28 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Interesting. Memory questions always remind me of that disturbingly wonderful film Memento.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love your medical posts. And the pics are always too cute. :D (hmmm. can anything really be too cute?)

MissV said...

I'm partial to the cranium-clobber terminology!

I like to refer to writer's block as Cranial Constipation!

Jaydee Morgan said...

Actually, this is all really good to know. Thanks for sharing! - and the terminologies made me laugh :)

JustineDell said...

Yes! Very good to know. I wrote a short story about a girl with amnesia and when my beta read it, so had to point out the problem with my character waking from the comma (medically, that is). It's always good to know about a topic before you incorporate it into your story. Thanks!

~JD

B.E. Sanderson said...

ROFL... love your terms for TBI. As a survivor, it's nice to see someone not tip-toeing around the subject. Thanks, Lydia. =o)

Personally, I lost 11 days before the accident and 17 days after - along with various long term and short term memory loss. Even though mine was an atypical case - and I'm in no way a medical professional - I'd happy be answer any short questions. Just shoot me an e-mail. =o)

People can also find some information at the website for the Brain Injury Association of America (http://www.biausa.org/).

Sorry for hijacking, but I'd love to see TBI portrayed more accurately in fiction, so any chance I get to help fellow writers do so, I'm there.

Lydia Kang said...

Hey B.E.,
Thanks so much for your comment. What an incredible experience you had, and it's so generous of you to volunteer first-hand information. The web link is great too.
No problems hijacking, the more discussion the better and we can all learn! And I'm glad my light tone didn't put you off.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a real expert in the room...

Lydia Kang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lbdiamond said...

Okay, LOVE the "technical terms!" :D

Brain sloshing...hmmmm, not sure that works, LOL!

Talli Roland said...

Thanks Lydia! Loving your Medical Mondays.

Kirsten Lesko said...

I love it that you take requests. Great idea!

Cynthia Reese said...

Interesting post indeed!

I wound up going through a windshield in 1991 (always wear a seatbelt, and this won't happen to you!), and I still don't recall very much of the day in question or a few days afterward.

Another interesting bit: apparently I was EXTREMELY entertaining to the helicopter ambulance folks while they were flying me to the trauma center. They gifted me with not one, but TWO T-shirts, and kept commenting, "Wow. You sure are DIFFERENT today."

Lisa and Laura said...

This is fascinating, entertaining, and SO helpful! Thanks Lydia! And B.E., you sound a lot like our main character! Thank you so much for offering to chat--we might have to take you up on that because we want to make sure we get it right! Thanks again everyone!

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Okay, those terms have to be the best descriptions for concussion I have ever heard. LOL.

As someone who has actually experienced a form of short term memory loss I'll add, waking up and not being able to remember where you are or what happened or how old you are is one of the most terrifying things in the world. :/

Sandy Shin said...

I've read so many amnesia fics and novels, and it's so interesting to see them laid out and explained here. Thank you so much! :D

Tina Laurel Lee said...

I am a new follower. I also find the medical post so interesting. Such a fun way to approach fiction. And the fun with new names for concussion isn't bad either.

Ee Leen Lee said...

thanks Lydia
I always knew it was more complex than a mere tap on the noggin'.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Wow, interesting. Always good to know in case I want to inflict this on any character in future:)

Jana Hutcheson said...

Interesting! This makes me want to think of some plot twist where one of my characters gets amnesia. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Really interesting stuff! I remember everything from my concussion. My son doesn't remember anything for about 10 minutes after his and the event itself. Thankfully we're both okay though :)

Danyelle said...

I love your words!

If one was unconscious for 24 hours, would there be other problems along with memory loss?

Lola Sharp said...

Love your clever TBI terms!

I also love that you generously share your expertise with us. :o)

Love,
Lola

Jen said...

I've done all my research on the subject and I'm glad to see it wasn't a total waste or lie. I found the same information you just shared *Whew*

I had one point thought I'd write a book about a girl with a head injury so I played out my options, eventually learning that I didn't like my story. LOL

B.E. Sanderson said...

Lisa and Laura: feel free to contact me any time. My email's available through my user profile. =o)

Lydia Kang said...

Hey Danyelle,
Yes. Other symptoms include, irritability, chronic headaches, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, among other problems.
Thanks for commenting!

Lisa and Laura said...

Lydia, We shared your blog with the students in our writing class. There is a woman working on a medical thriller, so I'm guessing you're going to have a LOT of questions for your Medical Mondays.

Lydia Kang said...

Hey Lisa and Laura,
Thanks for spreading the word! I'm happy to help!

SAMUEL PARK said...

This is fascinating. I thought the amnesia was purely fiction--glad to know it has some basis in reality, however slim. Another great post as always!

 
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