29-year-old Vickie Harkness from Carlisle, Cumbria shared how she forgot her wedding day and thought the year was 1860.
After a rare condition left her brain swelling, Mrs. Harkness could not remember who she was. She also forgot how to do basic tasks such as tying shoelaces and brushing her teeth.
Her symptoms started in 2016 with flu and a week of seizures. Tests revealed she had encephalitis, a life-threatening condition caused by a viral infection.
Mrs. Harkness was hospitalized for three months and her loved ones were told to prepare their goodbyes after she was placed in a temporary induced coma to alleviate pressure on her organs.
When she woke up, she felt like a ‘zombie.’ She has regained 80 percent of her memory but she still can’t remember her wedding day to her partner of 8 years, 30-year-old Shona Harkness.
“It’s so sad,” she expressed. “My friend showed me a photo – a picture of my bridesmaids and Shona’s best men – and I feel like I am starting to remember. I’m determined it will come back to me.”
Speaking about the time her problems started, Mrs. Harkness shared: “It started with fatigue and I thought I was getting the flu.
“But Shona thought I might have been depressed as I stopped laughing. Normally I find everything funny, but I stopped. It was like I couldn’t think for myself.
“I kept saying things like “I need to send a Mother’s Day card,” even though Mother’s Day had gone.
“Shona would tell me where she was going, but ten minutes later I’d phone her and ask her, “Where are you going?” I just started responding less and less.”
She then suffered seizures and the underlying cause of her symptoms baffled doctors. She was admitted to Cumberland Infirmary where doctors performed a lumbar puncture, which involved a large needle to extract fluid from the spine.
Mrs. Harkness was then diagnosed with encephalitis and transferred to Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“They don’t know what caused it – just that my body was producing too many white blood cells. I think I got it from flu and my body was trying to fight it,” Mrs. Harkness expressed.
After being admitted to hospital, her organs began to shut down. She was put in an induced coma for a week to alleviate the swelling of her brain. Her friends and family were told to prepare to say their goodbyes as she ‘probably wouldn’t be the same person.’
“At first, I couldn’t speak. It was like I’d turned into a zombie and Shona was told I’d probably need to go into a care home,” Mrs. Harkness expressed.
“It was so strange, because I knew when people were my friends and family, because of feeling something for them – but I didn’t actually know exactly who they were. I knew I loved Shona, even though I didn’t know who she was.
“I couldn’t control my body anymore, so had to use a catheter, and I would say strange things. The doctors asked me what year it was and I said 1860.”
After three months in the hospital, she was allowed to go home. “I was a really independent person and not being able to do anything for myself was awful.
“I had to keep a diary of what I’d done the day before. I would read it and realise I couldn’t remember what I’d done yesterday. That was such a weird feeling.
“I couldn’t remember anything from my childhood. It was like my memory had been erased.”
Her memories started to come back but they were not in order.
Mrs. Harkness is now raising awareness of the condition and has also been organizing a charity fun day to raise money for the hospital.
“Shona is my rock. I trust her with my life and don’t know where I’d be without her. She protected me throughout my illness and made sure I felt safe,” she expressed.
“She kept faith in me and knew I would come back because she kept getting little glimmers of me. I couldn’t ask for a better wife.”
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