Jessica Sharman, 19, was on the subway headed for work when she suffered a string of massive seizures. When she came to, she couldn’t remember her family, friends, or even her own name. Her boyfriend, 25-year-old Rich Bishop, was now “a complete stranger.”
Jessica, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010, had bouts of amnesia following seizures before. But never like this. “My world fell apart that day,” she said. “I saw this woman running towards me I had no idea who she was. It was my mum – and I just stared at her blankly.” Her parents had to show her photos of the family together to convince her to so much as get into a car with them. Jessica looked in the mirror first to be sure it was her in the photos. “Sensing my fear, Mum put a reassuring hand on my knee, I shrugged her off,” she said. “The gesture felt too intimate from a stranger.”
Even more frightening for Jessica was rekindling her relationship with Rich. She said, “They left me alone with him and I hated it. He was a stranger to me. 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.”
It got to the point where Jessica wanted to break things off with Rich. Two weeks after her seizure, she told him it was over. “I saw no way it could work. To me, he was still a virtual stranger. He was devastated and adamant we could get back what we had. Seeing how passionate he was convinced me that he must care for me, so I agreed to date him, but made no promises.” But Rich was determined to make things as they were. With a patient heart and a genuine love for his woman, he eventually managed to win her back.
It’s been almost a year since Jessica’s horrific seizure, and she still doesn’t remember a thing from the 19 years of life leading up to it. Doctors say there’s a good chance she never will. They also say there’s a 50 percent chance she’ll have her memory wiped all over again in 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.” “But I have recovered a life for myself with the help of my family and, of course, Rich.” The couple is now focused on making new memories together. And if Jessica does have another memory-clearing seizure, there will be a boy she doesn’t know holding her hand in a park she can’t remember, reminding her of a love he won’t let her forget.