A man lost years of memories after being flung from his motorbike in a horror five-vehicle smash – and didn't even recognise his own girlfriend.
Karl Hargreaves, 49, was involved in the crash after an elderly woman fell asleep at the wheel in Lincolnshire in 2015.
He suffered huge injuries including serious brain damage and said a passing motorist and medic probably saved his life.
Scans later showed he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage and subdural haematoma, caused by bleeding on the surface of his brain.
When he woke up he saw ex-girlfriend Amy by his bedside – but didn't know who she was, reports LincolnshireLive.
Years of memories including the memory of his girlfriend, relationships and even the death of his mother had been wiped in a split second.
Karl said: "I was told that when I woke up I didn’t recognise anyone around me, not Amy, not my family.
“Eventually little snippets started to come back to me, and when I finally did remember who Amy was, I thought we were still together.
"My memories, experiences, skills and abilities, all gone. I lost so much and I had to learn to let go and move on – I didn’t have any other choice but to start again from scratch.
"Large chunks of my life were initially missing, and I was terrified that things would remain that way. All of my family relationships just didn’t exist in the same way in my mind.
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"Some of them weren’t there at all. It was as if they had been erased.
"Perhaps the hardest thing to come to terms with was that in a sense, I did die. The old Karl, everything I was, died on that road in 2015."
Over time, some of Karl’s memories have returned, but he’s still trying to fill in the gaps he’s been left with.
He said: “Early on, whenever I felt stressed and couldn’t remember things, I looked at the photos of my family and friends on the wall and that would help me to remember who I was and remind me that I was safe.
"I never regained the memories of events immediately prior to or following the accident, and I don’t think I ever will. But distant memories in my past would sometimes return.
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“I would often hear a piece of music that triggered a memory and I would associate it with what I had been doing, and suddenly another gap would be filled in. Every time it happened, it was a great comfort and helped me feel a little more connected to myself.
"I think others underestimate the impact of losing memories and how it changes how you feel about yourself and who you are."
Karl is now backing a national campaign by the brain injury association Headway, in a bid to raise awareness and increase understanding of life after brain injury.
A recent study by Headway found that 72 per cent of brain injury survivors feel that the people in their life don't understand their memory problems, with 81% reporting that their life would be improved if people had a better understanding of this complex condition.
A study released on Monday, September 28 as part of Action for Brain Injury Week 2020 found that the issue of memory loss is widely misunderstood, with more than 2,000 respondents labelling their experiences as frustrating, confusing, devastating and debilitating.
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