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Casual dental checkup left him with just 90-minute memory forever

March 14, 2005 was a normal day for William who was scheduled to visit his dentist for a root canal surgery after hitting the gym in the morning and going to office.

A member of the British Armed Forces at that time, he returned to Germany only the previous night after attending his grandfather’s funeral. However, something unusual happened while he sat on the chair in the dentist’s cabin to undergo the surgery.

[SEE: Movie Characters and William’s Story]

His mind has frozen at that moment – 13.40 hours, and since then he has been waking up for the past ten years thinking it’s the day of dental checkup. He cannot remember anything more than 90-minutes, not even where he’s living now, reports a new case study, reminiscent of Aamir Khan’s plight in the film “Ghajini”.


Photo Credit: Walter Siegmund

Media has been widely terming this case to be the real-life version of the reel-lives such as Memento and Groundhog Day.

After the surgery, when asked to remove his glasses, 38-year-old William; also known as WO looked feeble, had a sluggish speech and toiled to stand up. That was when; the dentist realized something might be wrong with him.

When a three-day stay in the hospital and the doctors’ inability to gather evidence that William might have suffered a brain haemorrhage due to poor reaction to the anaesthesia, turned out to be futile; he and his wife along with their two children moved back to England.

William was suggested to visit Dr. Gerald Burgess who is a clinical psychologist in Leicester. Burgess along with Bhanu Chadalavada, a consultant psychiatrist at Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust wrote a research paper on William.

Burgess said that one of the reasons why he and his team chose to make William’s story public was that they have “never seen anything like this before.” He added that they didn’t know “what to make of it, but felt an honest reporting of the facts” as they evaluated them was permitted, thinking there might be other cases or people who know more than them on what caused William to develop amnesia.

Within a month after William developed short-term memory, it was noticed that his memory span has increased from 10-minutes to 90-minutes. It was then that he was regarded to have any brain injury, but his normal MRI and CT scans proved the thought wrong.

It is believed by Burgees that the WO’s condition may have a relation with his nervous system. While the experience is being saved in the brain, new protein formation takes place in order to reshape these networks. If anything interrupts this critical protein formation process, the human brain becomes susceptible to amnesia and other syndromes.

William remembers everything that happened before March 14, 2005. When he went back to England with his wife and children, he surprisingly recognized the house, the surroundings and the neigbours. However, he has to be reminded of any incident that happened after that day and is happening now, via an electronic diary maintained by his wife.

He has noted down his children’s current educational status and accomplishments as well as his wife’s new job. He drives himself to office meetings using satellite navigation system and knowledge of the roads that he travelled on before March 14, 2005. If he is objected to refer his electronic calendar, clock or appointment letter when an office meeting lasted more than 90 minutes then he became totally perplexed.

It is thought by Burgess that William’s condition might have an association with his nervous system. Although the experience is being kept it the brain, new protein production occurs to reshape these networks. Should anything interject this crucial protein formation process, the human brain becomes vulnerable to amnesia and other syndromes.

He backed up this thought by saying in the report that William’s 90-minute memory span is exactly the time protein production consumes.

The study says that every morning William “is surprised to wake up in his mother’s house,” because he still believes he should be “in the military, stationed abroad,” and “Every day he thinks it is the day of the dental appointment.”

According to BBC News, his wife said that she has to remind him “for the thousandth time” every time they speak that his daughter is now 21 and his son is 18.

“I want to walk my daughter down the aisle and remember it. Should they become parents, I would like to remember that I have grandchildren, and who they are,” William said in the same report. The study was published in the journal Neurocase.

This incident reminds not only of the movies mentioned above, but also of other famous movies like “50 First Dates,” “The Notebook,” and “The Vow.”

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