It’s Friday afternoon, and that means clinic. It’s 1 p.m., and that means I’m walking to get Samantha from the waiting room for our therapy session. I take a deep breath before I open the door, and find myself looking forward to our session.
“Hello, Samantha,” I say, “I’m Dr. Hufford. Come on back.”
I always reserve the same room for our work, hoping that it will help her to remember that we’ve met before. Samantha and I have met many times before, but for her, every session is like meeting again for the first time. She is stuck in an unrelenting present, experiencing life about an hour at a time, before her anterograde amnesia — an inability to remember new events — sweeps the memories away, floating just out of her reach.
“Cognitive difficulties” is the way that her medical record describes it. A more sterile understatement is difficult to imagine. Samantha remembers everything from before about 15 years ago. She remembers going to college, having friends and ambitions, and falling in love. But her description of the accident is distant and clinical; a factual recitation of what she has been told happened. In a casual conversation you might not realize that you were talking to someone who would, only hours later, have no recollection of ever meeting you.