It’s a scorching day in South Australia, and Wayne Meyers has passed out on the side of the road. Whisked to hospital, he wakes up in an unfamiliar room. Moreover, when his wife arrives to comfort him, the whole family is in for a terrible shock.
Before the accident, Meyers had lived a normal life. He grew up in Lewiston, a rural area of South Australia, around 30 miles north of the city of Adelaide. In 1994 he met the love of his life, Sharleen, and the pair went on to have a son together the following year.
Soon, three more children – two sons and a daughter – followed. Then, in 2004 Wayne and Sharleen decided to take the next step in their relationship. With their family around them, the couple tied the knot. Moreover, for the next five years they enjoyed a happy marriage.
Then, one day in 2009 everything changed. Wayne was working as a forklift driver in searing 46 °F heat. After his shift ended, as usual he got into his car and drove away. Although he doesn’t remember what happened next, it’s likely that he felt ill and stopped his vehicle to take a break.
Sometime later, Wayne was discovered unconscious in his vehicle with severe heat stroke. Apparently, he had mistakenly switched on the fan instead of the air conditioning in his vehicle, further exacerbating his dehydration.
As soon as she found out about her husband’s condition, Sharleen rushed to the hospital to see him. However, when she got there, she found him surrounded by medical staff and his responses were vague. Little did she know that Wayne was in the middle of a terrifying revelation.
In fact, Wayne had absolutely no idea who Sharleen was. Moreover, he could barely recognize the world around him. Incredibly, he was suffering from retrograde amnesia and could remember nothing about his life before 1989, back when he was just a teenager.
Retrograde amnesia can affect patients in a number of ways, causing memory loss that can be temporary or permanent. Typically, it is caused by some kind of traumatic injury to the brain, although there are other factors that can lead to the condition.
Neurologically, retrograde amnesia tends to affect autobiographical, episodic and declarative memories. In other words, those memories that allow us to recall the events of our lives. Interestingly, it rarely affects procedural memory, meaning that sufferers are often still able to function and communicate as normal.
Sometimes, conditions such as dehydration can also lead to retrograde amnesia. In Wayne’s case, his heat stroke affected the chemical balance in his brain and ultimately caused severe memory loss. Tragically, he had no recollection of Sharleen, his four children or the life that they had built together.
Luckily, a former classmate of Wayne’s happened to work in the hospital where he was being treated. As Wayne struggled to make sense of his situation, she began to explain what had happened over the last 20 years. Most important, of course, was the fact that he now had a wife and kids.
Days later, when Sharleen returned to the hospital, she was in for a shock. According to the Australian lifestyle website Kidspot, Wayne’s first words to her revealed the heartbreaking truth. “So, I’m told you are my wife?” he is reported to have said.
Although Sharleen was no less devoted to the man who she’d loved for 15 years, she had to come to terms with the fact that she was now a stranger in his eyes. In fact, it took a conversation with his mother to convince Wayne that his wife could be entrusted with his care.
Yet despite the shock, Sharleen was convinced that Wayne’s memories would soon return. However, as the days passed, he was no closer to recalling anything about their life together. As a result, Sharleen resorted to showing her husband photo albums from their past. “The more we did, the more I realized he remembered nothing,” she subsequently told the Daily Mail.
Although Wayne was soon discharged from hospital, the challenges for him and his family were just beginning. At first, he was amazed by the changes he saw around him. From his 2003 Holden Commodore car to the technology in their family home, Wayne couldn’t remember any of the innovations we now take for granted.
“A lot of things have changed,” he told the Daily Mail. “I couldn’t figure out how our flat screen TV was working. The last thing I remember were the old tube TVs.” Moreover, it wasn’t just with technology that Wayne was stuck in the past. He also needed to catch up on 20 years’ worth of current events.
Hoping to bring their father up to date, Wayne’s four children – aged 10, 12, 14 and 15 at the time of his accident – began using YouTube videos to educate him. From the bombings that devastated Bali in 2002 to the September 11 terrorist attack, the world was very different to the one that Wayne remembered.
In fact, Wayne didn’t even know who the current prime minister of Australia was. When asked, he named Bob Hawke – the man who held the office from 1983 to 1991. Eventually, his children had to use Google to demonstrate to Wayne that Hawke was no longer in charge.
Still, despite his memory loss, Wayne has adapted surprisingly well to family life. Moreover, according to Sharleen, he is still the same man. “The kids still saw him as dad,” she told Kidspot. “When he did speak to them he was the same person.” Finally, three months after his accident, Wayne was able to tell his wife that he loved her once more.
In 2014 – exactly 20 years after Sharleen and Wayne first met – the couple tied the knot for the second time. Today, Wayne’s memories have still not returned, and although Sharleen mourns the loss of their shared recollections, she is focused on what lies ahead. “The only way we can cope is going on with the life,” she told Kidspot, “and making new memories.”