Dory the fish from Disney’s Finding Nemo suffered from short-term memory problems, forgetting everything that happened to her a few hours ago.
The same thing happened in 2015 to a German man named Daniel Schmidt after he was involved in an accident and suffered many injuries, including a head injury.
He underwent intensive physical therapy and speech therapist sessions to regain his ability to speak, but the only thing he was unable to regain was his memory.
With a level 3 head injury, Schmidt was unable to transfer short-term memories to long-term memories, which means that whenever he goes to bed at night, he forgets everything that happened to him that day.
He forgot the people he met, the places he visited, all his actions.
“I was going to visit my sister the day I got in the car on the freeway. There was a traffic jam and I was the last one to join it. I was sitting there, and then a car pulled up behind me – it was a big seven-seater car with a young family inside, and her driver did not notice the traffic jam at all.
“He crashed into me at over 80 miles per hour. The entire highway was then closed. I had a lot of injuries, but they weren’t too serious. I was airlifted to the hospital. I suffered a severe head injury – they call it third-degree TBI,” Schmidt says.
Daniel Schmidt survived an accident that experts say could easily have been fatal for him, but that day he lost what many of us take for granted – his memories.
Even after Daniel regained control of his body and learned to speak again, he was unable to return to his old life. He could not even remember his old friends and did not feel connected with them, and even his relationship with the then girlfriend became very difficult.
“I had to contact her no later than three days later. I needed to hear her voice, we needed to communicate and see each other, otherwise I would forget her, and when I saw her again, it would be like the first time for me. ”
Daniel now maintains to-do lists that he does every day to make sure he remembers them the next day, but in order to form any long-term memories of them, he needs to repeat them daily for a longer period of time.
“If we met two days in a row, Daniel might remember us. But if we came two weeks later, he would never have recognized us,” says Nadine Niemann, filmmaker who made a documentary about Daniel Schmidt and his unusual problem with memory.
“But we took precautions. I always talked to him the day before filming. He could remember voices and he had our picture in his kitchen.”
Daniel and his girlfriend now have a child in common – a boy and one of the things he regrets the most is that he completely forgot when he had his birthday. It’s one of the things he’s learned to live with, but he admits that some days are harder than others and that he struggles with depression from time to time.
Daniel Schmidt’s case is similar to the script for the classic romantic comedy “50 First Dates” starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, only his story is far from romantic.
In the end, he and his girlfriend Katerina broke up, but they still see each other quite often, as Daniel is still involved in his son’s life. While Daniel hopes to one day regain his ability to recycle short-term memories into long-term memories, the prognosis is not very encouraging. He is now committed to helping other people with similar conditions overcome disability.