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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The problem with losing your memory

Mum had a bit of a health scare last week. On Thursday evening around 7.30pm I received a phone call from the nursing home telling me that mum had fallen and bumped her head but that she didn't remember anything about it. There was no bleeding, just a painful bump on the back, right side, upper hemisphere, of her scalp. The nursing home has a policy of always calling the next of kin when the resident has a fall. (It was the same with dad's nursing home on the Coast; they always called us when dad had a fall.)

There was nothing I could do immediately and she was able to speak still, and walk, so I left it there and made a mental note to go up again at the earliest opportunity. When I saw mum again yesterday she looked ok, as she had done on Friday when I had gone up, and she seemed fit and healthy still despite the fall.

There are some things that mum remembers faithfully. For example, she remembers that my flatmate had moved out. That's probably because my flatmate had been a friend for years and because the arrangement where she lived in the apartment was a complicated one, and one which had not been entirely successful from my point of view. But the fall that occasioned the bump on her head is something that evades the grasp of her memory like a flash of lightning, perhaps, or a sudden spark of light as when a car in the distance goes around a corner and the sun glances off its windscreen in your direction. Something so quick is not sticky enough to stay put in the memory whereas something repeated over and over again, such as my tales of my flatmate, seem to have left a mark there.

Overall mum's health is otherwise fairly good apart from the wretched urinary tract infections (UTIs). She has had three of them so far this cold season, and they knock her "flat out", as they say. When a UTI strikes mum cannot walk and has a lot of difficulty responding verbally to conversational cues. It is a debilitating illness that is however thankfully quickly countered by a short course of antibiotics. Unlike with most illnesses that can be treated with this class of drug, UTIs respond immediately, and the effects of the pills can easily be seen even the next day, they work so quickly.

The UTIs can probably be ascribed to a weakened immune system resulting from the cortisone treatment mum is having for the underlying myelodysplastic syndrome that she lives with. The haematologist has wanted to lift her platelet count and so prescribed the drug but it has a concomitant effect of weakening the immune system generally.

I went up to see mum on three consecutive days last week partly because of the head bump. This week I won't be able to go up to see her again until Thursday because of other appointments.

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