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Losing time: amnesia survivor tells her story

Megan Brown shares what it's like to have amnesia. She knows: when she was 16, she lost almost three years of her life after a seizure.

Audio Story Music Attribution

The music appearing in the audio story was created by Kevin McCleod, entitled Whisps of Whorls
Mr. McCleod allows his music to be openly used under the Creative Common's license at

Megan Brown, traveling in Europe after her memory loss

Megan Brown, traveling in Europe after her memory loss /Tom Brown of Northern Exposures Photography

Megan Brown in her Grand Rapids apartment

Megan Brown in her Grand Rapids apartment /Russ Pontius

Megan Brown with Wilhemina Witt

Megan Brown with Wilhemina Witt /Tom Brown of Northern Exposures Photography

“We decided that I lost patchily about three years. It happened in my sophomore year of high school,” says Megan Brown, a 20-year-old woman who has experienced something most people will not: retrograde amnesia as a result of seizures

Brown first experienced seizures when she was 5 years old. The doctors believed that with time she would grow out of them but that didn't happen. When Megan was 16 she had a grand mal seizure that wiped out almost three years of her memory.

“I remember random bits and pieces of different things,” Brown says, “If someone tells me a story, I’m like, I think I remember that. It sounds like that might have been my life.”

Pepper and Tom Brown, Megan’s parents, say that watching this happen to their daughter was awful. Megan has what her mother describes as rolling seizures, meaning they come in waves one after the other and only stop with medical assistance. After the big seizure, Pepper Brown says it became apparent that something was wrong with Megan.

“She was like, where am I? Where am I?” says Pepper Brown, “Of course, she knew who I was and who Tom was, but she didn’t know how old she was, where she was, if she had a boyfriend. We’d tell her the answers, and then it was like she turned her face the other way and when she looked back at us, she’d say ‘Where am I?’”

This kind of amnesia is called Transient Global Amnesia (TGA), and though rare, it most often occurs after a stroke or seizure. TGA severely reduces short term memory, keeping sufferer’s trapped in a mental loop where they can’t retain short term memory. Megan regained the ability to make new memories, but she found a major portion of her old ones had vanished. Friends she had met in the last few years were strangers. She didn’t know her boyfriend and couldn’t remember her 8th grade trip to Chicago. Most of what she learned in school was gone.

“It was really hard. I had to do so much extra work to keep up with everyone else. Math was really hard. If you can’t remember Algebra 1,” says Megan Brown, “you can’t really do Algebra 2.”

Megan fought through the rest of high school and a year of college before moving to Grand Rapids to study massage therapy at Blue Heron Academy. Originally she wanted to be a teacher. College level coursework proved too difficult as the seizure had affected her attention span and memory retention.

“College was even hard for me. It was higher level classes and I have a hard time with my attention span,” Megan Brown says. “I decided in a day. I started crying in the middle of my final exam. I called my mom when I got out and told her I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore and I wanted to do massage. And three months later I was down here.”

Amnesia affects very few people, but Megan Brown can attest to its reality. She takes her traumatic experience in stride. Megan's mission now is to make her life memorable, hoping that if it is, she will not forget again.

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