March Blog: Amnesia (Retrograde and Anterograde)

In the summer of 1994, my papa (JD) was involved in a accident with an 18-wheeler on the High Rise Bridge (I-64) in Chesapeake, Va. He was driving his truck carrying fruit to go to the farmers market. While in the middle of the bridge he was rear ended by an 18-wheeler truck. This accident caused him to have a lot of damage to multiple parts of his brain and causing him to have seizures for the rest of his life. Growing up I had a sister, Caitlin, who was born BEFORE his accident and I was born AFTER the accident in 1995.

Amnesia is the disruption of memory due to brain damage, as our Professor stated in class. There is Retrograde is the loss of memory from before the disruption, and then Anterograde which is the inability to form new long-term memories. I was not aware that an individual could have both Retrograde and Anterograde until i discussed this with the Professor.

Papa JD was an example of someone who had both! An example of Retrograde was after his accident he thought he delivered the fruit and did not know that he was in an accident. All JD remembered was that he was driving on the High Rise Bridge in his truck going to deliver fruit. He had a loss of memory of what happened before the accident. Papa JD was also an example of Anterograde when he would look at me and call me Caitlin. Since i was born AFTER his accident and my sister Caitlin was born BEFORE, he was not fully able to make new memories that i was his new granddaughter Rebecca, the inability to form long-term memories.

Here is a picture of the High Rise Bridge in Chesapeake, Va.

The High Rise Bridge - photograph

8 thoughts on “March Blog: Amnesia (Retrograde and Anterograde)

  1. ldanby

    That’s so unfortunate that that happened to your grandpa! 🙁
    But I do find it really interesting to know that it is possible for someone to experience both types of amnesia! (Although, I can only imagine how annoying and confusing it must have been for him and for your family). I also think that its interesting that he actually believed that he had delivered the fruit to the market. I always assumed that either the events surrounding the accident would either be completely blank to him or that the events felt more like they had flowed right through the accident, so to speak. But I think it is intriguing that in his mind everything had gone like it was supposed to and that he woke up not knowing anything had happened.

  2. abolen

    This was a very interesting post to read about. I am truly sorry about the event that your grandfather went through, eighteen-wheelers and bridges can bring out some unfortunate outcomes. I think the examples and connections that you shared give accurate representations of the difference between retrograde and anterograde amnesia. In my biological psychology class we recently had a discussion of amnesia as well. I remember learning that damage to the frontal and temporal lobes, the limbic system, and some parts of the brain stem can lead to amnesia. This post is a great example of just how quickly damage to parts of the brain can dramatically change a persons life. I think that it is also important to remember that it can be difficult for family members to learn how to adjust after a loved one experiences a traumatic brain injury as well. Thank you for sharing this personal story, great job on your post.

  3. jesseboles

    I am truly sorry about your grandfather, however this made an extremely interesting blog post. I have always heard about different types of amnesia, but I never heard a story of it affecting someone around me directly. This unfortunate event really emphasizes just how quickly damage to the brain can occur and how in a instant one’s life can completely change for the worse. Thank you for sharing this story and I am sorry again for this awful event happening.

  4. mshifflett4

    This is a very sad story and I’m sorry this happened in your family!! However, this is very relevant to the information we have been covering in class! It is a good example of how the different types of amnesia can affect someone’s life. I find it really interesting that he was not able to remember parts of his life that include you in it. It is very sad, yet also crazy that someone’s brain can be affected so quickly and severely. This is a good story to share, because it really shows how amnesia can impact people’s lives.

  5. ewhitese

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandpa. However, that was super interesting to read about! We have a family friend that has a parent with anterograde amnesia so I can relate to that portion of your post. It’s interesting to me to talk with him and really eye opening because I have to repeat myself continuously. Except I had no idea that it was possible to have both retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia in the same person.

  6. Natalie Johns

    I’m so sorry about your grandfather’s accident! However, it’s super interesting to hear someone’s personal story about an uncommon and medically interesting disorder, especially a disorder we talk about extensively in class. I also had no idea you could have both. Was he able to form the memory that you’re Rebecca over time? I remember learning that eventually after lots of repetition, someone with antrograde amnesia can form long-term memories. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  7. Autumn Trower

    That’s so interesting (also unfortunate) that he had both retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Also, your examples really helped me distinguish and actually remember the two, so thank you. I’m wondering now if there are any studies which specify if there is a difference in brain function and processing when one has both vs either or. Or is it merely the same all around. Is your grandpa better at telling you and your sister apart now?

  8. linnis

    While an extremely unfortunate circumstance, thank you for taking the time to reflect on your grandfather’s story and then applying it to what we have learned. Prior to your post I was not aware that a person could suffer from both anterograde and retrograde amnesia. Though our class is typically not neurology heavy, I wonder what areas of the brain were affected in your grandfather’s case and if his accident affected his cognitive skills. Additionally, I wonder if like H.M. (though of course not every brain lesion case is the same) he could learn a cognitive task despite possibly not being aware he had undergone it before. Thank you again for this personal and thought provoking post.

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