A North Carolina high school student’s life drastically changed after a sporting accident in 2017. It left her with a rare condition that causes her brain to “reset” when she goes to bed and wake up without any memories from the day before.
Caitlin Little, who was part of Southeast Guilford High School’s cross country program, suffered a concussion on Oct. 12, 2017, after someone stumbled and hit her in the head. She was diagnosed with anterograde amnesia—which is the loss of the ability to create new memories after an incident that caused amnesia.
Caitlin Little can remember most of what happens on any given day, but her brain resets overnight and, each morning, she…
Doctors told her parents, Chris and Jennifer Little, that Caitlin would likely get better in a matter of weeks.
“Cocoon her, protect her from anything very stimulating that might induce more headaches. He said, ‘Well, OK, this looks pretty bad. But, in my experience,’ he said, ’90 percent of these resolve themselves in three weeks,’” Chris told WGHP.
But things did not improve after three weeks.
“When she first got hurt, we were OK with it because everybody was like, ‘Oh, yeah, two weeks, you’re good,'” Jennifer told WGHP. “And then I was told three weeks is that critical moment – if she’s not better in three weeks, you’re in for the long haul. And three weeks passed and we weren’t better.”
Over the first six months after the incident, Caitlin’s condition did improve, but her progress stagnated since April 2018. She was forced to find ways to cope with the lack of memory for the prior day.
“[I have to be] very organized. So I have lots of Post-It notes that say, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ or, ‘This is new,’ or things to help me out. So, it’s not as hard as I’d imagine it’d be without them,” Caitlin told the news station.
Now 16 months after the accident, Caitlin can remember what happens on any given day but still wakes up thinking it’s Oct. 13, 2017—the day after the accident.
Her Father’s Support
Chris has been an important pillar on Caitlin’s journey to recovery. He wakes her up every morning to tell her what day it is and the events that occurred months ago.
“I’m always afraid that she’s going to jump out of bed and tell me, ‘It’s wrong’ and, ‘It can’t be.’ And, why am I lying to her? So I’m always very hesitant every day when I do it, but it’s my job. I have to tell her,” Caitlin’s father said.
He said Caitlin has never pushed back with the information he’s given her and the most she’s ever done is act very surprised or question “How can that be?”
“And when she does that, I explained to her that she has a journal. It’s on her desk. She has Post-It Notes, read those and if she has any questions, come and see me in 15, 20 minutes,” he said.
He added that it is a heartbreaking process.
A North Carolina high school student is living a real-life "50 First Dates" after she suffered a sports injury in 2017 that left her with anterograde amnesia.
Caitlin said despite the initial confusion and the urge to know how things occurred, she said she eventually finds a way to understand a move on.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are no specific treatments for amnesia but patients can employ several techniques for enhancing memory. Moreover, psychological support is available for patients and their families.
A family friend, John Woods, told WGHP that the Littles are hoping that time would heal Caitlin.
“The sense was, well, if we hit a certain time period, then it will be almost like a light switch and all these memories will be back, she’s going to understand what happened, she’d go back to where she was,” Woods told the news station.
“And the longer that went, the further out the projection was of how long it was going to take before that light switch was flipped and it just hasn’t happened.”