Post Traumatic Amnesia: Hi there. My brother had a... - Headway

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Post Traumatic Amnesia


Hi there. My brother had a fall from height at work and suffered a fractured skull and multiple spinal fractures and cord damage. He was lucky to survive.

He suffered bruising to the brain but did not need neurosurgery. He has been “conscious” now for 2 weeks or so but is still very confused-asking for the car keys to drive home, doesn’t know where he lives or what his job was, getting angry when we won’t help him get up, unable to absorb any details whatsoever about the accident. Knows who his family are but can’t really have a linear conversation.

I know about the post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) stage from the Headway guidance, but the doctors (who are now very elusive) have never mentioned PTA to us at all and just keep vaguely saying he is confused and not really commenting on whether they think this will ever improve.

Can anyone share their own or their relatives’ experience of PTA?

Thanks, and sorry to everyone that has found themselves having to deal with brain injury.

11 Replies

I am sorry this happened. The doctors have no way really to tell you how he will actually progress and therefore remain vague so they don't make themselves look wrong. They can only tell you things they have been trained in and this really isn't one of them. They perform acute care to get the person back to life and out of the hospital. Don't rely on what the doctors tell you as absolute as everyone is so different. Some do worse and some do better. Main thing is just take things one day at a time.

My own experience has been in the beginning there was plenty of memory that didn't seem to be there anymore, confusion, anger and fatigue etc. Over time some memories seem to reconnect and others have just never come back. It is very frustrating for all concerned. Short term memory especially, is still a challenge 4+ years after the event. Everyone is different as to how it affects them, what changes take place and when. Biggest thing is don't expect they will return to how they once were, it probably will not happen. For me it has been more about creating the new me and to some degree accepting this huge change in my life.

I hope this is of value for you and your brother. Wishing both of you well.

Thanks for this reply sca2013. You are obviously able now to write coherently and think logically, albeit with the limitations that you describe. Were you at one point as “confused” as my description of my brother above?

Hi Morag. After a bleed on the brain, I was apparently severely confused and agitated for the first few weeks (quite a handful in pulling out tubes etc.) and even thought my daughter was a neighbour. She was dreadfully upset as I kept addressing her by the neighbour's name and thanking her for visiting. I still have no memory of my admittance to hospital or my weeks in ICU despite being conscious.

Later on, my consultant explained how a prognosis wasn't possible as each brain injury involves different issues, and progress varies the outcome would reveal itself in its own time, which itself could vary from months to years.

I think I was safe being alone after three months although my mobility was (& Still is to a lesser degree) troublesome owing to balance issues. My time in ICU is still a hole in my memory, and my word recall & short term memory is poor but with time and practice I've learned to navigate through the deficits & changes. I remember a sort of peak at the 3 year point, and the realisation that if life didn't improve further I'd be OK (ish) with that.

The bruising to your brother's brain will no doubt take time to heal ; post-concussion can last for many months with headache/memory/fatigue/mood-swing symptoms fairly commonplace. I hope that with plenty of sleep, rest periods and regular hydration he will make good progress and get the hang of any of the remaining issues.

Best wishes for a good level of recovery for your brother. Cat x

I had post traumatic amnesia. Also have retrograde amnesia of at least the previous year of my life being wiped from my memory.

My husband had PTA after his accident and at times it was quite scary but we have laughed about it now. There was a lot of confusion as he did not know where he was or how he got there. One day i had been there about 10 hours and went to visit the ladies when i got back he was having a panic attack and said no one has been to see him for months. Also used to get upset when i went home as he wanted to come and like you said he thought he could drive home. The hospital used to ask him 3 questions a day and eventually he retained some information and came out of this phase of no short term memory. Give it time and write some of the things down so you too can see the funny side at a later date.

Hi HJ. Thanks for your reply. I hope your husband has made a good recovery. How long did it take before the PTA period passed?

My family tell me that this was a scary and frustrating time, them and for me.

I was stuck on a loop and didn't know who my daughter was, I just kept staring at her, which both un-nerved her and scared her.

It took some time to work through this, even at home I would chain smoke then go days without touching them, be constantly asking for paracetamol and a cup of tea, trying to drive to the shops even though one arm worked and I had double vision. I couldn't be left alone.

I did get better over time. Time is a word that will drive you both nuts as everyone says, it takes time. Time will tell.

There are no hard and fast rules, we all got our injuries in a different way, affecting different areas of our brains and the way they work. We all see different recoveries.

The thing I found most useful was diaries, kept by both my family and myself.

Mine started with weird scrambled words, progressing to my frustration and then realisation were is started the grieving process and sadness followed by acceptance and looking at my progress.

I was stuck for some time on the acceptance stage. It was ok one minute and anger the next.

It was a useful tool to look back on.

Wishing you both all the best on your journey x


I calculated my husband had PTA for around 6 weeks until he consistently scored full marks in his GCS. The doctors and nurses didn’t really label it as such. I did from the literature I had read and it really fitted his behaviour. 13 weeks on he still says the odd disorienting remark based on poor short term memory but it is a thing of the past now. The doctors are very unhelpful in terms of recovery. They just want the patient to move out of the acute stage and get discharged. When I asked how long is this confusion going to last , they just shrugged their shoulders!

Thanks Thymus for taking the time to reply. That’s really helpful information. Like you we have found that we are largely having to do our own research now he is out of ICU. Hope your husband continues to make good progress.

Hello Morag.

I received my TBI in 2005, when I fell off a bike. I was in a coma for a few weeks, and hospital for 8 months (though in a 'Rehabilitation Ward' - not up to living at home, but not needing real hospital care).

In the first weeks/months, my day-to-day memory was awful, but it did gradually come back. For a long time, in hospital, I couldn't remember why I was there, or why my husband kept bringing in a cute little baby, alongside our gorgeous toddler. I am still missing about two years of memory - before the accident, and afterwards. That time included a second pregnancy, us moving house, and my tiny daughter (who was 8 months old when I had the accident). That has never come back, so I assume it never will. However, my working memory if fine (and I adore that cute little baby, even though she is now a sometimes-moody teenager!).

So, memory problems are normal, but don't assume that it will never recover. It might not go back all the way to normal, but it hopefully won't stay as bad as it is now.

My goodness Flumptious, that’s an amazing story. Having a young baby myself of 20 months I can’t imagine how it would feel not to remember being pregnant with him or him being a new born. But what a blessing you recovered to be a fully involved Mum again. This gives me hope for my brother’s future, thank you.

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