Have you heard of Transient Global Amnesia? Well, last Friday I had an episode of Transient Global Amnesia, or TGA as it is more commonly known. It lasted approximately two hours. And it obviously terrified me and frightened my family.
But I do not remember any of it.
Graham tells the story…
Friday 26th February began the way it often has done since we could enjoy lazy starts befitting a retired couple. Hot water with lemon and ginger delivered to Mrs. Smith in bed, along with her mobile phone and laptop, followed by a cup of tea. We read The Irish Times online.
Before you know it, it’s 10.00am and Hilda is ‘suggesting’ that I get on with the painting of the living room that I’ve been doing for the previous three days. I put on the work garb and head downstairs, leaving her, I think, to her morning ritual of a yoga session.
Forty-five minutes later and our morning changes dramatically when Hilda appears in the room I’m painting, looking and sounding distressed. She says she can’t remember what she’s been doing that morning, asks when we had decided to paint the walls blue (mutually agreed a week ago), doesn’t know what older daughter Kirstin does for a living, and is getting more agitated and frantic by the second. Now the tears are flowing and she’s panicking that she’s having a stroke and needs to go to hospital.
This is now seriously scary stuff.
My first efforts to calm her weren’t particularly successful. She asks the same questions multiple times, but my answers are clearly not registering as she keeps repeating the questions. A call to Kirstin and she’s here in 10 minutes and together we conduct the ‘spot the stroke’ protocol which she passes no problem. I call the ambulance and when it arrives 20 minutes later, Hilda walks into it with one paramedic while the other one asks me for details. My mind is put a little more at ease when he says that if it had been a stroke, they would have been carrying her to the vehicle rather than her walking independently.
MY RECOLLECTION OF THE MORNING
I remember getting dressed into my leggings and top and I think I did some yoga and back/pelvis exercises. But because I do them every morning, I cannot be sure that I actually did them that morning.
The next thing I remember is being in an ambulance, on my way to hospital.
TRANSIENT GLOBAL AMNESIA MEDICAL EXPLANATION
Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) is a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss, but it is not a stroke.
During an episode of TGA, your recall of recent events simply vanishes, so you can’t remember where you are or how you got there. In addition, you may not remember anything about what’s happening in the here and now. Consequently, you may keep repeating the same questions because you don’t remember the answers you’ve just been given.
The condition most often affects people in middle or older age. With TGA, you do remember who you are and you recognise the people you know well.
Episodes of TGA always improve gradually over a few hours. During recovery, you may slowly begin to remember events and circumstances. While it isn’t serious, it can still be frightening.
It is a benign condition that leaves no lasting effects except perhaps frustration over the missing memories. An episode typically lasts for one to eight hours, and most often resolves within a day.
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE?
The majority of people who experience TGA are between 50 and 70 years of age.
Seemingly if it happens to a man it is more often physical exertion, but with women it is more often associated with an emotional precipitant or a history of anxiety. (I am a worrier, but do not feel particularly anxious, well no more than anyone else in the current pandemic)
Both men and women with a history of migraine are believed to be more susceptible than others to a TGA episode. (I don’t suffer)
Those who experience TGA are NO more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack than people who have never had the condition.
THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF TGA?
- A sudden inability to form new memories.
- Loss of memories from a few hours or longer before the episode.
- Confusion: people know who they are and know their friends and family members, but may repeat questions about the time or date. Other complex mental tasks, such as the ability to drive a car or cook, are not affected.
In most cases, TGA episodes last 1 to 10 hours (6 hours is average). In rare cases, symptoms may persist for up to 24 hours.
You can see from Graham’s account that my symptoms are typical.
WHAT HAPPENED IN HOSPITAL?
I was rushed into triage at Beaumont Hospital. A TIA had not been ruled out, though a stroke was considered unlikely. Blood tests were taken and I was given a physical examination. In the next two hours, I had a chest X-Ray and a CT brain scan.
A visit from a doctor that evening confirmed that it was most likely I had an episode of TGA. My CT scan was clear. I must admit I was worried that I had a brain tumour and I was hoping it was treatable. I was kept in overnight and monitored, saw a neurologist the next morning and am awaiting an appointment for an MRI brain scan.
I was very well cared for by the doctors and nurses in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. So if you know anyone who works in A&E, please say thanks from me.
I slept 11 hours the night I came home from hospital. But unfortunately, since then I am having huge difficulty sleeping. I presume the experience has affected me on some subliminal level. So, I am exhausted. But hopefully I will get back to normal soon. You may remember I wrote about Graham’s health scare a few years ago, when he collapsed at home and I had to call an ambulance. We have agreed that we don’t need any more excitement like that!
If you have had a TGA or know someone who has, I would love to hear from you.