Riley Horner, of Kirkwood, Illinois is dealing with something pretty heavy for a 16-year-old: her memory resets itself every two hours.
Riley wakes up every day thinking it is still June 11th, the day she suffered a traumatic brain injury which caused her short-term memory problems.
She has forgotten everything she has learned since June 11th, even forgotten the very passage of that time. Riley told WQAD what it feels like to wake up and come to the realization that so much time has passed.
"I have a calendar on my door and I look and it's September and I'm like 'Whoa!'"
Her everyday life has changed drastically. She takes extremely detailed notes and takes photos of them with her phone and sets alarms every two hours, so that she can be reminded of the important things she has learned each day.
Riley suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was accidentally kicked by another student who was crowd surfing during a dance at the FFA state convention. The brain injury triggered symptoms that doctors have yet to fully understand.
Traumatic brain injuries have been known to cause significant impairment to people's ability to form or recall memories before, but the how and why are not well understood in all cases.
Riley's mother, Sarah Horner, said that the doctor who initially treated Riley wrote off the teen's injury as a simple concussion. She was sent home on crutches and told there was nothing obviously wrong.
"They tell us there's nothing medically wrong, They can't see anything. You can't see a concussion though on an MRI or a CT scan. There's no brain bleed, there's no tumor."
Riley cannot remember anything—from the simple, everyday to the life altering. She can't remember where her school locker is, since it was assigned when she went back to school this fall, well after her injury.
She carries all of her textbooks, notebooks and other school supplies with her all day because she wouldn't be able to find them if she put them in her locker.
She also can't remember the big things, like the fact that her uncle passed away just a short time ago.
"My brother passed away last week and she probably has no idea. And we tell her every day but she has no idea about it,"
Riley knows how frustrating the situation is, for her and those who care about her.
"I know it's hard for them as much as it's hard for me. And people just don't understand. It`s like a movie," Riley said. "Like I will have no recollection of (this interview) come supper time."
"I'm not making memories. And I'm just like really scared."
Many on social media were quick to wish Riley well and hope she finds some help.
@KWCH12 Be well young, Riley. 🙏🏻❣️☮️— Jamie 🇺🇸 (@Jamie 🇺🇸)1568265779.0
@KWCH12 Hope she heals, and gets back to normal. The brain is amazing, maybe it’s fixing itself.— Pew Pew (@Pew Pew)1568256770.0
@ABC7Chicago Anterograde amnesia. Happened to another teen in North Carolina. Best of luck to her and her family— MamaRodriguez🦄 (@MamaRodriguez🦄)1568160313.0
Others sympathized with her distress.
@rebekahscanlan That would be so baffling— matthew dunn (@matthew dunn)1568245018.0
@6abc this is actually really sad— Ryan (@Ryan)1568220551.0
You can view WQAD's interview with Riley and her mother, Sarah, here:
Teen's memory resets every 2 hours after accidental kick to the head | ABC7 youtu.be
Riley and her family haven't yet lost hope, but they are feeling the struggle. Sarah made a heartfelt plea for help from anyone who might better understand her daughter's condition.
"We need help. We need somebody that knows a little bit more because she deserves better. I mean she wanted to be in the medical field and now she can't even hold a job if she wanted to."
Riley just wants anyone who might be dealing with a similar situation to know that they aren't the only ones; they aren't alone.
While each traumatic brain injury is different, the book A Stitch of Time: The Year a Brain Injury Changed My Language and Life, available here, relates one woman's story.
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