Persistent Memory Loss a Year after Suffering a Concussion
My husband slipped on ice and hit his head almost a year ago while on the flight line (he is a pilot for the military). He was unconscious for over a minute and was taken to the hospital where they diagnosed him with a concussion. His MRI came back normal and we were sent home. He had the normal dizziness, headaches, vomitting, forgetfulness, etc. He was cleared to go back to work (flying, etc.) after 6 weeks even though he was still experiencing bouts of memory loss.
He was deployed 2 and a half months later and while in theater some of his superiors had noticed he was forgetting whole conversations, etc. He had absolutely no memory of these conversations, or discussions happening. He was sent home for evaluation. Our problem now is that we are being told two completely different things. One neurologist we saw said that the type of memory loss he is experiencing is completely normal and can take up to three years to correct itself. We then saw a neruopsychologist who said he was completely fine after running diagnostic tests and begin saying it could be he just doesn't have a good attention span, then it could be Post Traumatice Stress Syndrome, then it went to he is emotional and can't deal with stress, we finally finished the appointment with her running a test to see if he was bipolar. We are very stressed over this last appointment as my husband NEVER had memory loss before his fall. All of it started after his concussion. If you could offer us any information at all, we would be deeply grateful.
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I am sorry to hear about your husband. The memory loss could just be due to concussion which at times persists for years and all of a sudden disappears and the person remembers everything. This does not have any long term complications. The person just needs support from family members and has to learn to live with the memory loss.
Memory loss is also a common symptom of frontal lobe injury. Damage to the frontal lobe of the brain causes frontal encephalomalacia. Encephalomalacia is not an illness. It is basically a softening of the brain matter as a result of an ischemia or infarction, degenerative changes, infection, craniocerebral trauma, or other injury. In your husban’s case it could have happened due to the hit of head on ice. Thus any damage to this lobe can lead to long term memory loss.
If all brain related causes (transient ischemic attack, disorders of hypothalamus, dementia and multiple sclerosis, head injury etc) are ruled out then Vit B12 deficiency, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disorders (by sleep studies), depression, and certain types of seizures (where memory loss is the predominant symptom) should be investigated for as the cause of memory loss. Apart from sleep studies, EEG, you may need cognitive tests like mini-mental state examination (MMSE) or Folstein test. Please consult a second neuropsychiatrist, if need be.
He must obtain the line-of-duty investigation, as well as the names of all witnesses and the hospital ER and treatment records.
As a pilot, I am going to suggest he do a lot of thinking before assuming duties as pilot-in-command. A person with such memory problems is endangering himself and his crew. The way the medical clearance works if they pretty much give you what you want. I was in a hospital decades ago in very bad shape and got a four-hour pass for a first-class physical to fly jets (which was granted). I then returned to the hospital (they didn't ask me why In had a band-aid on my median antecubital) and immediately ended up in critical care. So much for being "cleared to fly".
I am not saying he should give up his wings forever. Flying in a combat zone requires a normal memory. Everything from call signs to emergency procedures such as autorotation depends on instant recall.
There is good news. The good news is that these injuries are not necessarily permanent. Will he return to normal? Maybe yes and maybe no.
Does he have a compensible disability?
Is his flying career over?
He has to do a lot oif soul searching.
He should not be flying except with a co-pilot. That much is certain.
One thing I would do is to go to a civilian facility and obtain both a 3T MRI and a 3T MRA. The VA facilities and the military only use 1.5 T machines. This will provide a clear indication of structural abnormalities.
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