Amnesia scientist picks up his life 10 years on

By Natalie Akoorie

Robbie Price and his wife Roshni Kanta. Photo / Alan Gibson
Robbie Price and his wife Roshni Kanta. Photo / Alan Gibson

The man who "woke up in someone else's life" after a cycling accident is still missing 10 years of his life, but Robbie Price is moving forward as best he can.

The Hamilton scientist slammed head first into a traffic sign while biking to work in April and regained consciousness with severe amnesia.

When he came to, he didn't know he had moved to New Zealand from Australia in 2002 and couldn't remember anything since then, including the childhood of his two teenage sons, who he thought were aged 5 and 3.

He has spent the past month trying to adjust to the unusual situation where 10 years of life, including world events and learning how to parent teenagers, has passed him by.

"I just want to get back to being useful again. For me that's still the hardest part."

The 43-year-old said no real memory had returned.

"I get a couple of visuals every now and again but nothing useful."

Looking at old photos had not helped his recall, but had been a little upsetting.

"Knowing what you've done, it's a bit frustrating not being able to remember that."

He has been catching up on world news through the internet and said seeing friends was difficult because he didn't know who they were.

"Bumping into people on the street who know me and then having to go through the rigmarole of finding out who they are ... it's funny for them but frustrating for me.

"Everyone's been pretty sympathetic."

Most of his friends knew about the accident and helpfully reintroduced themselves, giving an explanation about where they met.

Re-learning his job at the Landcare Research crown institute where he carried out environmental research as part of a programming group, was also proving difficult.

"I can't do any work. I still have no idea how to do my job because there's no one to tell me how I do my job."

The work, involving land use information and how to access it from a modelling perspective, made no sense to Mr Price yet.

He is trying to unlock 10 years of specialised research and should have been in Belgium now sharing new technological approaches with European colleagues doing similar work.

Mr Price, who has been battling fatigue and migraines forcing him to rest often during the day and be in bed by 7.30pm, said he was "largely trying to ignore" his circumstances.

"Emotionally I'm pretty well adjusted. As long as you don't try to recall the past, you don't recognise that you forget it."

Instead, it is the migraines that are the "bane of my existence". They strike whenever he does too much without resting.

"Whatever I do ... I need to lie down for half an hour. Once the pain starts to come on you have to get home but it's too late by then."

He is awaiting a neurology assessment at the end of the month which he hopes will clear him to fly to Australia for his father's 80th birthday.

In the meantime, Mr Price is optimistic that his memory can beretrieved.

"I'm working on the theory that as soon as I've found the trick of getting access to the memories then it'll all just come back and it'll be hunky-dory."

Price of forgetting

* Robbie Price crashed into a traffic sign and lost a decade of memory.
* He didn't know he had moved to New Zealand.
* Thought his teenage sons were still preschoolers.
* Can't remember how to do his job.
* Didn't know about the Christchurch earthquakes or any other major world events.
* Never heard of YouTube, Twitter or Facebook.

- NZ Herald

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