What better day than today to tell the real life love story of a couple torn apart by tragedy only to fall in love a second time!
19-year-old Jessica Sharman’s life changed forever when she boarded the subway on her way to work. While traveling on the train, Jessica suffered a series of massive seizures. She collapsed, but her boyfriend and co-worker Rich Bishop caught her. Bishop escorted his technically conscious but unresponsive girlfriend off of the subway and sought help. When she came to, Jessica couldn’t remember her own name let alone the friends, family, and loved ones surrounding her hospital bed.
She suffered from retrograde amnesia as a complication from the seizures brought on by frontal lobe epilepsy. Jessica was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2010.
Now returning to her job as a recruiter in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, Jessica shares her story of love lost and found again.
My world fell apart that day. I was faced with strangers claiming to be family, telling me things about myself that meant nothing to me. I felt so alone with no idea of my personality, my strengths and weaknesses, or my likes and dislikes.
I’ve been told that Rich held me up on the tube then took me to the office. I didn’t know what was going on – momentary amnesia was normal for me after seizures. But an hour or so later I saw this woman running towards me I had no idea who she was. It was my mum – and I just stared at her blankly.”
With the help of her parents, Lisa and Gary, Jessica began learning who she was as she struggled to decide who she would now become. Lisa pulled up family pictures on her phone hoping to reconnect with her daughter. “I had no idea what I looked like so I had to examine my reflection to check the person in the photos matched before agreeing to get in the car,” Jessica said. “Sensing my fear, Mum put a reassuring hand on my knee, I shrugged her off. The gesture felt too intimate from a stranger.”
She revealed what happened the first time her family left her alone with Bishop after the seizure. “They left me alone with him and I hated it. He was a stranger to me,” she said. “Rich took me to what was supposedly our favorite park but I wouldn’t even walk next to him. When he held my hand I pulled away.”
Bishop was a complete stranger to her now, and she wanted to end the relationship. Bishop was absolutely devastated, but before he walked out of her life forever he asked her to give him one chance to court her a second time. “I saw no way it could work. To me, he was still a virtual stranger. He was devastated and adamant we could get back what we had. Seeing how passionate he was convinced me that he must care for me, so I agreed to date him, but made no promises.”
Like the plot of a romantic film come to life, Jessica fell in love with Rich a second time, but a secret fear remained. “Medics confirmed that the series of seizures had triggered my memory loss and it may take six months to return – if it returned at all,” she said. “It also meant there was a 50 per cent chance I could lose my memory again in the future. I was horrified.”
Jessica was interviewed in October of last year, six months after her seizure. Sadly, none of her original memories have returned. Now she’s sharing her experience with the world.
“It’s hard to explain the loss I feel at essentially losing 19 years of experiences. I try not to dwell on it because that won’t get me anywhere – the same way that worrying about my memory going in the future won’t help anything. At work, I still have days where I forget things in the short-term, like who I’ve just spoken to on the phone or why I went into a room.
But I have recovered a life for myself with the help of my family and, of course, Rich. I feel so lucky that he knew me well enough to stand by me even when I thought of him as a stranger. He practically lives at my house now and our relationship is going from strength to strength.
Having gotten through the last year, I know I can deal with whatever happens in future. For now, I want to focus on creating new memories.”
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