A man who was involved in a car accident six years ago got his brain damaged so badly that he is left with a ‘six-hour memory’. Daniel Schmidt underwent intensive physiotherapy and speech therapy to help him get back to his old life. However, his memory is something he is still searching for.
Daniel is able to recall things only for six hours. If he doesn’t make notes of places he has visited and people he has met, they disappear from his memory completely.
“That’s the day I didn’t die. It wasn’t exactly normal that I made it, and that’s why I look at that day in a positive light,” Daniel said in the documentary Living without Memory.
From his notes, he’s learned that he was going to see his sister that day. “I was on the motorway. There was a traffic jam and I was the last one to join it. I was sitting there and then a car came up behind me, it was a big seven-seater with a young family inside, and the driver didn’t see the traffic jam at all,” he said.
Daniel added, “He smashed into me at over 80mph. The entire motorway was closed. There were a lot of injuries, but they weren’t too serious. I was airlifted to hospital. I suffered a severe traumatic brain injury – they call it a level three TBI.”
Daniel’s injuries were so serious that he doesn’t have long-term memory. To remember things he has done or needs to do, Daniel has to keep an incredibly detailed diary.
The condition has affected his relationships – he split up with his then-girlfriend and has grown apart from his friends as he no longer remembered them. He’s unable to share memories of the time he has spent with people.
When he met his former partner Katharina, he told her about the crash and said that they had to get in touch by the third day or he’d forget her.
“I’d need to get in touch by the third day at the latest. I’d need to hear her voice or we’d need to talk, and above all, see each other. Otherwise it would be like meeting her for the first time,” he said.
A few years ago, when Daniel and Katharina had a baby boy, there were more challenges. He doesn’t remember his son growing up. “I can’t remember my son’s birth, and that’s really horrible,” he said.
Despite his short-term memory, Daniel has dedicated his life to helping people with a similar condition.