Father takes 10,000 snaps to remember his life: 40-year-old lost 10 years of memories including his wedding day and the births of his two children following bike crash
- Nick McMahon from Dinnington, near Newcastle, crashed his motorbike in 2011
- He damaged the frontal lobe of his brain and now lives with severe memory loss
- He documents important family moments with photos, and has nearly 10,000
- His wife, Emma, says they are getting through the struggle as ‘a team’
A dad has taken almost 10,000 snaps to document his life after a tragic motorbike crash completely destroyed his ability to make memories and left him like an ‘Alzheimer’s sufferer’.
Nick McMahon, now 40, went out for a spin on his sports bike in 2011 when he clipped something in the road, flew off the bike and landed on his head.
Although Mr McMahon was wearing a helmet, his brain smashed against the inside of his skull, causing irreparable damage to his frontal lobe – a part of the brain which controls memory and emotions.
Now, unable to make new memories, he must take photos of everything he does with his family so he can look back on his children growing up.
Mr McMahon has developed epilepsy since the crash and forgotten 10 years of his life, including his wedding day, his father’s death and the births of his two sons.
On a bad day the ex-roofer, from Dinnington in Tyne and Wear, can forget where he is, who his wife is and what he’s been doing.
His wife Emma, a former bank manager, has quit her job to become her husband’s full-time carer, but says she is grateful he is still alive.
Nick McMahon suffered memory-erasing brain damage in a motorbike crash in 2011. Pictured with wife Emma, sons Ryan (front) and Connor (right)
Mr McMahon now relies on photos to remember family days out and holidays because he cannot make new memories – so far he has nearly 10,000 pictures
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Mrs McMahon is now opening up about the family’s ordeal since her husband’s crash on June 4 2011, in the hope that sharing their story will help others going through traumatic memory loss.
The couple now focus on making happy memories for their sons Connor, 13, and Ryan, eight, and Mr McMahon takes photos of every moment he wants to hold onto.
Mrs McMahon admits life has been difficult over the last seven years.
She said: ‘At first after the accident it was like we were living on a knife edge because you never knew when it was going to be a good day or a bad day.
‘That’s still true now but we’re used to it. On a bad day Nick will forget things every five minutes. On a good day he’ll remember that day for two weeks then it’s gone.
Nick McMahon, now 40, went out for a spin on his sports bike in 2011 when he clipped something in the road, flew off the bike and landed on his head
On a bad day the ex-roofer, from Dinnington in Tyne and Wear, can forget where he is, who his wife is and what he’s been doing
‘Just the other day he suddenly turned to me and said “excuse me, where am I?”. He was at home with his wife but he didn’t know where he was or who I was.
‘And the day after that he was convinced I was called Elizabeth.
‘It’s difficult, it’s like living with someone with Alzheimer’s and Nick can get quite angry when he doesn’t remember.
‘The boys have been amazing, they understand that dad might need things explaining lots of times. They’re very patient with him.’
The motorbike crash damaged Mr McMahon’s frontal lobe, a piece of the front of the brain which takes up about two thirds of the entire organ.
It plays a big part in many things which make people who they are, such as voluntary movements, memories, emotions, speech and language, personality and attention.
Mr McMahon’s family had gone out shopping on the tragic day he decided to stay home, clean his motorbike, then take it for a ride
Mr McMahon has forgotten a large chunk of his life with wife, Emma (left)
Mrs McMahon says although the crash changed her husband they are still a team
‘We do what we can to make sure we have happy times together’
When parts of the brain are damaged, such as by an impact in a crash, they may rewire themselves in an attempt to heal, which can change the way they work.
Damage to the frontal lobe may even cause other parts of the brain to change.
Because Mr McMahon’s memory has been severely affected by his injuries, he now takes thousands of photos to help him remember important moments.
Mrs McMahon said: ‘Nick’s accident taught us how important it is to lay down as many happy memories as possible for the boys so they can look back on their childhoods.
‘It’s hard since we’ve both had to stop working but we do what we can to make sure we have lots of family adventures and happy times together.
Mr and Mrs McMahon now focus on making happy childhood memories for their two sons Ryan (centre) and Connor (left)
‘Nick takes photos so he can hold onto all the moments he would have liked to remember,’ Mrs McMahon says. ‘He’s got 9,754.’
Mr McMahon gets upset by the fact he can’t remember doing the things he sees in the pictures, but he is happy to have them, his wife says
‘Nick takes photos so he can hold onto all the moments he would have liked to remember. He’s got 9,754.
WHAT IS THE FRONTAL LOBE?
The frontal lobe is a large section of the brain which is vital to many functions which give people a personality and human qualities.
It is split into two parts which together compose around two thirds of the human brain.
The frontal lobe is key for forward-planning and making decisions.
It also plays a big role in speech and language – in a section called the Broca’s area, voluntary movements like walking, forming memories, understanding other people’s feelings, and our own behaviour and attention.
Because the frontal lobe is part of so many emotional processes it is considered the part of the brain which makes us ‘human’.
When the brain is damaged it may rewire itself as it tries to heal, which can change the way it works. This is why damage to the frontal lobe may change someone’s personality.
Source: Medical News Today
‘It’s not the same as it is for other people though. When other people look at a photo it triggers a memory – smells and sounds.
‘It really gets him down sometimes, but he appreciates the photos’
‘For Nick it’s like the things he’s looking at never happened because his brain has completely lost the ability to lay down new memory paths.
‘It really gets him down sometimes. But even though the photos don’t bring back the memory or the feelings, he really appreciates having them.
‘It hasn’t been easy. It was the seventh anniversary recently and it does bring it all back.
‘I’ll never forget seeing Nick in that hospital bed unconscious and just being so glad he wasn’t dead.
‘What if instead the other day had marked seven years since I became a widow?
‘We are so fortunate that he survived. If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet or the accident had been slightly worse who knows if he’d be here now.
‘Despite all the trauma, I love him to bits and I consider myself so lucky to still have him.’
Crash resulted in broken ribs, collar bone and a brain bleed
Tragedy struck seven years ago when Mrs McMahon and her sons Connor and Ryan went out shopping.
Mr McMahon had stayed at home to clean his motorbike, a Suzuki GSX R-1000, and had decided to take it for a ride when he crashed it.
The family thought Mr McMahon’s memory loss would only be temporary pharmacies online apothekegenerika.de, but seven years on he is still suffering
‘We are so fortunate that he survived,’ says Mrs McMahon. ‘Despite all the trauma, I love him to bits and I consider myself so lucky to still have him’
He suffered broken ribs, a broken collar bone and a bleed on the brain, and was rushed to hospital where he dipped in and out of consciousness for the next week.
At first, doctors thought Mr McMahon was suffering from post-traumatic amnesia and would make a full recovery in a few months.
But when he showed no improvement after five weeks, he was transferred to a specialist head injury unit.
The damage to his brain means the dad can’t form new memories and since his accident he has developed epilepsy.
Nick McMahon used to be a roofer but now he can have difficulty remembering where he is or what he is doing, ‘like an Alzheimer’s sufferer’
Mr McMahon has thousands of photos to remember family moments
Mrs McMahon said: ‘I got a call telling me to come to the hospital because there had been an accident. When I got there Nick was unconscious and blood was coming out his ear.
‘I remember being annoyed with him. Before the accident Nick was quite selfish.
‘We’d gone for a family day out and he’d stayed at home to do what he wanted to do – and look what happened.
‘The next day he woke up for a few minutes and the nurse asked if he knew who I was and he said I was his gran.
‘I started to think what if he really doesn’t remember who I am?’
‘I tried to laugh it off and said “I’m not that old”. He said he was tired and went back to sleep.
‘It was like that for the next week, Nick dipped in and out of consciousness and each time he woke up it was pure confusion.
‘At first I tried not to worry but after a few days I started to think “what if he really doesn’t remember who I am?”.
Mr McMahon lost ten years of memories in the crash, including the day he married his wife, Emma
As well as damaging his memory the crash also changed Mr McMahon’s personality, but wife Emma says it has made him more selfless and caring
Mr McMahon’s accident happened seven years ago. Pictured aged 33 with sons Ryan, then one, and six-year-old Connor
‘When he woke up properly, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic amnesia and we were told he would make a full recovery in a few months.
‘We’re seven years down the line and that hasn’t happened.’
As well as suffering memory loss and epilepsy, Mr McMahon’s personality has also changed – a common occurrence in brain injury patients which can often put extra strain on relationships.
But Emma says Mr McMahon’s personality change has actually made him more selfless and caring, bringing them closer together so they can cope with his memory loss as a team.
He had tests every day for the next few weeks and he wasn’t getting any better so we were referred to the specialist unit,’ Mrs McMahon continued.
‘They gave us lots of therapy on how to cope with memory loss as a family and that’s when we started to realise that this was our life now.
Mrs McMahon said the whole family was given therapy on how to cope with memory loss. Nick McMahon is pictured with his sons Ryan (left) and Connor at the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London
‘It’s so upsetting for him and he gets very anxious because he thinks people don’t really see him as fully human anymore,’ Mrs McMahon says
Mrs McMahon says although the memory loss upsets the family, they are lucky he survived the crash and she still ‘loves him to bits’
‘People are very kind and they tell me they don’t know how I cope but you just do it when it’s someone you love.
‘And Nick is the one who has to actually live with it.
‘It’s so upsetting for him and he gets very anxious because he thinks people don’t really see him as fully human anymore.
‘We’ve been very lucky’
‘I read once that 70 per cent of couples break up after a brain injury and it isn’t easy but we’ve been very lucky.
‘Nick’s personality change actually made him less selfish and it’s almost like the accident made him grow up.
‘We’re a team now and that’s how we’ve got through it all.
‘When we met, Nick sold motorbikes for Harley Davidson and I was a bank manager and we had this wonderful life planned for ourselves. It hasn’t turned out that way.
‘But we have come away from it quite well and if sharing Nick’s story can help one other person or family then it’s so worth it.’
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