- Anonymous, patient1,
- Anna Basu, academic clinical lecturer2
- 1Northumberland, UK
- 2Sir James Spence Institute, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK
- Correspondence to: A Basu
- Accepted 25 August 2012
When I was 11 months old I developed herpes simplex encephalitis after coming into contact with a cold sore, which damaged the areas of the brain responsible for processing vision. I was left with visual agnosia and had severe difficulties in recognising people by their faces. I cannot remember the details of the earliest events surrounding my illness, but I have talked about them a lot with my family and this is my story.
During the illness I lost my sight as well as my ability to sit and walk. It took me about six months to relearn to walk unaided. During this time my vision gradually improved, but I had to rely on my other senses to interact with the environment. I would sniff, touch, and taste things around me, including the floor, furniture, and people’s clothing, which some found unnerving.
My speech development was good. I found changes in routine upsetting and puzzling. Mum had the support of medical and educational professionals and on their advice I was taught at home by an educational service (Portage) for preschool children with additional support needs and their families, and I had a support assistant at play school. Around this time mum noticed I was making mistakes in recognising family members. Once I was seen talking to my brother’s friend, mistaking him for my brother (who looks completely different).
It wasn’t just a problem with recognising family members, or people in general—mum had painted a Postman Pat mural on my wall and despite being familiar with his character through books and DVDs I just could not recognise him. However, it was when mum realised that …