Thirty Minutes

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Today was sort of unusual. I decided to go out of my comfort zone and visit two new residents, Holly and Michael. Holly seemed to suffer from memory loss, specifically anterograde amnesia. She was unable to learn new facts and episodes and was unable to socially interact. She would repeat certain commentaries and questions with a habit of laughing and gazing around the room and then the process starts all over again.

After about ten minutes in the room, I was able to pick up the fact that she loves talking about her husband, her mom, and her state of mind. The way I would keep the conversation going was to hum a random song to her and hold her hand to tap along. She liked the beat and it retained her from bouncing back to her original thought. She said things like “are you happy?” which transitioned to “well, you can be happy but you have to choose to be” and as we were humming the tune together, she turned over to me and said, “I am happy,” smiled, then laughed. And when I mentioned her husband, she was able to recite all the sweet conversations they had together and wished that he could say the same things to her right now. I told her that although she cannot hear those words, deep within her heart, she knows he loves her and that is the most important thing.

To me, what was shocking was the fact that in just thirty minutes, she was able to consolidate short term memory a little better than before and that only required an interactive conversation where body language, words of speech, and eye contact become crucially important. I sat on her bedside, leaned over and held her hand. I saw her as someone who is perfect and I let her know that she is my friend and that she is wanted, perfect in all the ways that she is, and that her husband is in love with her like how I am in love with the way she laughs and shares her experiences with me. I asked to give her a hug, kissed her hand and said goodbye. She was smiling peacefully as I was leaving.

—Jacelyn Vo

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