‘I caught virus and thought I was back in 1970s – I couldn’t look in the mirror’

A mum who caught a rare killer virus that led to her brain swelling was left with symptoms so bad she forgot her age and was convinced it was still the 1970s.

Brave Alison Winterburn was diagnosed with viral encephalitis after she suddenly fell sick– and the cruel illness left her with brain injuries so bad she didn’t even recognise herself in the mirror.

The 61-year-old, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, told MEN Media: “I was genuinely shocked to see a middle-aged lady looking back at me and not the youngster I expected.

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“For a long time I wouldn't allow my husband to buy the newspaper because I was horrified by the inflated prices.

“I couldn't quite comprehend the time jump between the era I thought I was living in and my twenty-first century reality. My catchphrase became: 'It's how much?!'"

Since the diagnosis in October 2012, the former teacher has been given medication to ease the swelling on her brain and despite the permanent brain damage has slowly come to terms with what happened.

She continued: “I felt groggy and dizzy for weeks. When I returned home after spending three weeks in Manchester Royal Infirmary, the scariest thing was that my brain injury had caused extreme short and long-term memory loss.

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“I truly believed it was still the 1970s. This unnerving bout of confusion lasted for several weeks.

“Gradually, my short-term memory improved and, with the continued support of my family, I slowly came to terms with the real middle-aged and married-with-children 'me'.

“I effectively had to relearn who I was.”

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Courageous Alison tried to go back to work, but was gutted when her brain injury made everyday tasks such as remembering where the bathroom is so difficult that it was too much of a struggle.

"Even today, life can prove very difficult when people do not understand why I suffer from memory problems and I sometimes think of that teenage girl in the mirror, wishing I really was her again,” she explained.

"However, my two now-adult sons have been encouraging and resolutely positive ever since my brain injury and I am determined to rebuild my sense of self-worth.”


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