On October 15, 2014, Nikki Pegram, a woman in Northamptonshire, England, went to a doctor’s appointment. Afterward, she fainted, hitting her head on the floor and suffering a head injury.
She’s woken up every day since then believing it’s still October 15, 2014. The condition is called anterograde amnesia, and it interferes with the brain’s ability to form new memories. Her partner, Chris Johnston, gives her a diary to read each morning—like a real-life iteration of 50 First Dates—to recap the past year of her life. “She lives her life on a day-to-day basis—she doesn’t know what she did yesterday, last week, last month,” Johnston told the BBC.
But even though Pegram’s mind is jammed on the day of her fall, she has been declared “fit to work” by the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions. The decision means Pegram is no longer entitled to the $600 monthly disability allowance she was receiving before, and will have to seek a job to make ends meet.
“She won’t know where’s she working, what she’s doing, you’d have to train her every day,” said Johnston.
Earlier this year, the British Psychological Society called for a reform of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Capability Assessments, which are used to determine disability benefits. (Pegram was determined “fit to work” because she could independently walk 200 meters and speak without prompting.) In a press release, the British Psychological Society considered the “significant body of evidence that the WCA is failing to assess people’s fitness for work accurately and appropriately, with people who are seriously physically and mentally ill being found fit for work and those with acute, transient episodes being assessed as lacking capacity and treated in the same way as those with a longer term prognosis.”
Pegram can appeal her decision with the Department for Work and Pensions. It’s possible to partially recover from anterograde amnesia, though Pegram has not received a prognosis on her own recovery.