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I had general anesthesia for emergency surgery early in November. I'm 74. I have only a few flashes of memory about anything between arriving at the ER and being admitted to rehab about 10 days later. Even some early memories of rehab are fuzzy. Some "memories" that I thought I had have turned out to be false. This is very disturbing, and I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to reconstruct a sequential narrative of the events. I'm seeing a neurological psychologist and will be tested to identify any cognitive deficits that remain. Has anyone had this experience with yourself or someone in your care? How did it play out? Do you have any suggestions for me? (Why do I think it's important to recover my memory?)

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It's so nice of all of you to share your insights and experiences. I saw the neuropsychologist yesterday to discuss cognitive testing, and bewill schedule it as soon as I get a different worry resolved. (One thing at a time! One unwelcome task per day!) Meanwhile, I talked through my memories with him and I think that just getting it out helped. Sharon, thanks for the clarification about encoding --- interesting and useful.
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I have had pts in my unit for over a month,, who come back to visit once they are recovered,, and bless their hearts they don't remember ANY of their lengthy stay or any of us! It's normal.. weird but normal!
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realtime: Every person is different when it comes to recovering from anesthesia. While some might be on top of it within 24 hours, others may take longer. I am only going by my own experience and I'm 71 years of age.
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Realtime
Your concern on recalling things during your hospitalization suggests that you fear losing a vital part of your identity (or perhaps worry about dementia). We are, after all, story telling creatures. And it is through that story-telling (from memory) that we make sense of our experiences, and how we connect with others.
Experts tell us that memory has two components: encoding (how information gets into memory) and recall (how information is retrieved from memory). If the information does not get into memory (encoded) then it cannot be retrieved. Pain medications and anesthesia can affect the encoding. As MACinCT pointed out, pain can also have an effect on memory. Our own bodies can produce substances that act like powerful pain killers that can cause us to forget the worst part of the experience. If the experience never gets into the brain, it cannot be recalled. This may have been what happened with you.

Now as for the recall side of memory. Have you ever met someone you hadn’t seen in a while and had trouble remembering that person’s name? You may struggle to recall their name but you can’t or you can only recall the first letter of their name. This is actually common at other ages too. There are theories about why we have trouble recalling something, but no universal explanation. Yet, researchers have found evidence that the memory is not missing; it’s just hard to recall.

If you are worried about your memory, I suggest having an evaluation by a qualified neuropsychologist. My overly simplistic answer, hopefully, reassures you that you are unlikely to be developing dementia. But only an psychological assessment can adequately answer your question with any certainty.
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Realtime - try to think about it as nature's way of sparing you the details of being sick - do you really want to remember get shots. getting sponge baths, throwing up, bad food etc. - accept this as a bonus gift from mother nature that you don't have to remember the gruesome details & don't worry too much about it - you already know you were well taken care of & safe during that time - also there may not be that much to remember because you probably slept a good bit of the time anyway
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@realtime..
You say this was emergency surgery.
I am guessing you were not feeling 100% prior to being admitted.
There is a lot of confusion and fright that enters into this as well.
Your body may have just gone on "autopilot" for a while just to protect itself from trauma, pain, fear and whatever else is going on.
Have you found that your long term memory of events prior to this is a problem? Have you found that short term memory is a problem? And are you having a problem with long term memories since you have been home from rehab?
After seeing the psychologist and he/she rules out problems and everything seems to be alright I would chalk it up to stress and your body's way of coping (or not coping) with the events.

**This is all with my thought process that this emergency was something other than Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury or other neurological emergency**
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Part of lost memories include your brains ability to protect you from pain.  Is it really important to you to remember the painful parts of the details?
Also during post op recovery many patients are given an IV sedative with pain control that is known to cause amnesia when you get it. You may respond to someone under light sedation but you will have no memory. The interesting thing is it will only take a couple of minutes to wake up once it is stopped

I do not know why you feel this is so important. Perhaps you should now be focusing on how you memory is doing in the here and now.
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use know your body better than anyone else.
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It sounds like you had 'hospital-induced delirium.' It can be quite serious and occurs frequently in patients over 70. Google it.
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My husband never did recover memory of his hospitalization after a closed head injury from a fall. He didn't have GA in the five weeks he was hospitalized, but the trauma to his brain apparently made those memories inaccessible to him. He never remembered the fall, the neighbors doing CPR, the EMTs rushing him to the hospital, or the hospitalization itself. During this period there was swelling in his brain. When the swelling went down he got his functioning back. He could start making new memories again, but the two weeks or so remained lost to him.
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Each time I have had GA, I have had a long period of time when I felt VERY fuzzy. After having my gallbladder out at age 39---I spiraled into a depression/anxiety I still have issues with. In fairness, I had GAD all my life and never treated it--the anesthesia and gallbladder disease that was really, really bad was what pushed all the crazy to the forefront.

My DIL is an anesthesiologist, and refutes the idea that you "lose time". Well, SHE'S never had GA, and she doesn't follow up on patients, so I really discount her opinion.

I have had 3 more GA's since the gallbladder and I was prepared for the after-surgery fuzziness. I didn't have as bad a time, and I was so relieved. . I pray I never ever have to have GA again!!

Sometimes when we are REALLY sick, we just lose track of time and place. It's kind of a blessing, I think.

What you are experiencing is annoying as heck--but normal. I hope your psychologist can help you.
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Actually, I'm not surprised that I can't remember the time immediately before and after surgery. What disturbs me most is not being able to remember most of ten days, including a transfer to rehab, a return to the hospital, another transfer to rehab, the time in the hospital, etc. I didn't understand that I had been in the hospital twice until several weeks later. I'm seeing the psychologist again today. I've been counting the hours.
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I remember when my son was born, I was 34 at the time he’s 25 now, and had a C-section. So back before cell phones and digital cameras, my husband had pictures developed and brought them to me in the hospital. There was one photo of me holding our son and him sitting on the bed next to me in scrubs. To this day I have no memory of him being in scrubs that day at all. That was only with a spinal block not general anesthesia.
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FF, Thanks. It's reassuring to know that it happens to others (although I'm sorry you had to deal with it). The hour/month ratio is also reassuring, since I'm only four months out from the surgery. I suppose the "wanting to know" thing is a matter of control --- for the first time, I feel out of control of my brain. I've had other surgeries in the past, other periods of sedation, but in those cases, once I was supposedly in recovery, I was aware of what was going on and remembered it. Of course, I was much younger then. One good thing that came out of this was that my mother's and my shared PCP said no more caregiving. My mother went into assisted living on respite care while I was in the hospital, and now is there permanently. I can concentrate on getting well. But I, too, am having trouble concentrating, trouble remembering complex details (the news: who said what to whom that brought about which indictment or subpoena), trouble just getting going. I'm glad I found the psychologist.
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Realtime, one thing I had learned about anesthesia is that for every hour you are under, it will take a month to recover your memory.... thus 3 hour surgery would be 3 months recovery. I do believe as we get older, the time might be longer.

Thus, I am scared silly being 71 to have any routine medical test if they put me under. My primary doctor said a 1/2 hour shouldn't cause any issues.

Couple years ago I had surgery, and for the life of me I can't remember a whole lot about it. Can't remember if I was in recovery. It was out-patient but I was in such a fog I don't even remember leaving the hospital. I think after surgery meds can do a number on our thinking progress.

Caregiving plus having surgery is a double whammy. Not only do you have to worry about your care, but that of your love one. Even though my last parent had passed over a year ago, I am still in a fog and having trouble concentrating. Forget spelling, it's now a major mess. But each case is different.
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