Belfast Telegraph

Medics baffled by severe case of short-term memory loss

By Lynne Kelleher

His father has broken the news of his mother's death to him hundreds of times . . . and each time he forgets.

Hugh Butler is baffling medics after he was left with severe short-term memory loss -- and a ravenous appetite -- following a life-saving brain operation.

Hugh was 19 when he underwent emergency surgery to have a tumour removed from his brain last March.

It was just weeks before his mother Hannah died from cancer. His father, Michael Butler, has had to break the news hundreds of times as Hugh's short-term memory loss means he forgets about it soon afterwards.

Hugh, from Dublin, also has to be told when to eat -- as his appetite is enormous and he forgets when he has last eaten.

Although his condition has never been seen before in the medical world, Irish doctors are hoping they can come up with a cure to his eating disorder.

In a new RTE documentary 'Road to Rehab', Hugh's father is seen gently breaking the news of his wife's death to his son, who becomes visibly distressed.

Mr Butler said: "Medical opinion is that it is permanent irreversible brain damage. When he came from Beaumont Hospital he was like a cripple and he was bent over.

"He came to Dun Laoghaire (the national rehabilitation hospital) in a wheelchair.

"From a physical point of view, Hugh is now mobile and independent. That's good. But his memory hasn't come back and his eating disorder hasn't subsided."

Stickers and Post-its all over his room in the hospital remind the former business student of the day and time and why he is in the hospital.

Dr Mark Delargy, the medical director of the brain injury programme at the hospital, said Hugh's condition baffled experts.

He said: "We had never seen a situation where we had this gross overeating disorder and very severe obliteration of short-term memory in one patient."

'The Road to Rehab' will be shown on RTE 1 tonight at 10.15pm.

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