Young woman left with goldfish memory after her body started attacking her brain

A young woman has been left with a memory of a goldfish after her body started attacking her brain.

Jenny Grieve at home in Dorset

Jenny Grieve at home in Dorset

Jenny Grieve, 22, from Bournemouth, was struck down with a rare form of encephalitis in August 2014 which causes inflammation of the brain – her immune system had turned against itself.

She was left fighting for her life as her organs began shutting down and spent two-months recovering from the ordeal in hospital.

When Jenny did wake up she was convinced it was 2010 after four-years of her memories had been wiped.

Now one-year later, she uses a daily diary, post-it notes and two white boards to make notes so she can keep track of her own life.

Jenny is sharing her story to raise awareness for encephalitis and to help others in a similar situation.

She said: “When I finally woke up I had forgotten how to eat, drink and even walk.

“At first I was admitted to a psychiatric ward as everyone thought I was losing my mind.

Jenny and her boyfriend,

Jenny and her boyfriend, Martin 

“Thankfully doctors soon recognised that my confusion and seizures were down to encephalitis, I was diagnosed within 12 hours.

“I was on holiday in Luxemburg at the time but luckily I had travel insurance and was able to receive the life-saving care I needed.

“I had no idea your own body could attack your brain and because it had caused my brain to swell it has damaged my ability to remember things.

“Now I write everything I do down on paper to ensure I don’t forget what I have done each hour.

“Often I will leave the taps running or I’ll forget that I’ve made a cup of tea.

“It can be exhausting but I know how lucky I have been to survive.”

When Jenny first woke up in hospital she thought it was 2010.

She added: “I thought I had only just started seeing my long-term boyfriend, Martin Fudge, 23,  as I had lost all of my memories from the past four-years.


Jenny at home with her diaries and white notice boards that she uses to plan out appointments

“I was constantly confused but my mum, Lorraine Grieve, tried her best to help me.

“She would show me pictures on her phone and play voice clips from family members, she stayed at my bedside the entire time.”

Jenny was diagnosed with NMDA-r encephalitis, which is one the most severe form of encephalitis whereby your own body produces anti-bodies that attack the brain – it also has a higher rate of relapse.

This type was only ‘discovered’ in 2007 and because it’s so rare, many doctors are still unable to spot the symptons at an early stage.

Jenny’s mum, Lorraine Grieve, 49, said: “We are so lucky that doctors diagnosed Jenny so quickly, we have no doubt that she wouldn’t be here if she’d been left undiagnosed for much longer.

“For weeks Jenny had been acting unusual, she kept forgetting who people were and would cry or laugh for no reason.

“I was as though a switch had been turned off in Jenny’s brain, she was acting completely out of character.

“She also suffered a seizure which was diagnosed as a panic attack but all of this was symptoms of encephalitis.”

Jenny has been recovering for over a year now and is slowly getting her life back to normal.


She added: “Before I was struck down with the illness I had just been crowned women of the year at my slimming group but since being unwell I have been on steroids and they caused me to gain six stone.

“It was upsetting to see myself gaining weight when I had no control over it but I’m now off that medication and I feel much better.

“I don’t know how long I will need to write everything down but I’m hopeful that one day I will return to my normal self.

“It’ll be great to have my independence back and to start my career in helping children with brain injuries.”

Jenny is sharing her story to raise awareness for encephalitis.

She added: “I hope my story helps others spot the symptoms of this illness as without treatment it can be fatal.”

Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of The Encephalitis Society, said “Encephalitis affects more than 6,000 people in the UK every year – a figure considered to be conservative.

“Estimates suggest it costs the NHS around £40 million a year – not including the costs of rehabilitation and long-term care – and yet is less well known than Motor Neurone Disease and certain forms of Meningitis, even though it affects more people each year.

Jenny with her mum

Jenny with her mum

“Most people have not heard of Encephalitis unless it has happened to them or a loved one and we are determined to change that.

“Encephalitis is a thief – robbing families of their loved ones or, if they survive, the person they once knew.

“It steals memories, personalities, and abilities we take for granted: concentration, attention, thinking, judgement, inhibition.

“For many of our members there are additional challenges such as epilepsy and levels of fatigue so great that returning to a normal working life can be difficult.”