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Real Life Memento – The Man with the 5 Minute Memory

Due to a serious car accident when he was 17, Chen Hongzhi only has a 5 minute memory

Chen Hongzhi, from Hsinchu county, in north-western Taiwan is the real life version of Guy Peirce’s character in Memento. Meet the real life memento – the man with the 5 minute memory.

After a sustaining a head injury in a serious car accident when he was 17, Chen no longer has a functioning short term memory capacity. Now aged 25 he has been forced to live his life from scratch every day since the accident.

And like the character in the film, Chen has to write down every single thing about himself in a diary, in order to keep track of everything that goes on around him. Chen spent several months in intensive care. However, although his body finally mended, his head injuries had reduced his memory to a mere five minutes.

The lack of working memory, also means that he has forgotten how to write. To get around this, Chen makes notes about his daily life in a phonetic ‘scrawl’, which only he can understand.

Every morning, his mother, Wang Miao-chiong, has to remind him that he is no longer 17. She then hands him his notebook so that he can catch up on everything that has happened since the accident.

“This is my record, I write in it every day, even if it is pouring down with rain or if I don’t go out to do the weeding I still must write, ‘Heavy rain,’” he said. “Whenever I get home from any time away I quickly grab my notebook and write down important things from the day – who I’ve met, what I’ve done, how much money I got from recycling bottles, all that sort of stuff.”

His mother is now 60 years old and she fears for Chen’s future. Who will look after him when she is no longer able to? Chen’s condition makes it impossible for him to get a job, mother and son have to rely on donations from neighbours and friends in order to survive.

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His lack of memory means Chen has forgotten how to write. His notebook is a phonetic scrawl only he understands

The resilient young man does all that he can to help however. Chen makes a small income by walking several miles a day to collect plastic bottles and recycle them. He also collects pieces of wood that his mother uses to make a fire to cook food.

Further education is also impossible for Chen. His mother had initially hoped to send him back to school, but his condition makes it impossible for him to learn new things. “It had been planned that he would go back to school, but there was no point as he could never remember the lessons, and has been living at home with me ever since,” she said.

The man with the five-minute-memory
Chen’s notebook is the only way he is able to keep a track of his life.

Hongzhi, meanwhile, is quite happy that people are willing to help, especially when he goes through the notes in his diary. And although he’s lost his memory, his sense of humor seems intact. “I am reading here about all the people that want to give me money, but I would say don’t give me too much, because it looks as if I’ll probably forget where I put it all,” he joked.

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[Source: Daily Mail]