‘I have a hunch I was left damaged’: what would a scan reveal about my brain?

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Ever since he had encephalitis as a child, Simon Hattenstone worried that the disease might have caused long-term effects such as memory loss and depression. So, finally, he went for an MRI to find out

I’ve had doubts about the old grey matter for a long time. Fifty one years to be exact. And now, at the age of 60, those doubts are increasing. When I was a young boy, my brain took a beating. I had been an A1 swot until then – loved school, was a quick learner, and was super independent. At the age of nine, I was racing around the neighbourhood on my bike delivering messages and cakes for my mum. I was fearless. Nothing fazed me. Bury Old Road in Salford was my Route 66 – I’d fly down it on my Chopper, wind in my hair, embracing the freedom.

Then one day I woke up with a burning headache, high temperature, and an aversion to light and noise (actually pretty much all sound). I lived much of the next two years in darkness. I felt as if my head had caved in, that I was detached from my body, and regressed to a little boy who just wanted to play with baby toys. It was the best part of a year before I was diagnosed with encephalitis – inflammation of the brain – a relatively rare but dangerous condition. One in 10 people are still estimated to die from it, and back then misdiagnosis was common.

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