REAL LIFE

Giving birth wiped my wife’s memory

After Steve Curto, 38, nearly lost his wife, they faced another battle

When Steve and his fiancee Camre fell pregnant, they couldn’t wait to meet their little one.

But after a traumatic birth, the couple faced another struggle.

My phone beeped with a message and I smiled as I read it.

I’m doing okay. The baby’s fine. I love you, it said.

My pregnant fiancée, Camre, then 24, had been admitted to hospital the night before with a swollen throat and I’d popped home.

Typing a quick reply, I assumed I’d bring her home later that day. But a few hours later my phone rang. ‘Camre’s had the baby,’ my mum Julie’s panicked voice said.

It didn’t make sense. He wasn’t due for another seven weeks. With no other information, I jumped in the car and drove wildly across town.

As I raced to the delivery room, a baby was being wheeled out.

‘He’s healthy,’ the nurse smiled at me. I gently touched his hand as he grabbed on.

‘So strong,’ I smiled.

Camre and little Gavin. Pictures: Supplied
(Camre and little Gavin. Pictures: Supplied)

It was fitting for his name Gavin, which meant little white battlehawk and which Camre and I had already picked out.

As I was taken to see Camre, I was told she had pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy condition causing high blood pressure.

In Camre’s case, it’d quickly turned into eclampsia which caused a seizure, leaving her brain deprived of oxygen for between five and eight minutes.

The feelings of excitement and joy after meeting Gavin were quickly replaced with fear as I was confronted with Camre lying in an induced coma in ICU.

This wasn’t how it was meant to be, I thought. Two days later, she was woken up. I knew immediately my Camre wasn’t there.

She blinked at me like I was a stranger. She didn’t even recognise her mum or dad. ‘Are we in church?’ she asked, dazed.

Explaining we’d had a baby, I took her to meet Gavin for the first time. Reaching into his cot, she patted him distractedly.

It was heartbreaking as I realised she had no idea Gavin was her baby.

And the blank look on her face told me she didn’t have a clue who I was either.

Moving her to a specialist trauma hospital, we started getting answers, but not ones any of us wanted.

‘The lack of oxygen has caused a massive brain injury on her memory lobes,’ her doctor told us.

Camre and Gavin are making new memories. Picture: Supplied
(Camre and Gavin are making new memories. Picture: Supplied)

It could have affected any part of her brain but, in pure bad luck, it’d hit this spot, leaving Camre’s long-term and short-term memory completely wiped.

I quickly realised exactly how bad it was. She couldn’t remember anything for more than a few seconds.

Whenever I left her side, I returned as a stranger. Lifting her hand to show her the ring, I gently explained we were engaged.

‘I’m your fiancé, Steve,’ I said, pointing to my name tag.

But I was met with the same blank stare. ‘Whose baby is this?’ she’d ask as she held our son.

She had no recollection of her past either. Her family, childhood and schooling were a mystery.

‘You’ve had a brain injury,’ I’d tell her, but of course she forgot that explanation every few minutes too.

We had no idea if or how much better she’d get, but even in those early days I was determined.

‘I’m going to keep my family together,’ I told my mum. ‘We’ll be okay.’

After a month, Camre stayed with her parents while I worked and cared for Gavin. Camre would visit and gradually she became more comfortable.

‘Scott, right?’ she’d say. ‘No, Steve,’ I’d reply. About six weeks in, there was a huge breakthrough.

Sitting on the lounge she turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know who you are, but I know I love you.’

It was the best feeling and I held it with me as we struggled on.

Working with her mum, Cheryl, 60, and an occupational therapist, Camre started relearning how to do things, such as brushing her teeth and changing a nappy.

Her memory also started extending from seconds to minutes. Around six months later, we shared our first kiss. A year later, in July 2013,
I proposed again. And when Gavin was three, we got married.

Within days, Camre had forgotten it all, but by now she knew Gavin and me.

In September, I published a book, But I Know I Love You, all about our love story.

She has struggled with epilepsy as a result of her initial seizure and more recently has started to understand what she’s lost.

But she is the strongest, most incredible woman I’ve ever met and the best mum to Gavin, now seven. Who knows what the future will bring but we’ll stay grateful. While memories are a luxury, we’ll enjoy each moment

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