“Two brain haemorrhages wiped out my short-term memory” - IKEA manager vows to battle back

Ian Duffy, a patient at Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust.

Ian Duffy, a patient at Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust. - Credit: Nick Butcher

We all sometimes experience that annoying feeling of not being able to remember something, but can you imagine having most of your short-term memory wiped?

That's what happened to Homersfield man Ian Duffy, a former senior manager at Ikea, who is building up a memory-bank based entirely on pictures he takes as he recovers from two severe brain haemorrhages.

'My brain has paid me back for me putting it through a lot of work,' he said. 'But I am determined to try to get back into work.'

Mr Duffy, who has two grandchildren, has spent most of his career with the Swedish company after joining as a store manager in Warrington when he was 28.

He became the company's head of retail in the UK in 2011, but his life changed when he suffered his first brain haemorrhage in March 2012.

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'I had felt a bit strange and taken some time off work but I was just about to go back when it happened,' Mr Duffy said.

'The last thing I remember is walking in the garden with a colleague.' Mr Duffy had suffered a major haemorrhage, which has the same effect as a stroke. When he woke up in hospital he couldn't speak or walk.

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He was given a carbon fibre heart valve and medication to help him as he started rehabilitation but he had a second and bigger brain haemorrhage just five months later.

It left him barely able to function and surgeons at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, had to drill a hole in his head to perform a craniotomy to relieve much pressure on the skull. 'I remember having strange hallucinations where I was in an airport and could speak different languages,' Mr Duffy said.

He was transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and then to Colman Hospital, Norwich, where he began physical rehabilitation.

Since being discharged he continued to have occupational and speech therapy at the hospital. Mr Duffy also still attends sessions at brain charity Headway in Norwich, and is supported by his wife Ingrid.

They have three children: Astrid, 31, Jesper, 29, and Alice, 22, who live in the USA, Norwich, and Manchester respectively.

Three years after the haemorrhages Mr Duffy can walk and speak but he still struggles with basic daily tasks. 'I find it very difficult to remember recent things and to formulate sentences,' he said.

'I try to just remember if yesterday, on balance, was a positive day.'

In a bid to improve his short-term memory Mr Duffy has started documenting his life by taking pictures of every-day things which he can look back on for reminders. 'It's incredibly powerful to look back on and it really helps my memory,' he said.

Mr Duffy will speak about his experience and recovery at an event at Colman Hospital at 2pm on Monday.

For more information call 01603 255753.

Have you got a health story? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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