‘I may never get the answers’: Amnesia ordeal of hit-and-run survivor
Alpha Kabeja was in a coma for three weeks and now suffers from 'fabricated memories'
09 March, 2017 — By Tom Foot
Alpha Kabeja talks about his condition and recovery for the first time today
A CYCLIST who developed a bizarre memory condition after being knocked off his bike in a mystery hit-and-run crash says he has forgiven the van driver who left the scene with all the answers as to how he was hurt.
Speaking for the first time about the collision, his amnesia and his five years of recovery, Alpha Kabeja told the New Journal that he had found peace in his life despite knowing he is unlikely to ever learn the full story as to how he ended up in a coma for three weeks.
The 34-year-old said: “Sometimes I wonder what I’d say to the person who hit me – not calling an ambulance, not stopping, just leaving me there in the road. I think I’d explain how I’d let it go, and I’d ask them, ‘do you still think about it?’ I have become more accepting now that there may not be any true answers. For a while I was hoping to remember something about it, but now I have a better peace of mind. It’s forgiven.”
Mr Kabeja was taken to hospital on New Year’s Day in 2012 after being found in the road. There was no CCTV footage or witnesses, and all he can remember is the sight of a van coming up on his right while he was riding a bike in Camden Street, Camden Town.
The New Journal reported on his case while he lay in a coma as friends and family struggled to piece together what happened and appealed for information. Scans later showed his brain had been struck so hard that some parts had crossed the “midline” from one side to the other. Experts have discovered he has “confabulation”, also described as “fabricated memories” that seem real. It is considered different to lying, as there is no intention to deceive, and different to straightforward dreams as the memories do not fade and appear crystal clear.
Mr Kabeja is due to appear in a programme about the condition on a Sky TV special where experts will attempt to unlock the science behind his experiences. At the offices of brain charity Headway’s east London offices yesterday (Wednesday), Mr Kabeja said: “With fabricated memories you remember the details, like you’ve just watched the movie and it’s still fresh in your mind. I will still remember the precise details 10 years from now. When you have a coma, you have a gap in your mind, and your mind fills up with fabricated memories from your own subconscious.”
Mr Kabeja said he had been very disappointed after discovering he would not be having twins with his girlfriend, having created a crystal-clear – but false – memory of the couple looking at a scan. He believed he was on a job interview for MI6 at the time of the cycling crash. He has been able to distinguish between fabricated memories and reality by asking people involved, but the memory always remains in perfect detail, he said.
Mr Kabeja was born in Uganda and moved to Liverpool before heading south to Paddington. After going to school at Quintin Kynaston, Swiss Cottage, he became a cargo boat chef before returning and joining a band. His mother and sister live in Godwin Court, Somers Town, and he has recently moved into a flat in Royal College Street – a road away from the crash scene.
He said: “It’s strange. Every time I see the road, I hope something is going to jump in my mind.”
On the day of the crash he was on his way to see his girlfriend, “feeling guilty” as they had not spent New Year’s Eve together. Mr Kabeja had three major operations, a metal plate inserted into his skull and a partial frontal lobectomy during a year in the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, in Queen Square.
He is about to start a volunteer programme there “to give something back”. He is also in training to fulfil his dreams of cycling at the 2020 Paralympics. He said: “That’s my goal. Surprisingly, I was not so shaky when I got back on a bike. It would make a fitting end I think.”