Brit struck with rare brain virus that causes memory to be wiped every 30 secs

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    Whenever Clive Wearing sees his wife, he welcomes her as if they haven't seen each other for years.

    But then literally, within the blink of an eye, everything is forgotten and his memories are wiped clean once more. For four decades, the 84-year-old has believed he's only recently woke up from a comatose state.

    But the talented musician is in fact living with the most devastating case of amnesia in medical history so far after being struck with a rare brain virus in 1985. After a mild case of herpes that passed the blood-brain barrier, Clive experienced both anterograde and retrograde amnesia which means he can't remember the past and is "stuck in the present,' unable to create new memories.

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    He has no recollection of his childhood or the names of his children from a previous marriage. His memory lasts between seven and 30 seconds but strangely, he remembers how to play music and how much he loves his wife.

    Before tragedy struck, Clive was a pianist and musician known for editing Orlando de Lassus’s works. He had a career as a tenor lay clerk at Westminster Cathedral and was a chorus master at Covent Garden and with the London Sinfonietta Chorus.

    He was working for BBC Radio 3 and in his mid-40s when he contracted the virus. Since then he spends every day "waking up" every 20 seconds or so, "restarting" his consciousness once more.

    Clive's wife Deborah described their devastating plight in her 2005 memoir, Forever Today. She wrote: "His ability to perceive what he saw and heard was unimpaired. But he did not seem to be able to retain any impression of anything for more than a blink.

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    "Indeed, if he did blink, his eyelids parted to reveal a new scene. The view before the blink was utterly forgotten. Each blink, each glance away and back, brought him an entirely new view. I tried to imagine how it was for him. . . . Something akin to a film with bad continuity, the glass half empty, then full, the cigarette suddenly longer, the actor’s hair now tousled, now smooth. But this was real life, a room changing in ways that were physically impossible."

    The memoir added: "It was as if every waking moment was the first waking moment. Clive was under the constant impression that he had just emerged from unconsciousness because he had no evidence in his own mind of ever being awake before. . . . 'I haven’t heard anything, seen anything, touched anything, smelled anything,' he would say. 'It’s like being dead.'"

    Clive started to keep a journal but the entries consisted of the statements “I am awake” or “I am conscious,” entered again and again every few minutes. This in turn was cancelled out by the next entry.

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    The heartbreaking journal- almost void of any other content – was filled anew each day, and soon mounted to hundreds of almost identical pages.

    It was a terrifying and poignant testament to Clive’s mental state that was referred to as “a never-ending agony.”

    In a documentary broadcast in 2005, Clive was interviewed about the experience of his condition. Asked if he missed his old life, he said: "Yes. But I've never been conscious to think that. So I've never been bored or upset. I've never been anything at all, it's exactly the same as death. No dreams even. Day and night, the same."

    In a moving piece for The New Yorker titled The Abyss, the late neurologist, Oliver Sacks, who met Clive wrote: "It has been (40) years since Clive’s illness, and, for him, nothing has moved on. One might say he is still in 1985 or, given his retrograde amnesia, in 1965. In some ways, he is not anywhere at all; he has dropped out of space and time altogether."

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