Memory loss miracle: 'I forgot my first love... but fell in love with her AGAIN'
I spoke to lovely couple Tam and Orla who defied the odds to fall in love! When Tam had a car accident his whole memory was wiped - but when he met his ex Orla, they ended up falling in love all over again. Their story is in today's Sun Online #sellyourstory #thesun #fabulous
A man who lost his entire memory after being hit by a car fell in love with his ex-girlfriend for all over again, despite not remembering anything about her.
The couple had been in a relationship as teenagers but had broken up a year before the near-fatal car accident.
Thomas McKinney, who was 21 at the time, suffered brain damage and lost his memory, so he did not know who his first love was when he saw her on a night out following the accident.
But when the pair eventually got chatting and Thomas got to know Orla all over again, he fell in love with her a second time.
The couple from County Armagh, Northern Ireland, are now married and have five children together.
It has been 20 years since the car accident, which Orla believes brought her and Thomas – or Tam as he’s known - back together.
Orla McKinney, 40, said: “I’ll never forget when I first found out about Tam having the accident. My cousin and I were close and often visited each other, and one day she came round and asked me if I’d heard about what had happened to Tam.
“I froze and struggled to take it in as she explained how he had been hit by a car while crossing the road outside a night club. She told me he was in a coma and on life support.
“I was so worried Tam wouldn’t survive. I really wanted to see him, but it just didn’t feel right. His family were having a bad enough time without me visiting and asking questions. So I kept asking my cousin to update me on how he was.”
Orla prayed he would pull through and was relieved when she learnt he had come out of a coma after nearly two weeks. But he was still in intensive care.
The accident had left Thomas mentally and physically disabled, with the last 21 years of his life wiped from his memory.
Thomas, 41, said: “I woke up in hospital and had no idea what had happened or why I was there. There were lots of people sitting around my bed and though the faces seemed familiar, I didn’t know their names or who they were.
“The doctors explained I had been hit by a car and said that I shouldn’t have survived. They called me a miracle and said I had a long recovery ahead of me.
“When the car hit me I’d gone over the top of its roof, severely injuring my right hip before hitting my head on the ground. Part of my brain was damaged, and I had to learn how to do everything all over again.”
Thomas had to learn simple things many of us take for granted, such as the alphabet, letters and words, how to walk and how to make a cup of tea.
He had no idea who any of his family or friends were, including Orla.
The pair had dated as teenagers and Orla had always imagined she would spend her life with Thomas.
She said: “I was about 17 when I first met Tam at a disco and he was the same age. I loved how sweet and honest he was and once we started dating, we made many happy memories together. He was a true romantic.
“We lost touch a while before he had his accident. So when I found out he was out of hospital and doing well, I couldn’t wait to see him again.
“A year or so later, I saw him on a night out and shouted his name. He turned around and saw me but of course he had no idea who he was. I was heartbroken, I so wanted to be with him."
When the pair saw each other again, they got chatting.
“I saw Tam while I was out having drinks and this time I felt brave enough to go up to him and tell him who I was. I told him about our history and he was amazed when I started telling him things about himself he didn’t even know, like the kind of cars he had owned. He couldn’t believe I knew so much about him.”
Orla realised the brain damage Thomas had suffered had altered his personality, but she still had the same feelings for him.
She said: “We started spending more time together and I was thrilled when he grew feelings for me again. My feelings for him had never really gone away.”
The couple started dating again and soon after, Orla fell pregnant. It came as a shock to the couple, especially Thomas.
Orla said: “When I fell pregnant it was very unexpected. I was afraid to tell Tam the news because I didn’t know how he was going to take it. When I did tell him, it took him a long time to come to terms with it.
“When I had our son, Dillon, Tam was there for me from day one. But being a family wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I wanted to be with Thomas but his whole life had changed. Nothing came easily to him, so I suppose the idea of settling down with a family was difficult to comprehend.”
Orla and Thomas drifted apart but luckily, they had Dillon as a reason to keep in contact. When their son turned four, the pair got back together and moved in together, living as a family of three.
Thomas said: “Life in general wasn’t easy for me, which meant it wasn’t particularly easy for Orla either. My memory was so bad that I would put the cooker on and forget. And with me having to learn how to walk again, my balance was so poor that I would often trip badly. My balance still isn’t great now. Orla has always had to have her wits about her and she was always so good at keeping my spirits up.
“Over ten years I was in and out of hospital having appointments, check-ups and physio. It was all part of my recovery and I found it tough. It felt like I had ruined my loved ones’ lives.
“I couldn’t accept it was my life and that I had to learn to walk and talk – just as a baby or child would. But Orla definitely turned my life around for the better.”
Thomas and Orla got married in 2011 and since Dillon, now 12, the husband and wife have had four more children, sons Shane, six, and Dara, four, and twins Cayden and Rebecca, two.
Orla said: “Of course I wish Thomas had never had the accident, but it did bring us back together. His life was on the line and he is very lucky to be here, and I’m even luckier.”
Thomas said: “I can’t believe that despite me having the accident and losing my entire memory that I still ended up with Orla. It honestly feels like a miracle.”