A father who lost his childhood memories when he was hit by a car had a breakthrough after listening to The Waterboys’ hit The Whole of the Moon triggered a series of flashbacks.
Thomas Leeds was crossing the road in north London when he was hit by a taxi, sending him flying over the bonnet and landing on his head in the road.
After being rushed to hospital, it seemed the then- 19-year-old was relatively uninjured despite the severity of the crash and as sent home.
But days later, doctors realised he had a devastating blood clot on his brain.
Mr Leeds was left with no memories from before the crash and found he had a condition known as face blindness, which meant he struggled to recognise even his own family.
But listening to the Waterboys’ 1985 hit more than ten years later suddenly enabled him to recall fragmented images from his childhood.
Thomas Leeds (pictured with wife Sophie) who lost his childhood memories after a car crash, had a breakthrough after listening to a 1985 song which triggered flashbacks from his youth
Thomas Leeds (pictured in hospital) was listening to the Waterboys’ hit The Whole of the Moon when childhood memories came flooding back including one of his mother at Christmas time
Thomas lost all his childhood memories after the crash. Pictured: Thomas Leeds growing up
Doctors discovered Thomas had a blood clot on his brain which required emergency surgery
What is prosopagnosia?
Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, is a disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact.
The term originally referred to a condition following acute brain damage.
About two per cent of the population suffer from some sort of facial blindness
Few successful therapies have so far been developed for affected people, although individuals often learn to use ‘piecemeal’ or ‘feature by feature’ recognition strategies.
This may involve secondary clues such as clothing, gait, hair color, body shape, and voice.
Because the face seems to function as an important identifying feature in memory, it can also be difficult for people with this condition to keep track of information about people, and socialise normally with others.
The clot required emergency surgery and left Thomas with brain damage that meant he had no memories from before the crash and had also lost the ability to recognise people’s faces – a condition called prosopagnosia.
This meant when he came round in the hospital, he could not even recognise his parents or his five siblings.
Ten years later and Thomas was compiling a playlist for his 30th birthday party when he suddenly experienced a series of flashbacks from his childhood.
The memories were triggered by The Waterboys’ 1985 hit The Whole of the Moon and included a memory of his mother as a younger woman at Christmas.
Now 37, Thomas described the flashbacks as ‘the most magical thing ever’.
As well as memory loss and prosopagnosia, Thomas’ family also noticed a major change in his personality.
Where he was once quite reserved, he is now outgoing and emotional. He has also developed epilepsy due to the scar tissue on his brain.
Speaking with the BBC, he described the first three years after the crash as being in ‘an emotional cocoon’ while he recovered from his injuries.
He said: ‘Everything was wonderful, so big and unlimited, and I sort of remember — it sounds so silly — just sitting in the park under trees.’
In the wake of his accident, Thomas had tried to recover his memories by revisiting locations from his past while friends and family tried to remind him of hobbies and interests he used to have but nothing came back.
Thomas said he started to feel stuck as friends began to start their careers and families.
In a bid to find a soulmate, Thomas began internet dating which was becoming more prominent at the time.
Through a dating app, he met Sophie who had dyed bright red hair which he said made her ‘like a beacon’ and she became the only face he would never forget, even to this day.
Thomas experienced flashbacks after listening to Waterboys’ hit The Whole of the Moon. Pictured: The Waterboys perform on stage during Festival de Guitarra de Barcelona in 2012
Thomas was on a gap year and was planning to go to university but that changed when he suffered brain damage which left him with personality changes and no childhood memories
Thomas has since been signed by a literary agency and is working on his first fantasy novel
The couple dated for two years before they got married and have now had two daughters together.
His breakthrough came when they were getting ready for his 30th birthday party. Thomas had put together a playlist which included The Whole of the Moon and it was while listening to that song through his headphones that he began experiencing flashbacks.
He told the BBC: ‘It really changed everything for me. It was so short, nothing was said, but knowing that it was real and I’ve got it in my head and it’s not just a story, and it’s not just a grainy photograph … it was a little bit of my beginning.’
Face blindness still impacts Thomas’ day to day life and he says ‘some days are better than others’.
Although he is able to create new memories with his family, he says sometimes he struggles to recognise his daughters when they are playing in the park.
Thomas was fortunate enough to retain his ability to read and write following his injury and is now a writer, preparing to publish his first novel.
The fantasy adventure story will feature a protagonist who wakes up with no memory of the past and will be aimed at children aged between eight and 12.