Aug 3, 2022

Meet the man with a 30 second memory Transcript

Meet the man with a 30 second memory Transcript
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Clive has no idea where he lives, what year it is, or even how old he is. He has a memory span of only 30 seconds. Read the transcript here.

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Tara: (00:00)
It’s the most unusual marriage, a love story like no other, the story of a brilliant musician called Clive Wearing and his wife, Deborah. Clive has no idea where he lives, what year it is, or even how old he is. He has a memory span of only 30 seconds. Tell him something now, he’ll forget it almost immediately, and he’s been like this for 20 endless years. Almost certainly the worst case of amnesia in the world. Not surprisingly, the tensions, the frustrations have solely tested the Wearings’ marriage. But even though his brain doesn’t work properly, Clive still has a beautiful mind and a love he can never forget.

Tara: (00:38)
So how long has it been since you’ve seen Clive?

Deborah Wearing: (00:48)
I saw him two weeks ago.

Tara: (00:50)
Does he have any idea that it’s been that long?

Deborah Wearing: (00:53)
No. He wouldn’t know if it was two minutes or 10 years. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know if he see me ever in the last 20 years.

Tara: (01:04)
In this compelling and complicated love story, Clive Wearing may not know when he last saw his wife, Deborah, but he knows she is his one great passion.

Clive Wearing: (01:17)
Yes. Is she here?

Tara: (01:18)
She’s coming up soon.

Clive Wearing: (01:20)
Oh, she is, and I’ve never seen her since I’ve been known. I’ve never seen a human being of any kind, whatever.

Tara: (01:25)
Well, that’s 20 years.

Clive Wearing: (01:27)
I don’t notice. I’ve never seen anything for 20 years.

Tara: (01:32)
20 years ago, Clive lost his memory. It was sudden and irreversible. It’s considered the worst case of amnesia in the world.

Clive Wearing: (01:42)
No difference between day and night. No-

Tara: (01:42)
Clive can’t hold onto a thought for more than 30 seconds, which means he won’t remember the beginning of this conversation.

Tara: (01:49)
Well, Deborah will be here in a minute.

Clive Wearing: (01:51)
Yes. I’ve never seen her since I’ve been ill. How many years have I been unconscious?

Tara: (01:56)
You’ve been ill for 20 years.

Clive Wearing: (01:58)
Can you imagine what’s it’s like, one night, 20 years long with no dreams and no thoughts? The brain has been totally inactive day and night, exactly the same. There’s no difference between this and death.

Deborah Wearing: (02:09)
Everything that went into his mind vanished instantly, just like when snow touches warm ground. It was gone. And he became, as he put it, completely incapable of thinking.

Tara: (02:22)
When he does see you, how does he normally react?

Deborah Wearing: (02:27)
Very pleased. He’ll probably jump up and down, take me in his arms, squeeze me very hard. And quite possibly dance.

Tara: (02:38)
Oh, that’s [inaudible 00:02:41].

Tara: (02:43)
This loving reunion happens every time they meet. And it’s repeated countless times in a day because for Clyde, each time is the first time they’ve seen each other since he got sick.

Clive Wearing: (02:54)
Dear, just let me hold you.

Tara: (02:56)
Clyde’s amnesia means he lives in a home for people with brain injuries, but Deborah visits as often as she can.

Clive Wearing: (03:02)
Wonderful kiss you’ve got.

Deborah Wearing: (03:03)
Thank you, darling. Make it [inaudible 00:03:05].

Clive Wearing: (03:05)
I never see my own tie.

Deborah Wearing: (03:06)
How about a plain one?

Clive Wearing: (03:08)
Where’s the mirror?

Deborah Wearing: (03:08)
Over there.

Clive Wearing: (03:08)
Oh, I see. And you know where everything is.

Deborah Wearing: (03:16)
I know where anything [inaudible 00:03:16].

Clive Wearing: (03:16)
Right. Clever. You know all of them. Better. Yeah. It’s definitely improvement.

Deborah Wearing: (03:16)
So you ready to go out to lunch?

Clive Wearing: (03:16)
Yes, please.

Tara: (03:24)
Clive and Deborah’s story began 27 years ago when the dashing conductor and choir master fell for one of his singers. She was just as smitten.

Deborah Wearing: (03:34)
It’s a heart thing. I saw him, I fell in love.

Tara: (03:38)
What was it that attracted you?

Deborah Wearing: (03:40)
Everything. He was charismatic. He was a giant intellect and yet very modest and humble and sweet and funny.

Tara: (03:59)
They married in 1983. She was 25. He was 44. But what no one could guess on this happy day was that just over a year later, exhausted from over work, Clive would be struck down by a common virus.

Deborah Wearing: (04:15)
It was a virus called herpes simplex, the cold sore virus. It normally goes to the mouth, but it very, very rarely loses its way, goes to the brain, and causes the brain to swell. And in fact, overnight from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, Clive lost his marbles, really.

Tara: (04:38)
Okay. So we’re looking at Clive’s brain here.

Deborah Wearing: (04:40)
You see the damage is the dark parts, the shadows.

Tara: (04:44)
The dark parts, huge holes in Clive’s brain, were picked up by a CT scan when he was first diagnosed in 1985.

Tara: (04:52)
Which means for Clive, what?

Deborah Wearing: (04:56)
His memories fell out.

Tara: (04:59)
To live without memory makes Clive angry when you ask him to think about it.

Tara: (05:05)
Are you a happy man?

Clive Wearing: (05:07)

Tara: (05:07)
Are you a happy man?

Clive Wearing: (05:08)
Happy? I’ve been unconscious for how many years. That doesn’t make happy, does it?

Tara: (05:12)
So are you an unhappy, then?

Clive Wearing: (05:13)
Of course I am. I’ve never seen a human being before. Never heard a note. Never seen anything at all. Day and night, exactly the same with no dreams of any kind.

Tara: (05:24)
But the nature of his illness means that within seconds, Clive is happy as he forgets his agitation.

Tara: (05:30)
What would you like to do now?

Clive Wearing: (05:32)
A drink of coffee.

Tara: (05:33)
You’d like a drink of coffee.

Clive Wearing: (05:34)
Could I have one?

Tara: (05:35)
Yes, of course.

Clive Wearing: (05:35)
Oh my, my.

Tara: (05:35)
What can he remember?

Deborah Wearing: (05:46)
He remembers about things. He doesn’t remember the things themselves. So he knows that I am his wife with no recollection of the wedding. He remembers how to play the piano. So he has his skills, but there is not a single event that has ever happened to his whole life that he can bring to his mind’s eye.

Tara: (06:20)

Clive Wearing: (06:20)
Are you from Hollywood?

Tara: (06:21)
No, I’m not from Hollywood.

Deborah Wearing: (06:23)
That’s a bit funny, though. She’s from-

Tara: (06:25)
This is the umpteenth time I’ve met Clive today. But in his mind, he’s never laid eyes on me. Then again, he’s never seen this piano nor this bedroom where he’s lived for the last 10 years.

Deborah Wearing: (06:38)
Sweetheart, would you like to play the piano?

Clive Wearing: (06:43)
Oh, it’s here. That’s a joke, now wasn’t it?

Deborah Wearing: (06:43)
There is a piano there. I’ll get you a bit more light.

Tara: (06:56)
While Clive hasn’t lost his memory for music, in the few minutes he’s been playing, he’s forgotten almost everything else.

Deborah Wearing: (07:04)
She’s behind you, they say in the pantomime.

Clive Wearing: (07:07)
Are you from Buckingham Palace?

Tara: (07:08)
No, I’m not from Buckingham Palace.

Deborah Wearing: (07:11)
Do you know what you and I have just been doing?

Clive Wearing: (07:17)
No idea.

Deborah Wearing: (07:17)

Clive Wearing: (07:17)
No idea.

Deborah Wearing: (07:17)
Do you remember sitting the other way on this chair? Do you know what’s behind us?

Clive Wearing: (07:22)

Deborah Wearing: (07:22)
There’s a piano.

Clive Wearing: (07:24)
Oh, is it?

Tara: (07:28)
Clive still gets frustrated by his illness, but he’s much more at peace with himself now. In the early days, he found it unbearable. The disease robbed him of his memory, but even more cruelly, left him with enough brain power to recognize his loss. And how did he respond to that horror?

Deborah Wearing: (07:48)
He cried. He began one day to cry and that crying did not cease ever, not even for a moment, for at least a month, a good month and a half.

Tara: (08:09)
Hello, Mr. Wearing.

Clive Wearing: (08:10)
Are you from Buckingham Palace?

Tara: (08:11)
I’m not from Buckingham Palace. Don’t you remember me from yesterday?

Clive Wearing: (08:16)

Tara: (08:17)

Clive Wearing: (08:17)
I haven’t seen any human beings since I’ve been ill.

Tara: (08:18)
Oh. My name’s Tara.

Clive Wearing: (08:18)
What a wonderful name.

Tara: (08:19)
Thank you. Clive’s charm is disarming. Thank you.

Clive Wearing: (08:22)
I bet you’ve never met another Clive, have you?

Tara: (08:24)
I haven’t met…

Tara: (08:25)
His obsession with Buckingham Palace stems from his confusion of who I am. As his first visitor in 20 years in his mind, I must be very important, but that doesn’t help him remember me just a few minutes later.

Tara: (08:39)
You know that I met you just a few minutes ago.

Clive Wearing: (08:42)
No, never seen anyone.

Tara: (08:42)
Now, I’ve spotted your diary over there.

Clive Wearing: (08:46)
I’ve never seen that diary since I’ve been ill.

Tara: (08:47)
Should we have a look at it together?

Clive Wearing: (08:50)
Yeah, it’s frightening when I might have written. I don’t swear very often.

Tara: (08:52)
He may not remember, but for the past 20 years, compulsively, day after day, year after year, Clive has made a record of the moment he wakes up. It’s a graphic example of a man with no memory. It’s the same, year in, year out. 8:40, 9:10, 10:00. Now I am really perfectly awake, first time. A chronology of confusion and anguish.

Tara: (09:21)
Do you know why these are crossed out?

Clive Wearing: (09:24)
Never seen it before. I didn’t think it was true. I’ve crossed out the word first-

Tara: (09:30)
Clive crosses the out because he’s only awake at the very moment he writes in his diary. He thinks all previous entries must be wrong because he’s never seen them before. But it’s his please for Deborah to visit that are the hardest to read. For those, she visits often. He has no recollection of seeing her.

Clive Wearing: (09:49)
Never seen it before.

Tara: (09:50)
You wrote, “Please fly here at once, darling Deborah.” Do you remember writing that?

Clive Wearing: (09:56)
No, at infinite miles per hour.

Tara: (10:04)
Oh, sorry.

Clive Wearing: (10:04)
She said it once and you see it.

Tara: (10:04)
I can’t read your writing.

Clive Wearing: (10:04)
I can. I’m used to it.

Tara: (10:04)
Do you remember writing that?

Clive Wearing: (10:05)

Tara: (10:06)
Why do you implore Deborah to arrive here?

Clive Wearing: (10:09)
Because I love her.

Tara: (10:09)
Because you love her.

Clive Wearing: (10:09)
Yeah. This is love, is all. Did you know?

Tara: (10:13)
Well, I’ve been working it out.

Clive Wearing: (10:14)
All right.

Tara: (10:16)
Do you think of your relationship with him as a husband and wife or is it mother and child?

Deborah Wearing: (10:22)
Oh, no. Husband and wife. It’s a marriage, although it’s obviously apart. It’s quite an unusual marriage, let’s say.

Deborah Wearing: (10:34)

Clive Wearing: (10:35)
Oh. You are the best angel on Earth.

Tara: (10:48)
It doesn’t matter who’s in the room. They can’t hide their affection for one another.

Clive Wearing: (10:53)
Hey, how do you do?

Tara: (10:59)
They only knew each other for six and a half years before Clive got sick. He can’t remember people he’s known all his life, yet Clive can’t forget Deborah.

Deborah Wearing: (11:09)
Who needs music?

Clive Wearing: (11:10)
Who’s music?

Deborah Wearing: (11:12)
No, who needs music?

Clive Wearing: (11:14)
Madam, let me.

Tara: (11:15)
Even in those very first days when he couldn’t communicate, he could still say to you, “I love you.”

Deborah Wearing: (11:21)

Tara: (11:22)
How do you explain that?

Deborah Wearing: (11:24)
Because it’s very, very important. In some words, I think that are just sealed into our minds and our hearts. Some feelings are just sealed in and not open to corruption.

Clive Wearing: (11:36)
Are you from Buckingham Palace?

Tara: (11:39)
No, I’m unfortunately not. I wish.

Tara: (11:42)
As happy as they are today. For much of the last 20 years, Deborah has had to struggle with the desperately sad dilemma of giving up Clive for a normal life and new partner and children, or stay on in a marriage where only a 30 second moment counts.

Clive Wearing: (11:58)
You knew my preference, didn’t you? Just like that. Isn’t she wonderful?

Deborah Wearing: (12:02)
I ordered it.

Clive Wearing: (12:03)
Oh, you are as good as her. Are you?

Tara: (12:05)
How great was the pain?

Deborah Wearing: (12:07)
Bigger than I was, uncontainable.

Deborah Wearing: (12:11)

Clive Wearing: (12:12)
Oh, cheers.

Tara: (12:13)
In 1993, cheer, Deborah made her painful choice. She left moving overseas to escape Clive.

Deborah Wearing: (12:21)
Because I was in acute emotional pain a lot of the time and I hated England. It was like, I just couldn’t cope with being there and I needed to get as far away as possible.

Tara: (12:37)
But by leaving England, you’re leaving Clive, the love of your life. I mean, was that…

Deborah Wearing: (12:42)
I had to. I couldn’t endure it. It was too painful.

Tara: (12:46)
So what brought you back?

Deborah Wearing: (12:47)

Tara: (12:51)
Unable to forget Clive, Deborah returned to renew their wedding vows. She’s since written a book about her love for her husband.

Deborah Wearing: (13:01)
I just came to understand that there was nothing more important than love. There was nothing more important than being true to who you are. We had more than a lot of marriages have, and that was the bottom line.

Tara: (13:22)
Have you always loved Deborah as much as you love her today?

Clive Wearing: (13:27)
Oh yeah, it’s too wonderful.

Tara: (13:28)
Do you remember when you first saw her?

Clive Wearing: (13:29)
I can’t remember. No. I’ve never seen her since I’ve been ill.

Tara: (13:42)
The Clive and Deborah Wearing story is so moving because you don’t know whether to be sad or happy for them. Of course, it’s a tragedy that this man of music and the arts lost so much so quickly. But isn’t it nice that of all the things he’s forgotten, he remembers what makes him happy?

Deborah Wearing: (14:10)
Even if it is very sad that you haven’t any conscious memory for the last 20 years, I have. So I remember for both of us.

Clive Wearing: (14:18)
You can let me know what happens, can’t you?

Deborah Wearing: (14:19)

Deborah Wearing: (14:21)
We found out that the brain isn’t everything. We are more than our minds.

Tara: (14:30)
How different is your love now to when you first married?

Deborah Wearing: (14:33)
We’re closer. We understand each other and I love him more.

Clive Wearing: (14:41)
I’m not serious. I’m not being serious at all.

Sarah Abo: (14:50)
Hello. I’m Sarah Abo. Thanks for watching 60 Minutes Australia. Subscribe to our channel now for brand new stories and exclusive clips every week. And don’t miss out on our extra minute segments and full episodes of 60 minutes on and the 9now app.

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