It sounds like a plot line from a soap opera – you wake up after taking a hit to the head and you have no memory at all. Nothing. You can’t remember your life, family or friends.
That’s exactly what happened to Caleb Williams last September. He’s a senior at Gladewater High School in East Texas and was knocked unconscious during a football game. The moment he woke up from that accident is where his memory begins.
Williams says he woke up on the sideline, surrounded by his parents and other players.
“I knew something was wrong because I looked up and I didn’t recognize anybody,” he says. “I knew it must have happened on the football field because I was on the football field, but I didn’t know what had happened.”
He says he was flown to a hospital in Carthage, where he couldn’t tell doctors what his name was because he couldn’t remember. “Until my parents got there, they had to name me Idaho Idaho, because they didn’t have a name for me,” Williams says. “I had no idea what I was – if I was an athlete, if I was smart, if I had parents at all… I didn’t know anything. It was completely gone.”
Williams says he wasn’t comfortable in his own house for the first month, but his parents kept trying to remind him of his life before the accident, hoping to spark his memory.
“My friends started coming over telling me about the times we had,” he says. “It was a pretty long process and still no memory. But I’m making new friends and I’m making new memories.”
He says that his parents are very understanding but he was frustrated because he didn’t know who his parents were.
“I didn’t know anybody on this Earth, so I was frustrated, didn’t know what to do, what to say,” he says. “I was completely quiet.”
Williams says he would still play football, even if he knew that this would happen. “It’s a dangerous game,” he says. “I knew the risks. There’s nothing I could have done about it…. I wouldn’t trade that day for nothing.”
Because Williams doesn’t remember his schoolwork before his senior year, his teachers have been working with him to help him remember his studies. He says he’s still planning to go to college on a basketball scholarship – the same sport that gave his brother a concussion that wiped out his memory, Williams says.
“He told me he was scared just like I was when he got back to the house,” he says. “His memory came back a year and a half later so I’m hoping mine comes back sometime soon.”
Williams says he’s not more scared than he was before about playing contact sports. “It could happen playing basketball, it could happen walking down some stairs,” he says. “I might as well just play the sport I love.”