When we go through something traumatic, our memory of the incident can be a little blurry. In fact, afterward, we may have little to no recollection of what happened. This is especially true if an incident was so bad that you suffered from a concussion.
This was the case for the man in the following story who felt disillusioned as he recovered from a traumatizing head injury. However, in the weeks that followed, he discovered something remarkable about himself, that could only be explained by a select few people in the world. He had unlocked an entirely new side of himself…
Featured photo credit: www.lifecoachcode.com
On October 27, 2006, Derek was at a pool party and he stood at the shallow edge of the swimming pool and called for his buddy in the jacuzzi to toss him the football. He then launched himself through the air, head first, with his head slamming into the pool’s concrete floor.
Suffering A Concussion
The force was so powerful that it felt like an explosion and Derek was quickly pushed to the surface. He clapped his hands to his head as he was convinced that the water streaming down his cheeks was blood gushing from his ears. At the edge of the pool, Derek collapsed into the arms of his friends…
An Altered State
At the time, the 39-year-old sales trainer was visiting his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, from Colorado, where he currently lived. As his two high school friends, Bill Peterson and Rick Sturm drove Derek to his mother’s home, not too far away, he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Derek Was Talking Nonsense
To his friends, Derek wasn’t making any sense. He insisted he was a professional baseball player who was late for spring training in Phoenix. When he finally got to his mother’s house, she rushed him to the emergency room where doctors diagnosed him with a severe concussion…
His New Reality
They sent him home with strict instructions that he needed to be woken every few hours and he was told it’d be weeks before the full impact of his head trauma became apparent. His injuries turned out to be 35% hearing loss in one ear, headaches, and memory loss.
Late Night At Sturm’s House
But the dramatic change happened just four days after the accident when Derek woke from sleep and headed over to his friend Sturm’s house. The friends stayed up in Sturm’s makeshift music studio and Derek spotted an electric keyboard. Without hesitating, he got up from his chair and sat down in front of it…
He Couldn’t Help Himself
Derek had never played the piano before because he simply had no desire to. But, his fingers somehow found the keys, landing on the high notes, then finding his way back to the low ones. His fingers seemed to drift throughout the keyboard effortlessly. When Derek finally looked up at his friend, Sturm was in tears.
Side Effect Of Head Trauma?
Was this a hidden talent? Sturm wondered. Derek went on to play at the keyboard for the next six hours, leaving Sturm’s house early the next morning, feeling alive. He went straight to his computer and googled to see if this was an effect of the aftermath of head trauma…
He typed in words like “gifted” along with “head trauma” and the results left him speechless. He began reading about other people like Orlando Serrell and Alonzo Clemens. Serrell was hit in the head with a baseball at 10 and afterward discovered he could remember the weather for each day after his accident.
Other Acquired Savants
Clemens suffered brain damage after a head injury at 2 and afterward learned he could create detailed sculptures of animals in just minutes. Finally, Derek found the name Darold Treffert, an expert on savant syndrome, a condition in which individuals who are mentally impaired demonstrate remarkable new skills. He reached out to him…
Derek sent Treffert an email and he responded. Treffert, who is now retired from the University Wisconsin School of Medicine, diagnosed Derek with “acquired savant syndrome.” There are around 30 known cases of the syndrome, where ordinary people who suffered brain trauma suddenly developed remarkable new abilities.
Another Acquired Savants
Things like mathematical mastery, photographic memory, and artistic brilliance, to name a few, can be associated with this condition. Another acquired savant is a high-school dropout who was brutally beaten by muggers, only to discover that he’s the only person in the world to be able to draw complex geometric patterns called fractals. He also says he believes he discovered a mistake in pi…
Acquired Savant Syndrome
Unfortunately, the neurological causes of acquired savant syndrome are poorly understood. But work has even begun to design experiments that investigate an intriguing possibility, that the genius lies in all of us, and it sometimes takes a traumatic incident for it to be unleashed.
Understanding Savant Syndrome
Bruce Miller, director of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center in San Francisco, says that savant skills emerge because the area is ravaged by disease. Those areas of the brain associated with logic, comprehension, and verbal communication have actually been inhibiting artistic abilities all along, he said. Miller continues…
An Unlocked Brain
“The skills don’t emerge as a result of newly acquired brain power, they emerge, because for the first time, the areas of the right brain associated with creativity can operate unchecked.” So, it’s like the new skills have been there all along, only laying dormant and hoping for the day it can be unleashed.
Do We All Have Latent Abilities?
This is revolutionary because it proves that we all have latent abilities. Other neurologists have also found cases where brain damage has led to positive changes, whether it’s enhancing memory or even restoring eyesight. This science does not suggest that you should purposely cause yourself a head injury in order to unlock some dormant skill. But in Derek’s case, in the weeks following his accident, his mind was racing…
Strong Desire To Play The Piano
His fingers wanted so badly to move and he found himself waking up from naps with his fingers creating beats against his legs. To fulfill this powerful desire, he bought a keyboard, as, without one, he felt overstimulated.
Exploring His Talent
Derek began to lock himself in the house for days at a time and just play the piano, exploring and trying to understand his new talent. But the aftermath of Derek’s accident didn’t result in just good symptoms, he also experienced bad ones…
He would soon see black and white squares in his vision like a filter had taken over his eyes and wouldn’t stop moving. He also suffered pretty severe headaches and anxiety. The first bad headache happened three weeks after his accident and before long, Derek was having as many as five a day.
One day he even collapsed in his brother’s bathroom, and on another, he nearly passed out while at Wal-Mart. Derek struggled with feeling like he’d been given a gift that was both a blessing and a curse. But he says that since the accident, his whole life has changed. Derek has been featured in newspapers and television shows around the world, and he was one of eight savants featured on a Discovery Channel special called “Ingenious Minds.” One thing is for certain, Derek Amato is not going to stop playing the piano anytime soon.
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