GREENSBORO, N.C. — There are few things so universal as a parent wanting a good education for their child.
And into her freshman year at Southeast Guilford High School, Chris and Jennifer Little had their second child, Caitlin, right on track.
“She was breezing by in class, she would always participate in class, her assignments were on point,” said Kenya Jenkins, one of her teachers. “Caitlin, she was so phenomenal before the accident.”
That was in October of Caitlin’s freshman year. She got hit in the head accidentally by another runner at cross country practice one day, resulting in anterograde amnesia.
After trying to rest for three weeks or so, her parents thought trying to regain her routine might help, so, on the advice of doctors, Caitlin returned to classes. But, from the beginning, her parents understood it might be futile.
“Everything she’s doing in school — she’s going through the motions of school and that’s great, she wants to do it, she wants to perform but the next day, it’s a complete reset, a blank slate,” her father Chris said.
“Generally, you thought, ‘Well, OK, we’ve dealt with these, before,’” said Southeast Guilford Principal Mark Seagraves.
The school has done everything it can possibly think to do to assist Caitlin. Not just all of her teachers, but the administrative staff and others meet regularly and go well out of their way to ensure she has the best chance to succeed.
But not everything has gone as they had hoped.
“Twenty-three years in the business, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything or experienced anything like this, before,” Seagraves said.
Among those assigned to help Caitlin is Tracy Helms, a special education teacher assistant whose picture – just like all of Caitlin’s other teachers and helpers – is in Caitlin’s main binder, with a description of who they are. Helms says, simply, “Your buddy.”
Helms helps Caitlin get where she needs to go and do what she has to do. But, even though Caitlin has met Helms every school day this past year-and-a-half, each morning when Caitlin sees her, it’s like she’s seeing her for the first time.
I asked Helms what it’s like, repeating that, every day.
“Every day. Every day,” she says, with heartbreak in her voice. “I come in and meet her and she doesn’t know who I am. Every day, she doesn’t know where her seat is in this class, she doesn’t know who her teacher is. Every day is fresh and new to her, just like it’s never been seen before.”
See how Caitlin gets through her school day, in episode three of “Caitlin Can’t Remember,” in the Buckley Report.
Subscribe to the Caitlin Can’t Remember podcast in the iTunes store or Google Play and get updates on Caitlin’s condition and her family’s search for answers, or you can just click on the podcast player below.