toronto couple memory loss

Toronto couple documenting memory loss journey is real life '50 First Dates' movie

One Toronto couple has received a fair share of social media attention recently after sharing their journey with memory loss and traumatic brain injuries.

Nesh Pillay has been dealing with significant amounts of memory loss following a brain injury, and has taken to TikTok to share the journey alongside her boyfriend JJ.

Pillay documents herself mistaking her boyfriend for an Uber driver, being scared that her mother knows she smokes weed, and the sometimes daily confusion clouding her brain.

The couple has been called the real life 50 First Dates or The Vow movie come to life after Pillay shared a video where she told viewers she forgot who JJ was.

In that video, which has been viewed thousands of times, you'll see JJ reassuring Pillay that things are OK, accompanying her on doctor's visits, and learning how to braid her hair.

Moments of true love.

While these seconds-long moments can bring a few laughs, it's an extremely vulnerable moment that Pillay and JJ have decided to publicly share.

In the beginning, Pillay tells blogTO she published the first video to explain her situation to her family, and let them know why she hadn't been responding to calls or texts.

"You can't exactly mail people announcements that say 'Surprise! It's a traumatic brain injury!'" she said. "Since then, I've been sharing because my ability to help and connect with others has given me a sense of purpose."

But after seeing the positive (and often times overwhelming) feedback and reaction from her video, Pillay began to show followers more intimate details of her day-to-day journey.

She said hundreds of comments show that she is not alone in her recovery.

"Most of us receive limited medical support (simply because the brain isn't understood well) and are left quite alone, wondering if we're imagining our symptoms or if we'll ever recover. Suddenly I realize there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been suffering alone. Now at least, we can suffer alone together," she said.

The connection she has with other people who also have traumatic brain injuries has given Pillay a sense of purpose, as she finds there are often many things people don't know about brain injuries and recovery.

Unlike in the movies, where you'll likely see somebody dealing with memory loss wrapped in a head bandage being observed by multiple doctors, Pillay says that is not what really happens.

"While there may be a team of doctors during your initial injury, once it's determined that you're alive and not dying in the immediate future, you're left on your own," she explains. "You're left to sift through your remaining (unreliable) memories and piece your life back together."

Pillay also wants to use her platform to talk about the level of care that women of colour are subjected to, after she went through multiple doctors who didn't believe her when she said something was wrong. 

Of course, there are many moments of Pillay's and JJ's life that viewers aren't seeing. When you watch one of their videos, you know that Pillay had enough strength to pick up the phone and record. Some days, that's just not possible.

"I've gotten thousands of messages from people who relate to my story and find that my journey validates their own," she said. "Now I think, ‘Yeah this sucks, but maybe I lost my memory for a larger reason'."

Lead photo by

Nesh Pillay

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