Despite losing her memory going back a number of years, following a severe case of viral encephalitis, Jodie Koenig recovered to excel in academics and other areas of school life at The Wykeham Collegiate in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo
Durban -  When she woke up in hospital in April 2015, Jodie Koenig was convinced that the year was 2012.

The high achiever – at the time just shy of her 16th birthday – later learned that she had been diagnosed with viral encephalitis, which led to the loss of two years’ worth of memories – which have still not returned.

The Wykeham Collegiate's head of school for 2017 scored seven distinctions, including in mathematics, music and physical science.

Jodie, at the beginning of Grade 10, had been attending a hockey tournament in Johannesburg when she says she began acting “a little funny”.

“I learnt later that I had been saying some strange things. I had a little bit of a lazy eye and a very bad headache. Just after the hockey match in the evening, I walked out of the bathroom screaming and I collapsed and had a seizure.”

She said her friends and coaches rushed her to hospital and when she woke up some time later, one of her best friends walked in – and she had had no idea who the girl was.

After investigations by doctors and the diagnosis of encephalitis – which causes brain swelling, among other symptoms – it had been established that she had lost all memory from September 2012 until her collapse.

“I was convinced that I was 13 years old.”

She had only moved to the school – The Wykeham Collegiate – in 2013 so could not remember her friends.

Her friends visited her often and, because they knew her well, gradually began reconnecting with Jodie, and helping in her rehabilitation.

They showed her how to use her iPhone and helped her piece together what had happened in those two years using social media.

Her family – including her siblings – also worked hard to help her fill in the blanks.

But, two years after the incident, the health scare seems to have had little impact on the school’s White Blazer Award winner.

The award is given to an outstanding pupil, who has excelled in several areas.
The school said the recipient should have achieved honours in at least two areas of school activities and full colours in a third area.

The areas are defined as academic, cultural and sport.

“What makes Jodie’s achievement even more remarkable is that she has achieved honours in all three areas and suffered a serious health setback,” the school said in a statement.

In terms of her cultural achievements, the school said Jodie was the school’s wind ensemble leader and the first saxophonist, and in her Grade 6 saxophone examinations she achieved an impressive 92%.

Jodie has also excelled in hockey, indoor hockey, swimming, water polo and soccer.

The pupil also took Advanced Programme Mathematics as an eighth subject and won the subject prizes for accounting and music in 2017.

She told The Mercury that, of all her papers, she enjoyed maths the most.

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