ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Memory is the diary we all carry about with us, wrote Oscar Wilde.
But for 44-year-old Alison Sages, her diary is her memory.
"I have a notebook here that I use every day and it tells me the things to do and the things I can't do as well," Sages said.
Note-taking has become a daily necessity for Sages who, for nearly 18 years, has struggled to live without her short-term memory.
"It says 'get up, take my medicine, go for a walk, eat,'" Sages read from her notebook. "I know to some people eat would seem like a given, but I actually have to write down eat or I will forget to do it."
Eat, but don't use the stove, she reads from the pages. She's left the burners on too many times before. Walk, but not alone, she reads from another line in her notebook. She has a tendency to get disoriented and lost even in her own neighborhood.
"And then you have some of the normal stuff for people," she exclaims, as she reads her reminder to do the laundry.
"But it says to stay near the laundry so I don't forget about it," Sages said.
For a woman once on the fast track, it's hard to fully comprehend.
Sages mingled with the biggest names in sports in the 1990s—she has pictures posing with Michael Strahan, Brett Favre and the late ESPN broadcaster Stuart Scott—during her time as a high-level executive for former NFL defensive lineman Mike Fox's sportswear clothing line.
But now, she can't work after losing her memory and nearly her life in May 2000.
"What I do remember is taking the antibiotic and going for a walk, and then just feeling my throat close up, my tongue swell up, looking around and no one was around," Sages said.
"Then everything went black."
An allergic reaction to a macrolide antibiotic called Biaxin sent Sages into anaphylactic shock, causing her to fall into a coma.
Sages was prescribed the medication to treat a sinus infection. She believes the prescription should've been flagged by the pharmacy because of a prior reaction she'd experienced to a macrolide antibiotic.
But Sages said concerns she raised to her doctor were met with the reassurances the antibiotic was safe.
After falling into a coma, it would be three days before Sages was found—on her 27th birthday—wandering in the Fossil Park area of St. Petersburg on Livingston Ave., just off 4th Street North.
The coma caused an anoxic brain injury that wiped out Sages' memory. She says she essentially had to start over. She couldn't even speak.
"When I was in the hospital, they handed me a fork and I guess I didn't know what to do with it," she said.
Sages eventually regained her long-term memory, but her continued short-term memory loss made it impossible to hold a job and dating proved to be just as difficult.
She and her boyfriend have been dating for two years. He's extremely patient, Sages said with a smile.
"He tells me stories such as I don't remember him, so I think he's like a burglar in the house and I freak out and try to run out the door," she said.
"I just know that you probably need quite a bit of patience if you're in my life."
But it's in this life Sages has finally accepted what she can't remember, after years of trying to conceal her condition from others out of fear they wouldn't understand or wouldn't care to understand.
Before her father's death in 2017, Sages says he told her to open up more to others and to not worry about not being 'normal.'
Recent features in People magazine and Cosmopolitan have opened up new opportunities to share her story and have lead to new connections with others who've also suffered brain injuries, Sages said.
Sages is also an advocate for the Brain Injury Association of America and their #ChangeYourMind campaign. March was Brain Injury Awareness Month.
"I'm overwhelmed by the support," she said. "The person I was before this happened was college-educated, extremely ambitious, but I'm still the same person—I'm still in there—and I just have to let people know I might be different, but I'm still the same strong person."
►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.