MENIFEE (CBSLA.com) — While it’s not unusual to have trouble recognizing someone, picture a world where you don’t recognize any faces at all, such as those of your spouse or kids.
For Tara Fall, even her own reflection is a mystery due to prosopagnosia, or face blindness.
The onset of the rare condition occurred 10 years ago while Fall underwent surgery to control seizures. During the operation, she suffered a stroke, which damaged the right hemisphere of her brain.
“From the time of my stroke before, I remembered. But everyone after the stroke, I had no ability to remember a face,” she told CBS2’s Lisa Sigell.
“For 10 years now, her idea of what she looks like is still that same 27-year-old woman. It hasn’t advanced,” said Dr. Justin Feinstein, a Clinical Neuropsychologist at Caltech, who specializes in studying patients with brain injuries.
While Fall’s memory of conversations and events is perfect, it’s just faces she can’t recall.
“She can no longer visualize. You could close your eyes and picture somebody close to you. Picture your mother or father and you could get a very vivid image in your head of what they look like. Tara can no longer do that,” the doctor said.
He explained that Tara uses a process of elimination to recognize people.
With her kids, it’s the way they wear their hair or the backpacks and clothes they have on when they go to school.
“If my kids were to change clothes when they’re at school … if they were to try to trick me, they’d probably get away with it,” she said. “People with face blindness remember everything else.”
Fall has overcome more than most, even learning to walk again following her str—oke. She is part of a research study and hopes that someday what researchers learn about her brain will lead to a possible treatment.
In the meantime, she says she blogs about her life and is dedicated to helping others.
“I want people to learn that life is wonderful. I hope they don’t have to have stuff taken away. Just to see how amazing it is to live every day. Enjoy it,” she said.