Don’t You Forget About Me

David Allan
8 min readJan 7, 2024
An icy spill, a brain concussed,
memory, trepanning and childhood crush discussed.

“Do you know me? Do I look familiar to you?” I beseeched an elderly gentleman, a stranger to me.

I towered over him, and my questions were frighteningly sincere.

He looked terrified.

“Do you know who I am?!”

Except for the start and end of this story, I don’t recall any of it. The events contained herein were erased from my mind after a vigorous shake, like a cerebral Etch-a-Sketch. This account is what my father and my friend and college roommate, Dimitris, later told me happened. This story is biography — or gospel, if you know how those were written — not memoir.

One afternoon during my freshman year of college, my dad drove down to the University of Maryland to pick up me, Dimitris and our friend Eric to take us back to the small Pennsylvania ski mountain where my dad later became an instructor. Eric wasn’t ready to leave with us but had his own car and said he’d meet us there.

We made one stop on the way: for me to get a pair of gloves. That’s the last thing I remember about that day.

The ski resort, called Whitetail, is small. Twenty-three runs, a vertical under 1,000 feet. Because most of the trails are for beginners and intermediate skiers, it’s a good place to learn but not particularly challenging.

We were skiing at night and like most East Coast ski conditions, there was a lot of ice and the clackety-clack noise of fiberglass skis on it. We hadn’t been there long, maybe a few runs in, when I slipped on an ice patch in the middle of a blue (intermediate) trail.

My skis flew up, and my head crashed down on the solid sheet. I was wearing my blue and white knit “lucky hat” instead of a helmet.

I got up right away. Dimitris saw me fall but assumed I wasn’t hurt because I stood back up and was coherent when he checked on me. Then he skied down the rest of the way, meeting my dad at the bottom.

And they watched me, halfway up the hill, as I slowly skied to the edge of the trail. I stayed there for several minutes, staring into the woods, my skis pointed at the trees.

Dimitris and my father were debating whether to go back up the lift and ski down to me when I turned and came down. Only I was a bit “off.” My legs were straight instead of bent in the standard ski position. I was essentially standing and letting gravity pull me to the bottom.

I asked them three questions when they reached me.

“Did I fall?”

They told me I had.

“Did I hit anyone?”

No, they said, I was by myself when I fell.

“Is there anyone else with us?”

No, Dimitris explained, Eric was going to meet us, but he never arrived.

Then after a moment, I asked, “Did I fall?” They answered again. “Did I hit anyone?” And then, “Is there anyone else with us?” When I asked a third time if I had fallen, my dad suggested we take a break in the lodge.

We sat down with hot chocolate and pastries. I stared at my Styrofoam cup and donut, not eating, not talking. After a few minutes, my dad took my donut back and said “David, you ate your donut. Would you like another?” I said “yes,” and he gave it back. I continued to stare at it without touching it. He took it away again and asked if I wanted another, and I said “yes.” Finally, he decided to take me to the infirmary.

In the gathering of our things and securing skis outside, they momentarily left me alone. That’s when I walked over to the old man, hoping he knew who I was.

“Where’d he go?” my dad asked Dimitris. Then they spotted me, the recent amnesia-sufferer, quizzing a frightened septuagenarian to help me piece my identity back together.

“It’s all right,” my dad told the older gentleman. “He’s with us.” And then my dad took me by the arm and led me away.

In the infirmary, I was examined by a doctor who asked me basic questions.

“Where do you go to college?”

“The University of Maryland.”

“Where is that?”


The James Bond theme, “Live and Let Die,” by Wings, was playing in the room. I owned a CD of James Bond title themes, and Dimitris reminded me that I often listened to it in my dorm.

“What’s the name of the song?” the doctor asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but it’s my favorite!”

I could remember my phone number but not the name of our dormitory. Names of friends Dimitris asked me about eluded me. My skull was a block of Swiss cheese.

The doctor explained that I was suffering from retrograde amnesia from a serious concussion. I needed to go to the hospital, which was a half-hour away in Hagerstown, Maryland. They could call an ambulance, the doctor explained, but it would obviously take twice as long for it to get there and back, so they agreed that my dad would drive me. The doctor’s last instruction, familiar to anyone who knows only one thing about concussions: “Don’t let him fall asleep.”¹

¹ The science has changed on this, and it’s no longer considered a risk of 
coma to fall asleep after a concussion.

They hurriedly got me into the car, Keystone Cops-style. Some of the ski gear made it with us, some remained in cubbies in the lodge, and a few pieces fell curbside as we dashed away.

As we sped through the night, I sat in the front passenger seat. Dimitris was behind me, holding my head up when I started to nod off. My dad rolled down my window, and they tried to engage me in conversation to keep me awake.

The only thing I wanted to talk about, however, baffled them. “Does Amanda know what’s happened to me?” I asked them. Neither knew who I was talking about.

“Who is Amanda?” my dad asked Dimitris.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I know everyone he knows, and there’s no Amanda.”

I later concluded that it was Amanda Trayer, as I knew no other significant Amandas at that point. She was a grade-school crush and remained an object of amorous consideration from puppy love in the first grade through high school, though we stopped going to school together after the sixth grade. Amanda was a memory souvenir somehow plucked from a tattered cigar box of childhood treasures.

“Does Amanda know I’m going to the hospital?” I demanded, upset.

Then — and this is the part I used to leave out when I told this story in college — I began to cry. I was confused, frightened, racing through windy country roads in the dark to an emergency room. And of course, I was separated from Amanda.

“Don’t let them drill a hole in my head,” I pleaded. “They’re going to drill a hole in my head. Please don’t let them.” Dimitris and my dad tried to reassure me that the doctors wouldn’t, but I was convinced that’s what was waiting for me when we reached the hospital. “Does Amanda know they’re going to drill a hole in my head?” I cried out. “Someone has to tell her!”

My dad parked in front of the hospital, and I spilled out on the curb and started puking. Green mucus leaked out of my nose, as if my brains had liquified. The emergency staff hurried out, got me on a gurney and wheeled me in. Dad followed them, leaving Dimitris to extradite himself from the back where ski gear was also thrown.

While my dad filled out paperwork inside, Dimitris stayed with me. I was very polite to the staff. I thanked every nurse and doctor I met.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” I said to them earnestly, emotionally, sincerely. “Thank you SO much.”

I was assigned a room that had another patient. My roommate, who was going through severe withdrawal from an unidentified narcotic, was violently thrashing his arm, which was handcuffed to his bed. Dimitris noticed that the doctor attending to both of us was armed, a holster at his hip.

At one point, the other patient screamed full-tilt, and Dimitris, knowing that my dad had heard the scream, walked out to the hallway to see him running toward the room. “That wasn’t David!” he called, and my father stopped and looked at Dimitris with relief and gratitude before turning back around.

No divorced parent wants to phone the other with this kind of news. My dad called my mom and explained that on his watch, her only child had been injured in his brain. The two of them rarely spoke, so the very act of calling signaled the seriousness of the matter, like the red phone ringing in the Oval Office at 3 a.m., breaking through the characteristic non-communication of a cold war.

My mom drove the 75 miles to Hagerstown as a snowstorm hit the region. She spent the night in the hospital room with me.

I woke the next morning, perplexed, to the sight of hospital room curtains and my mother. I last remembered buying ski gloves on the way to the mountain, and now I was in a gown, under a white blanket.

“What am I doing here?” I asked.

“Honey, you’ve been in a coma for five years,” she said.

“What?!?” I gasped. “All my friends have graduated!”

“Just kidding,”¹ she said.

¹ My mom later denied making this joke, because it was uncharacteristically
mean, but I remember it (and very little else from this day).​

The takeaway
Wear a helmet!

Unanswered question
Who am I?

And now a word from Dimitris…
“I was about 30 feet behind you when you fell. Your head bounced hard. This was not a ‘head colliding with snow’; this was a ‘head hitting cement’ type of collision. I doubt it was possible to have heard your head hit the ice, but I think I did hear it.

The way you came down that slope was creepy. Years later I learned a word that seemed to perfectly describe how you looked: somnambulist. I have since associated this word with you.”

Related dream:
August 4, 2018
Hotel, Brooklyn, New York

Downhill From Here

Someone at work asked me if I’d been filmed for a movie scene while I was on vacation. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at first. I started to explain that there was a movie being filmed where we had traveled and that my daughter may have been in the background of a shot.

But that wasn’t it. They were teasing me.

Someone had uploaded a video of me, on a sled, in which I go only 12 feet in the snow before I reach a turn and fall over. Then I tried to get up using an ice wall to assist me, but the ice wall broke and I fell again, spectacularly. It was pretty hilarious, I admitted.

Dad and me, holding my “lucky hat,” at Whitetail.



David Allan

CNN’s Executive Editor of Enterprise and Features (Travel, Style, Wellness, Science). This account represents my personal views, not CNN’s.