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7/16/13

American Amnesiac Michael Boatwright Wakes Up Speaking Swedish

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What if some morning you wake up in a motel room and don't know who you are?  You don't know how to access your bank accounts to survive. You don't know if you have a job. You don't know if you have a wife. If so, what is her name? The names of your children? What is your country?  You look in the mirror and don't recognize yourself. You talk in a language  not your native tongue.

This happened to a man discovered unconscious in a Palm Springs, California Motel 6 room in February 2013. 

A gentle, soft-spoken man, he cannot confirm any of the evidence found on him. Not his drivers license, not family photos. The license names him as Michael Boatwright, born in Florida.  The photos show an Asian woman and children.  Other than that he has a Social Security card, passport, a veteran's medical card,  a duffel bag, five tennis rackets, two cellphones, and a little cash. The veteran's card indicates Boatwright served in the U.S. Navy from 1971 to 1973 as an aviation mechanic. The staff tell him that. He does not know, is without memory of his life to date.  

Palm Springs doctors cannot talk to him in English. They need a Swedish interpreter. The interpreter believes he might have once lived in Sweden. The hospital has appealed for somebody, anybody, to come forward and identify the mystery patient.


He says he is Johan Ek, because that name feels right. Following mental and physical health exams, he was diagnosed at Desert Regional Medical Center on March 13th with transient global amnesia, a total memory loss probably  triggered by some kind of emotional or physical trauma, but of course he can't tell them what.

So what have they found out about him? Lisa Hunt-Vasquez, a social worker, searched the internet to learn Boatwright was a 3D graphic designer who taught English in Japan for 10 years and then in China for four.

She discovered a testimonial on the website of TPR English School in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, that he left his teaching post about one year before last February. She has been unable to discover a friend or relative. His US passport indicates a Japanese woman believed to be his ex-wife, divorced in 1983. That lead was a dead-end. Dead-ends occurred also at the Japanese, Chinese and Swedish consulates. Dade County Florida reported  Boatwright's parents as deceased.

Boatwright has become desperate, saying "When I look at the photos, I see my ex-wife and my son ... my mother and grandmother, but I don't recognize them. I don't know them." Sometimes, he says, he gets "really sad." At other times it makes him "furious about the whole situation." His Swedish intrepreter,Viola Wyler, says he just cannot connect to any of it as real. "All of the events that he talked about, he has never been involved in it; he always feels that he is looking in."


Add this to his desperation:  The social worker, Hunt-Vasquez, expresses concern that, despite his amnesia because he is healthy he may wind up out on the street.  At the moment the hospital is looking into options to avoid that.

When asked by an interviewer if he is a fraud, Boatwright answered in Swedish that his daily life is a living hell. "Walk in my shoes for one day," he said. "You'll experience the nightmare of a lifetime."

More here.

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