Last month, it was reported that an American, Michael Boatwright was discovered unconscious in a Motel 6 room in California , but when he awoke could not remember anything about himself, recognize even his own reflection, nor how to speak English.
Even though his driver’s license says he was born in Florida and served in the U.S. Navy from 1971 to 1973, Boatwright has no memory of his life to date and now answers only to Johan and converses in Swedish to doctors with the help of an interpreter.
This brings to mind several similar cases in the past where apparently normal strangers have been seen to be aimlessly walking around in total amnesia, with no recollection at all on their name or background.
As in this case, the cause has been attributable to a medical condition called transient global amnesia – a sudden, temporary episode of short-term memory loss that cannot be attributed to conditions like epilepsy or stroke (which are known causes of temporary amnesia).
What causes this condition? Basically, any sudden stress to the brain, whether in the form of sudden immersion in cold water, physical strain, mental stress, head injury or even sexual intercourse. They tend to occur in those over 50 and who suffer from migraine. It is thought that in all of the above conditions, there is a temporary constriction of the blood vessels going to the brain, causing temporary brain malfunction.
The good news is that the condition is temporary and usually resolves within 24 hours. No treatment is required and the condition seldom recurs.
Back to Michael Boatwright. It turns out that the American had lived in Sweden in the 1980s where he learnt to speak good Swedish and was known as Johan Ek. He was identified by members of the Swedish branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism, where he was a keen participant of the group’s jousting team. So, mystery solved..
- Mystery of California man who woke up in motel with no memory, speaking only Swedish; rare amnesia condition causes ‘random unplanned travel’ (nypost.com)