Michael Boatwright Amnesia: Florida Man With Rare Condition Wakes Up Speaking Swedish

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 16, 2013 12:39 PM EDT

tennis shadow
Michael Boatwright woke up in a California hospital with amnesia, speaking Swedish and calling himself Johan Ek. In a bag were five tennis raquets, leading officials to believe he may have come to California for a tennis tournament. (Photo: Reuters)

A man in Calfiornia who awoke in a motel room with amnesia and a lot of tennis raquets has doctors and officials trying to figure out what exactly happened.

The man, Michael Boatwright, 61, was found unconscious in a Palm Springs, Calif., motel room in February. He was taken to the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where he awoke with amnesia, speaking Swedish and calling himself Johan Ek.

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Personal effects from Boatwright's hotel room included athletic clothes, a backpack, five tennis raquets, and several forms of identification, among them a driver's license, veteran's medical card and a passport, all of which listed his name as Michael Thomas Boatwright. His identification listed his birthplace as Florida.

"The guy Michael -- it wasn't me. I'm still Johan," Boatwright said, in Swedish, during a hospital interview.

Boatwright remembered nothing of his previous life; he didn't recall being born in Florida or serving in the Navy.

Lisa Hunt-Vasquez, a social worker at the Desert Regional Medical Center, did some digging into Boatwright's past, and discovered Boatwright's stint as an aviation mechanic, his English teaching in China for four years and the consulting company Boatwright ran in Sweden in the 1980s. He'd also been a good enough tennis player to be interviewed by the Tennis Channel, and it may be that, given the five tennis raquets in his motel room, Boatwright was in California for a tennis tournament in the Coachella Valley.

Doctors have diagnosed Boatwright with a rare medical condition called Transient Global Amnesia. The amnesia is triggered by physical or emotional trauma, though Boatwright's doctors don't know what that trauma might have been. According to the Mayo Clinic, Transient Global Amnesia is a sudden and temporary memory loss that isn't the result of common neurological conditions like a stroke. Those afflicted with Transient Global Amnesia have memory loss, and in some cases, like with Boatwright, adopt entirely new identities. The condition can last for several months.

Doctors and officials are searching for Boatwright's next of kin. 

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