Sister of amnesia patient who woke up with Swedish identity found

This June 28, 2013 photo shows Michael Boatwright, who refers to himself as Johan Ek, a 61-year-old Florida man who awoke with no memory of his past speaking only Swedish and no English, in Palm Springs, Calif. Police transported Boatwright to the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif. after he was found unconscious in a Motel 6 room in February. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Jay Calderon) RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE OUT; NO SALES; NO FOREIGN AP

Officials have located the sister and ex-girlfriend of an amnesia patient who woke up from a coma with a different identity than his passport stated.

Michael Boatwright, 61, was found unconscious in a Palm Springs, Calif. motel room four months ago. Authorities identified him by a passport, a California identification card, a veteran's medical card and a Social Security card, all with the name Michael Boatwright. However, when he woke up in March, he only spoke Swedish and claimed he was named Johan Ek.

The Desert Sun, which first reported the case, found Michael Boatwright's sister, Michelle Brewer. Brewer, who currently lives in Louisiana, said she hasn't talked to her brother for 10 years. She couldn't even contact him when their mother died.

"He's always been just a wanderer. Then he'd come back when he needed some money or something from somebody. Then he'd take off again," Brewer said.

The Desert Sun reported that officials don't know what Boatwright was doing in Palm Springs, but they think he might have been in town for a tennis tournament based on the equipment that was in his possession.

Boatwright was diagnosed with transient global amnesia, according to the newspaper. The condition is marked by a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that cannot be connected to a neurological condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. Patients lose the ability to recall memories, so they do not know where they are or how they got there.

Adding to the complications, Boatwright was also said to be in a fugue state. A dissociative or psychogenic fugue is a psychological disorder in which a person temporarily loses sense of their personal identity and may travel or wander away from where they reside, the Cleveland Clinic explained. People can also create new identities for themselves, but they do not show any physical symptoms of illness outside their strange behavior. Both conditions are very rare.

Authorities say that Boatwright doesn't remember any family members or basic tasks like exchanging money, taking public transportation or how to seek temporary housing. He also doesn't have any money he can access or insurance.

"Sometimes it makes me really sad and sometimes it just makes me furious about the whole situation and the fact that I don't know anybody, I don't recognize anybody," Boatwright told the Desert Sun through a translator.

Further research into Boatwright's identity revealed that he was born in Miami and was a U.S. Navy veteran. He was also recorded living in Sweden, Rhode Island, Houston, Mexico and Newport, Nev. He may also have lived in Japan and China for several years, according to reports.

As his story spread through the media, several people have spoken up online to reveal more pieces of his past. Swedish paper Aftonbladet revealed that Boatwright moved from America he had learned how to speak "decent" Swedish and had been a member of a Medieval association's jousting team.

The Desert Sun also located an ex-girlfriend named Ewa Espling, who dated him for about three years while he was in Sweden. She said he was plagued by memories of the Vietnam War.

"He was restless inside and tried to find outside peace, and I do think he found that in me and my family," she said.

Boatwright now lives in the Desert Regional Medical Center's nursing facility, the Desert Sun reported. He will stay until the hospital determines a way to discharge him without endangering his well-being.

Comments