Florida native Michael Thomas Boatwright, 61, has been living in a world of confusion since police found him unconscious in a California hotel room back in February. Boatwright woke up at a nearby hospital with amnesia and speaking only in Swedish, The Desert News reported.
Identification cards found on Boatwright confirmed his identity, that he was from Florida and that he was a veteran of the Navy. None of this, however, convinced the man of his true identity. According to Boatwright, his name was Johan Ek and he was originally from Sweden.
Four months after Boatwright's arrival at the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, his family was located, but it did nothing to change the man's peception of who he really is.
"I haven't talked to him in years. He just disappeared," Boatwright's sister Michelle Brewer told The Desert Sun.
"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."
Doctors at Desert Regional are at odds over what exactly has caused this man's unusual situation. Psychiatrists believe his correct diagnosis is transient global amnesia coupled with a "fugue state" most likely brought on by a traumatic life event.
Transient global amnesia is characterized by a sudden loss of memory, usually caused by a common neurological condition like a stroke or epilepsy. An episode of transient global amnesia may temporarily impede someone's ability to recall recent events, but it doesn't explain how Boatwright forgot his own name or the names of people he had known his whole life.
Boatwright's lack of personal identity points to signs of a dissociative disorder known as dissociative fugue. According to the Cleveland Clinic's data, someone in a "fugue state" tends to wander away from home on impulse and make up new identities. Traumatic events that have been known to trigger this mental illness include abuse, disaster, extreme violence, and war.
Hospital officials say Boatwright is medically cleared to be discharged, as they remain unsure what to do with him as he still thinks he is Johan Ek. Boatwright's sister added that she had not spoken to him in about 10 years.