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American man found unconscious in Palm Springs wakes with amnesia, speaks only Swedish, has $7 in a Chinese bank account

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 in Palm Springs, Calif. in February.
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 in Palm Springs, Calif. in February. AP/The Desert Sun/Jay Calderon

In late February a man awoke in the emergency room of a Palm Springs hospital with apparent amnesia, speaking only Swedish, and calling himself Johan Ek — his four forms of identification said his name was "Michael Thomas Boatwright."

The Desert Sun broke the story on July 7, and have since published a series of galleries and profiles that have gained worldwide attention.

In a recap Tuesday, the newspaper said that Boatwright, a 61-year-old Florida man, was found unconscious inside a motel room on Feb. 28 with a duffel bag of casual clothes and:

"[F]ive tennis rackets, two cell phones, some cash, a set of old photos."

A social worker assigned to the case said Boatwright has no memory of his past, including a son and two ex-wives, the AP reports.

They also report that he has no income, no insurance and a few Chinese bank accounts (but can only access one of them, with a balance of $7).

After months of searching, the newspaper tracked down the man's sister in Louisiana, and a former girlfriend. They also discovered he was a former jousting knight with the alias "Strongbow," according to a Swedish publication.

On the day the story broke, in a separate piece, the Desert Sun detailed a number of other revelations about Boatwright, including:

  • He flew from Hong Kong to Palm Springs on the day his Chinese visa expired
  • He served in the U.S. Navy as an aviation mechanic (1971-1973)
  • He was likely a 3D graphic artist
  • He taught English in Japan and China
  • He often used the screen name, "korstemplar" 

A hospital spokesman told reporters Tuesday they are trying to help Boatwright reach out to his old friends and relatives. He also said the patient is appreciative of the leads but "overwhelmed" by the attention. 

On Monday, Boatwright's sister told the Desert Sun it had been about 10 years since she spoke with her brother:

"He just disappeared...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."

KPCC's Take Two spoke to Jason Brandt, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, to explain what happens in the brain of a person with amnesia. (LISTEN NOW)

Boatwright was diagnosed in March with Transient Global Amnesia in a "fugue state" — a condition believed to be triggered by emotional or physical trauma.

Officials are not sure how much longer Boatwright will be able to stay at the center; he's been there for more than 19 weeks. 

Complete coverage from The Desert Sun:

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