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Michael Boatwright, Swedish-speaking amnesia patient, lands in Sweden

3:14 PM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
His IDs say he's Michael Boatwright and was born in Florida; he says he's Johan Ek and speaks only Swedish.
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Palm Springs, Calif. (MyDesert.com/AP) -- Michael Boatwright - the U.S. Navy veteran who was found unconscious in a Palm Springs motel and awoke speaking only Swedish - landed in Sweden on Tuesday.

He was greeted by Ewa Espling, a Swedish woman he dated in the early 1980s, the woman told The Desert Sun. Public records show Boatwright lived in Sweden on-and-off between 1981 and 2003.

According to CNN, Boatwright was sent to Sweden with county funds.

"The Riverside County Department of Mental Health bought him a one-way ticket to Gothenburg after Boatwright made it clear that he wants to live in Sweden," according to CNN.

Our partners at The Desert Sun have been unable to independently confirm that the county purchased Boatwright's plane ticket.

The Riverside Department of Mental Health could not be reached for comment. Agency staff said that only Mental Health Director Jerry Wengerd could speak about the amnesia patient, and that Wengerd would be unavailable all day.

A flight from Palm Springs to Sweden would cost about $2,000 to $4,000, according to Kayak.com.

The Desert Sun broke the story on July 7 about the 61-year-old man, who was found found unconscious in a Motel 6 room on Palm Canyon Drive at noon on Feb. 28. He had with him a duffel bag of casual athletic clothes, a backpack, five tennis rackets, two cell phones, some cash, a set of old photos and four forms of identification that all identified him as Boatwright.

When Boatwright awoke at Desert Regional Medical Center, he identified himself as "Johan Ek," insisted he had no memory of his past, and that he had forgotten how to speak English. Boatwright spent the next five months at the hospital, which felt it was unsafe to release a man with no memory, no home and no resources.

Boatwright eventually moved from the hospital to Roy's Desert Resource Center, a homeless shelter in north Palm Springs. Boatwright could have stayed a Roy's for up to four months, but he was only there for about two weeks. No one at the center spoke Swedish.

Aurora Wilson, director of community resources for Coachella Valley Association of Governments, which administers the facility, said Monday that Boatwright had expressed a desire to return to Sweden, but said there were no concrete plans to send him overseas. No date for his departure had been set, Wilson said. Boatwright got on a plane headed for Sweden either late Monday or early Tuesday.

"We were trying to find where Michael belongs, and his future," Wilson said Wednesday. "And since he was at Roy's, we have to respect the client's right to privacy."

The Coachella Valley Association of Governments has not always been so quiet about Boatwright. After he moved to Roy's in early August, the association sent out a newsletter announcing that the shelter had taken in the amnesia patient, who had drawn worldwide interest.

In March, doctors diagnosed him with Transient Global Amnesia, a condition triggered by trauma that can last for months.

The rare mental disorder is characterized by memory loss, "sudden and unplanned travel," and possible adoption of a new identity.

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