PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- When Michael Boatwright woke up in the emergency room, the nurses began asking him questions for which it became clear he had no answers.
The gray-haired, soft-spoken man looked at his identity card and didn't recognize his own face. He answered only to Johan Ek.
Though his driver's license said he was born in Florida, he spoke in Swedish and said he remembered nothing about his life before.
"The guy Michael - it wasn't me. I'm still Johan," he said through a translator in a recent interview at Desert Regional Medical Center.
The man was found unconscious in a Motel 6 room at noon on Feb. 28 and taken to the hospital, said Lisa Hunt-Vasquez, the social worker assigned to track down relatives and help piece his story together. He had with him a duffel bag of casual athletic clothes, a backpack, five tennis rackets, two cellphones, some cash, a set of old photos and four forms of identification naming him as Michael Thomas Boatwright: a passport, a California identification card, a veteran's medical card and a Social Security card.
Following mental and physical health exams, Boatwright was diagnosed by a psychiatrist and psychologist on March 13 with transient global amnesia in a "fugue state," Hunt-Vasquez said. The conditions, both temporary and related to memory loss, were likely triggered by some kind of emotional or physical trauma.
Medical staff on his case at Desert Regional determined that it would be unsafe to release Boatwright and have moved him to the hospital's skilled nursing facility.
"He's kind of a blank slate," Hunt-Vasquez said.
Hunt-Vasquez used digital records for Boatwright on various Internet forums and a testimonial on the website of TPR English School in Zhuhai, China, to learn that he was, she believes, a 3D graphic designer who taught English in Japan for 10 years and in China for four years. He resigned at TPR a year before she reached out to them.
She also performed a global search for Boatwright's relatives, contacting Japanese, Chinese and Swedish consulates, TPR English School and the Department of Veteran Affairs (which confirmed he had served from 1971 to 1973 in the U.S. Navy), but none had next-of-kin information. Other possible sources -- an emergency contact listed for Boatwright at the VA, an address on his U.S. passport for a Japanese woman believed to be his ex-wife, all of the foreign phone numbers listed in his cellphone's contacts, two acquaintances in Asia -- led to dead ends.
Boatwright had flown to Palm Springs from Hong Kong on Feb. 24, the day his Chinese visa expired, Hunt-Vasquez said, but no one knows why he was in the area. Though theories were floated that he had come for tennis because of the rackets and the season in which he had arrived, local tennis organizers failed to find a connection.
Hunt-Vasquez spoke with the Dade County Missing Persons Bureau, based on the Florida birthplace on his identification. Officials there told her Boatwright's parents were dead. He also had another ex-wife he had divorced in 1983. She said she had no information except that he might have had two sisters in Sweden. No one has been able to confirm that.
Boatwright now sits in the hospital with almost no family left, he said.
"When I look at the photos, I see my ex-wife and my son ... my mother and grandmother, but I don't recognize them. I don't know them," he said.
Life in the hospital
"Sometimes it makes me really sad and sometimes it just makes me furious about the whole situation," Boatwright said.
He spends his days exercising on hospital equipment as often as three times a day -- the only thing that takes his mind off his troubles, he said.
While at Desert Regional, he has also been in contact with the local Swedish-American community after sending an email to the Vasa Order of America's Desert Viking Lodge in San Jacinto. Member Viola Wyler has had many conversations in Swedish with Boatwright - about the president, movie stars, World War II, anything that could trigger his memory.
"All of the events that he talked about, he has never been involved in it; he always feels that he is looking in," Wyler said.
Wyler said she guesses that Boatwright was in Sweden in the mid-1980s. His Swedish does not belong to any of the country's strong regional dialects, leading her to believe he either learned it later in life or has not used it much in the past 30 or so years, she said.
The photos, colored frames spanning decades of the life he says he no longer remembers, show scenes of children in the snow, a log cabin surrounded by green fields, and one of him with a woman and a young boy (believed to be his ex-wife and son) celebrating a birthday. He looks at the photos closely under his glasses.
"When I look at them, I get a sense of comfort and security," Boatwright said.
Boatwright has no insurance, income or skills to perform the jobs he held in the past, further complicating his situation, Hunt-Vasquez said. And he has very little money he can access - $180 in American funds, some Chinese money.
The hospital is working to find a next step, but he is using resources. And some question his amnesia, Hunt-Vasquez said.
"They see him as eating up hospital funds and that he should just be discharged to kind of fend for himself," she added.
She admits it's frustrating to not have all the answers.
Wyler said she has tried to test him. There have not been any signs that he was lying, she said.
Hunt-Vasquez is in the process of trying to secure Social Security and veteran's disability benefits for Boatwright, but neither are guarantees. The next step is to have outside psychiatric and neurological exams conducted. The hospital is also looking for other viable options - "really try to avoid just him being in the streets."
Unsure of his past or future, Boatwright lets out a small laugh at the suggestion that he could be faking his condition.
"Walk in my shoes for one day," he said. "You'll experience the nightmare of a lifetime."
You may also like...
George Zimmerman Trial: Full coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting
Bra Shaking: Police investigated for making woman shake her bra
4 H8TERZ:Florida's rejected license plates
Mistaken Identity: Strip club fight leads to interstate shooting
Animal Cruelty:Man accused of killing, cooking family dog
Hooters Hotties: Beautiful women compete in 2013 Hooters swimsuit competition
My bad, Judge:Woman apologizes after flipping off judge
Teen Lesbian Support:Online support grows 18-year-old girl who had same-sex relationship with 15-year-old
Prostitute Roundup:92 arrested in online sex sting
Yellow light bust:Florida shortens yellow lights to cause more red light tickets
Hottie Internet Convict: Woman behind mug shot meme sets the record straight
Homebrew Soda:Man claims to find Coca-Cola recipe, sells it on eBay
Waterspouts:Video, images show waterspouts coming ashore
Motorcycles and bikinis:Bikini bike wash!
Faces of Meth: Before and After pictures
Sex tape scandal:Miss Delaware Teen USA resigns
When neigh means neigh:Video shows man brutalizing, having sex with horse
Sex blog:Tampa area school CFO busted over her dirty sex porn blog *warning, GRAPHIC*
Nasty Nasty Dining:10 of the nastiest restaurants in Tampa Bay in 2012
APP-tastic:Download the 10 News app for your iPad
Bikinis, mud, trucks:The Redneck Yacht Club
Outrageous mug shot galleries...
Notorious Women:Bad girls behind bars
Teachers: Teacher arrest mugshots
Prostitutes:Prostitute mug shots
Porn arrests:Child porn arrest mug shots
Local Mugs:Hillsborough County Mug shots
More unusual mug shots and galleries:10 News slideshows and galleries