US navy vet with amnesia on new life in Sweden
US navy vet Michael Boatwright made world headlines in July last year when he woke up in a California hospital with amnesia and could only speak Swedish. He did not know who he was but thought his name might be Johan Ek. The man's mystery was solved when friends and relatives identified him as an American who had lived in Sweden for many years in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the 61-year-old has given an interview in Sweden with newspaper Bohusläningen about his new life as a tennis coach in Uddevalla.
Mr Boatwright was interviewed at the home of Eva Espling, a girlfriend he had briefly dated in the 1980s who recognised him in the newspapers last year and contacted the hospital in California where he was staying after being found unconscious in a motel bathtub in Palm Springs.
He flew to Sweden in August last year and told the Bohusläningen newspaper of how he had gradually rebuilt his life with the help of tennis and the people of Uddevalla.
"I feel born again. I'm so lucky, I could not have had it better," he says.
He tells the newspaper that he feels safe and wants to thank the locals.
"Uddevalla has helped fantastically well for my thing, I want to repay it. It feels like the town has received me as an ordinary person and not as a psycho.
"The tennis club feels like a big family and there is no one who asks but they treat me like a nromal person."
When Michael woke up in the hospital , he had damage to the front and back of the head, thought to have been the result of a robbery. He was diagnosed in the hospital with dissociative amnesia, a rare psychiatric condition typically associated with a traumatic event.
He tells Bohusläningen that he knew nothing in the hospital and the feeling of not having a life story to attach his thoughts to, was awful.
"The first month in the hospital I sobbed," he says."I stood before the mirror and looked at my passport and looked at myself in the mirror but I did not get it together. I did not recognize myself."
He thought his name was Johan Ek, but according to the identification documents , his name was Michael Boatwright. "Johan Ek" may have been a character he played in Sweden when taking part in live roleplaying, where people dress up as historical or fantasy characters and improvise stories. From the media coverage, many Swedes recognized him. They could tell that he had lived here for many years in the 1980's and 1990's and had been a keen tournament player named Johan Ek .
He reveals to Bohusläningen how he has pieced parts of his life together, about his time in Sweden and how he had been in Japan for ten years, where he had been married and had a son, Taiki , who is now 14 years old.
Despite his best efforts he has not been able to trace them. The explanation may be that the ex-wife has remarried. He tells how before he showed up at the hotel room in Palm Springs, he had been four years in China, the visa was about to run out and he was "at home" in order to renew it.
In both China and Japan, he was a tennis coach and at the time of his amnesia he could not remember why he had five tennis raquets with him. There was a tennis court at the hospital and each day he would go there and watch.
"I saw what they did wrong. When I tried myself it came naturally. I had it in the body, then I went there often. I could not stay in bed all day, there was nothing wrong with the body, it was the skull that was wrong," he reveals.
He also tells of the day in hospital when he was visited by a man he had served with in Vietnam from 1971 to 1973. They had been part of the same helicopter crew whose job was to fly into war zones.
"That he came to visit, it meant a lot. He gave me a big chunk of my life."
Bohusläningen newspaper reports that Michael Boatwright is now coaching juniors at Uddevalla tennis club and is set to compete next week in the Swedish tennis veterans championship in Gothenburg. He says that he does not care about the memory researchers who have questioned his story.
"I do not care what people think. You just have to be in my shoes one day so you know what it feels like not to remember your own son and wake up as a stranger in your own life," he tells the newspaper.