Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

February 1, 2013

Virginia woman pieces together 17 years lost to amnesia

(Continued)

There were laborious trips to neurologists, optometrists and physical therapists all over the mid-Atlantic. Shawnda went on permanent disability, and survival became her full-time job.

As Shawnda worsened, her husband withdrew, according to Shawnda and Marsha. He declined to be interviewed for this story. The community rallied to help the family pay medical bills: a benefit poker run and barbecue, then a golf tournament that raised tens of thousands of dollars. Shawnda's husband jumped between work and unemployment.

"I took care of her and the baby," Marsha said. "I actually took care of him, too, 'cause I did the laundry; I did everything."

Cindy Davekos-Wilson came to the house once to wait for Shawnda and Marsha to return from a doctor's appointment. As she was sitting outside, Shawnda's husband arrived. He told her to leave the family alone, Cindy said, that there were too many people coming by. He told her that it was too hard for Shawnda to see Cindy in a good place, living her carefree life. Cindy was baffled.

"I hadn't known him for a long time, and I said, 'It's not my place to be somewhere I'm not wanted,' " she said.

Cindy excused herself from Shawnda's life immediately.

I find my old journals. I thought my marriage has gone wrong these past 4-5 months, but this one was written in Sept of 04 when I was sick . . . . What the hell happened! Where was he? Why didn't he stand up for me? Why didn't he take care of me?

I feel like reality has hit me and I'm in a bottom of a pit. Everything has collapsed. . . .

— May 30, 2005

As she struggled to reclaim her memory, Shawnda discovered she had been a life-long keeper of journals. She found them stashed in a box in the spare bedroom: Some were in bound, floral-patterned books, some folded together on sheets of notebook paper, and others in a paper-clipped stack of stationery. Usually she wrote in the first 10 to 20 pages of a journal before putting it aside and starting a new one, always writing in breathless, unrelenting chunks of thought. She had taken meticulous notes on her entire life.

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