Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

February 1, 2013

Virginia woman pieces together 17 years lost to amnesia

(Continued)

Some physicians have suggested to Shawnda that the cocktail of steroids and other drugs she was prescribed might have caused the memory loss, but Nath said that was unlikely. Still, he said that it's puzzling that she lost so much, so abruptly.

From 2005 on, Shawnda began counting her birthdays at zero, signifying that while her body is 38, she has only eight years and counting of life experience. She refers to herself pre-amnesia as "she" and "her," rather than "I" and "me."

She had to relearn virtually everything since adolescence. As her symptoms regularly confined her to the house and to bed, she watched TV for cues on the rhythms and tools of human interaction. The characters in daytime soap operas and syndicated sitcoms at night, especially "George Lopez," served as her examples of how to talk and act.

"I know that life is not a sitcom," she said in an interview in 2012. "But I also want people to understand that's how I've had to learn. I don't know any life any other way, because I lost my memory. People had the opportunity to come out of the womb and go through school and learn friendships and stuff. I lost all that."

She watched the same shows every day, latching onto anything that could become familiar in a hurry. She used her daughter's math homework to relearn multiplication tables. Even when Shawnda learned how to operate a cellphone again, she didn't know any of the names in it. Marsha told her what she could about the names she knew.

When Shawnda did try to reconnect with the people in the contacts list, their meetings were often awkward and pointless. Old friends would sometimes be frustrated that anything they brought up from the past was lost on her. For Shawnda, trying to explain what was wrong with her mind to someone she couldn't remember was exasperating. "I'd just sit in tears the whole time," she said.

Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks