Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

February 1, 2013

Virginia woman pieces together 17 years lost to amnesia

(Continued)

Marsha taught her how to drive her Chevy Tahoe in the cul-de-sac in front of her house. That allowed her to take trips to the local Food Lion and back, but no further. On one such trip, she was pushing her cart through the aisle when a woman approached her.

"Shawnda?"

This was, as far as she knew, a stranger. Shawnda stammered her way through a conversation for a few minutes, gleaning that the woman's name was Kim. Before Shawnda could explain her memory loss, she had an anxiety attack.

"I took off running," she recalled. "I remember running through the bread [aisle], going out the door, getting in my Tahoe and just sitting there, holding onto my steering wheel. . . I didn't know what to do. I was panicking."

Every trip outside the house allowed for the possibility Shawnda could find herself in the company of someone who knew her well but seemed a stranger. The thought terrified her.

One day, Cindy Davekos-Wilson bumped into Shawnda and her mother at the courthouse. Marsha greeted her, but Shawnda showed no recognition.

"I couldn't believe it," Cindy said. "She just looked right through me."

Shaylin didn't pick up on her mother's memory loss until she was between 3 and 4 years old. She'd hear Shawnda saying "I don't remember" time and time again, and began mimicking it. Asked if she washed her hands or picked up her toys, Shaylin would reply, "I don't remember."

After Shaylin turned 4, Shawnda sat down with her to watch a home movie from Shaylin's infancy. Shaylin hadn't seen it, and Shawnda had no recollection of it — or what Shaylin was like as a baby. After 15 minutes, Shawnda was in tears.

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