The Frontal Cortex

Total Amnesia

It’s a nightmarish scenario: after a car crash, a man is brought into a hospital with a severe injury to his frontal lobes. When he wakes up, the doctors realize that their patient is missing one crucial mental faculty: his memory has been erased. He has no idea who he is, or even where he came from.

“There was a bundle of clothing that came in with him when he entered the hospital, and in there we found a voter registration card from Mexico,” Felix says.

The ID had a name — Omar — and a picture. But as he healed after surgery, the patient no longer looked like the picture. And when the Mexican consulate contacted Omar’s family back home, the family said Omar was not missing.

Still, Marti Gillum, a nurse practitioner, says the patient indeed remembers some things. She says he has been crying and talking about his five kids.

“He’s homesick,” she says. “He tells the nurses he wants to go home.”

But he doesn’t know where home is.

The staff do know what he likes to eat — melon, fruit and fish – but that’s not much of a clue.

When asked in Spanish what his name is, he replies, “Cindi.”

“That’s what his response is to anything you ask him. When you say where he’s from, that’s what he says,” nurse Kristy Lopez says. “We think he’s trying to say something else, but the words aren’t coming out.”

Listen to the whole story here.


  1. #1 Kevin Washburn
    August 14, 2008

    Heard this story on NPR. The man’s story is tragic, but I was impressed with the compassion of the hospital staff. Their kindness woven with this man’s tragedy make a moving story. It will be interesting to see if sufficient memory returns to enable the man to find home or if the news accounts will trigger a response from relatives.

  2. #2 Shannon Murphy
    August 14, 2008

    If his family does recognize him, they may be afraid to come forward if he is indeed an illegal immigrant. I am envisioning a daring escape plan!

  3. #3 amybuilds
    August 14, 2008

    It’s sad to know that the truth is probably somewhere in his mind but we just don’t know how to find it and interpret it.

New comments have been disabled.