DENVER – An amnesia sufferer who had been searching for his identity for more than a month was back in Washington state with his fiancee on Tuesday, but he still doesn't remember his past life or what happened, his mother said.
Jeffrey Alan Ingram, 40, was diagnosed in Denver with dissociative fugue, a type of amnesia.
He has had similar bouts of amnesia in the past, likely triggered by stress, once disappearing for nine months. When he went missing this time, on Sept. 6, he had been on his way to Canada to visit a friend who was dying of cancer, said his fiancee, Penny Hansen.
"I think that the stress, the sadness, the grief of facing a best friend dying was enough, and leaving me was enough to send him into an amnesia state," Hansen told KCNC-TV.
When Ingram found himself in Denver on Sept. 10, he didn't know who he was. He said he walked around for about six hours asking people for help, then ended up at a hospital, where police spokeswoman Virginia Quinones said Ingram was diagnosed with a type of amnesia known as dissociative fugue.
People with dissociative fugue typically appear fine but have temporarily lost their sense of identity, are confused and impulsively travel away from home. Experts say it is rare and typically linked to severe stress.
Ingram's identity came to light last weekend after he appeared on several news shows asking the public for help: "If anybody recognizes me, knows who I am, please let somebody know."
"Penny's brother called her right away and told her `Did you watch this newscast?' and 'I think that's Jeff that they're showing on television,"' said Marilyn Meehan, a spokeswoman for Hansen.
Hansen had filed a missing person report after Ingram failed to show up at her mother's home in Bellingham, Wash., on his way to Canada, but officials searching for him had turned up nothing.
On Monday night, two Denver police detectives accompanied Ingram on a flight to Seattle, where he was reunited with his fiancee.
His mother, Doreen Tompkins of Slave Lake, Alberta, was in tears as she talked about the struggle her son and the family still face.
"It's going to be very difficult again, but you know what, I can do it," she told CTV news of Edmonton, Alberta. "I did it before, I can do it again. I'll do it as many times as I have to just so I can have my son."
Ingram had experienced an episode of amnesia in 1995 when he disappeared during a trip to a grocery store. Nine months later, he was found in a Seattle hospital, according to Thurston County, Wash., officials. His mother said he never fully regained his memory.
Meehan, who works with Hansen at the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, said the couple would not give interviews because they want to concentrate on Ingram's effort to regain his memory.
"They're taking it one step at a time," Meehan said.
"He said that while her face wasn't familiar to him, her heart was familiar to him," she said. "He can't remember his home, but he said their home felt like home to him."