This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," October 24, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, lost, wandering the streets with no idea who he is, no ID, no wallet for more than a month. Then a man known only as "Al" to authorities makes a plea to a national TV audience. Someone important held the key to this mystery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF INGRAM, SUFFERS FROM RARE AMNESIA: If anybody recognizes me, knows who I am, please let somebody know.
I was just outside of the World Trade Center downtown. I remember myself — picking myself up off the ground — I don't know if I was half sitting or half laying on the ground — and realizing I didn't know where I was or who I was.
QUESTION: How do you make that kind of realization, to know you don't know who you are?
INGRAM: Well, at first, I didn't know where I was, so — and then I just tried to figure out, where do I belong? And I couldn't figure out even who I was. I had nothing. I had a black T-shirt on. I had this cap on. And a pair of shorts, a pair of sneakers. I had a lighter in my pocket and $8. I had no ID, no — I had nothing else.
QUESTION: Did you fall and hit your head or anything?
INGRAM: There was no physical injuries found at the hospital.
QUESTION: So how bizarre is this?
INGRAM: Very. Try sitting in my shoes.
QUESTION: Tell us, how do you feel? I mean, this can't be easy.
INGRAM: No, it's not. I feel totally lost. I feel totally alone, very depressed, very anxious about everything. And I don't fit in anywhere. I don't know who I am. I don't know what kind of a person I am. I mean, I've been told by other people that I'm not a bad guy. But you know, I got no history.
QUESTION: Do you like soccer?
INGRAM: I don't know. Some things I am relearning, but — I know how to walk. I know how to talk, obviously. I know how to clean myself up. I don't know how to — if I remember how to drive. I don't know how to cook. You know, some things like that, that everybody's taking for granted, I don't know.
QUESTION: But you can remember — you can remember from...
INGRAM: From September the 10th to today is crystal clear, like, no — no problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Now Jeff Ingram is back home in the arms of his fiancée. Joining us is Alan Gomez, reporter for USA Today. Alan, he knows where he was from September 10 on. Do you know when he left home and where home is?
ALAN GOMEZ, USA TODAY: Well, his home was in Olympia, Washington. He had left four days prior, on September 6. He was trying to head up to Alberta, Canada, to visit relatives. A friend of his was actually very sick. And nobody knows what happens in the meantime, but he ended up back in Denver.
VAN SUSTEREN: So who does he live with, or who did he live with in Olympia on September 6?
GOMEZ: Well, he had a fiancée who was living out there with him. He — apparently, this had happened to him 10 years before. So when this happened, it wasn't the biggest surprise to them. They didn't know where he was, what had happened. They didn't know if this had happened again. But they eventually saw him on TV over the weekend and spotted him.
VAN SUSTEREN: When he left going to visit a friend who was sick, was he driving and have a driver's license?
GOMEZ: He did have a driver's license and he was driving. He was in a blue or greenish-colored Neon, and he was heading out. And the car since — still hasn't been found.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, it's interesting that he said that when he — when he finally found himself or discovered or regained his memory on September 10, he said he had no — no wallet, no identification, nothing.
GOMEZ: Right. Had absolutely nothing on him, like you said. Just had a lighter, 8 bucks and a watch and a ring on him.
VAN SUSTEREN: Police at all skeptical of this story?
GOMEZ: Whenever you deal with something like dissociative fugue — it's used from time to time in court defenses as a nice little alibi, but in this case, after a few weeks of treatment, and they really investigated him and analyzed him quite well, right now, Denver police says there's no reason to think that he's faking any of this. It seems like a very legitimate case.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's his occupation?
GOMEZ: He was working as a machinist in a mill, as much as we know right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any problems at work?
GOMEZ: Not that we know of so far. The family — after he went and was reunited, they, you know, said a few things initially but have since kind of sealed off. They're reacquainting themselves right now and hoping that he gains back some sort of memory.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any head injuries?
GOMEZ: Doctors found none at all. In terms of — this is something that usually is brought on by some sort of trauma, but it also is brought on by any kind of stress or severe stress in the person's life. And they're thinking that might have been what triggered this.
VAN SUSTEREN: The fact that this friend was dying from cancer?
VAN SUSTEREN: Has his friend died from cancer?
GOMEZ: I don't know.
VAN SUSTEREN: What — any problems with that fiancée, though, or anything bizarre, anything at all, just other than the stress of obviously — I mean, that's stressful, to have a friend die.
GOMEZ: Yes. I mean, as far as with the fiancée, nobody's quite sure what was going on there. She seemed pretty — she seemed to call out as soon as he found him, and he seemed to go back. They said that she didn't — he didn't recognize her face but did recognize — did feel a sense of comfort when he got to her, so that's about all we got to go on for now.
VAN SUSTEREN: So the way that the police solved this, or maybe they — and he, of course, helped — is that when they discovered him, they put him on TV.
GOMEZ: Basically. They...
VAN SUSTEREN: And what — I mean, how was he discovered?
GOMEZ: He — it turns out he was in the hospital for those several weeks, trying to find out what was going on with him. And then once they determined that it was legitimate amnesia, they went to the police to try to find out — to try to help out in some way, to try to figure out where he was. They ran his fingerprints through national databases, came up empty. He had no idea, so they didn't know what to do. So they just decided to hold a few press conferences. They aired locally in Denver for a couple of days, and then over the weekend, he showed up on a couple of national broadcasts, and that's when he was spotted.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who spotted him?
GOMEZ: It was the family. It was either the fiancée or the mother. There's been a couple of conflicting reports there. But one of them spotted him, and then the fiancée called a couple of TV stations and Denver police.
VAN SUSTEREN: He got back to Washington alone or with some sort of escort, family came get him?
GOMEZ: He had two escorts go with him on Monday, just to make sure he got there OK, handed him off. It was a big embrace when they reunited, and at that point, Denver police saying the case is closed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Except he doesn't even know who embraced him. He didn't recognize them.
GOMEZ: Not just yet.
VAN SUSTEREN: Not just yet. All right. Well, OK. Alan, thank you very much.
GOMEZ: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Imagine your memory wiped out like the hard drive of your computer. When did this begin for Jeffrey Ingram? Has it happened before? Joining us is Jeff Ingram's mother, Doreen Tompkins. She just talked to her son last night. Doreen, how's your son?
DOREEN TOMPKINS, SON SUFFERS FROM AMNESIA: My son is doing well. I talked to him last night for about a minute. He didn't feel up to talking. He's still quite emotional about the whole situation. But he did sound good. And he's going to phone me again tonight. So I'm looking forward to that call.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did he know you?
TOMPKINS: No, he didn't know me at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did he ask any questions about you?
TOMPKINS: No, he didn't.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did he just seem simply willing to accept that this was his mother calling and that he would be back in touch?
VAN SUSTEREN: Has this ever happened with your son before?
TOMPKINS: Yes, it has. In 1994, November the 6th, he went missing. He was found on August the 5th, 1995. They found him nine months later in Seattle, Washington. They found him on the street. He had a blow to his head and was put in hospital. His watch — his watch, his glasses and his wallet was gone. Somebody must have mugged him, they figure. And he had a backpack, and in the backpack was a little card and it had...
VAN SUSTEREN: I think we've just lost Doreen. We'll try to regain her. But let's — we'll go on until we can get a hold of her.
It's hard to even imagine looking in the mirror and having no idea who you are, what your name is or where you came from. How does this happen? Can you fix it? Joining us is Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who's going to help us out. Doctor, first all, amnesia — it's a real thing, isn't it?
DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, FOX MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, Greta. It's definitely real. It's normally treated by a combination of psychiatrists and neurologists, who would normally evaluate a patient who has this. But what's different in this case, Greta, is that normally, when people develop amnesia, it's to past events. You don't normally lose complete recollection of your own identity.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You say don't normally. Does that mean it can't happen and we should be at all suspicious of this, or does it just mean this is an unusual case?
ASHTON: Well, this disorder, called dissociative fugue or disassociative amnesia, is, in fact, pretty rare. It only affects about one in 500 Americans every year. So it is described in the medical literature, but it's not that common and not that much is known about it.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't know how you, quote, "get it"?
ASHTON: It's thought to be really psychological, in this case, Greta, not what we call physiologic. So it's thought not to be as a result of any kind of brain tumor or chemical imbalance. It's usually, as your previous guest had mentioned, a result of reaction to severe trauma, and it's usually an experience that is traumatic.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what do you make of the fact — he goes home. In fact, he gets a phone call from his mother and he doesn't even know who she is. I mean, how is he going to get to know her?
ASHTON: Well, you know, Greta, when I was watching this gentleman with his press conference, it's hard not to feel incredibly moved when you try to put yourself in his position and imagine having zero recollection of your life, what you like, what you dislike, your family, your relatives, your home, even activities of daily living, such as driving. And I think that it is to be expected that he has a certain amount of reactive depression to this experience, fear. It's incredibly frightening. And I think he is going to be going about his next couple of days and weeks and months in a very kind of cautious manner.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Dr. Ashton, if you can stay with us a moment because we have connected again with Doreen, his mother. Doreen, you told me that this happened again — happened once before, in 1994, in November, and he was found in August of '95. Do you have any idea where he was in that nine or ten-month period?
TOMPKINS: No, he doesn't recollect any time — where he was. He didn't know where he was.
VAN SUSTEREN: In August of 1995, in this first incident, I take it that you met with him and he didn't know how were at that point?
TOMPKINS: That's the truth. Yes. He didn't know anybody, not even his grandmother.
VAN SUSTEREN: About how long after August 5, 1995, did he come to the conclusion, Oh, you're my mother, or didn't he?
TOMPKINS: He didn't, no. He just grew to love me, I guess, and got used to knowing that he had a mom.
VAN SUSTEREN: So he never sort of said later, Now I remember you? Rather, it's like...
TOMPKINS: No, he never did.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... Oh, You must be my mother. You must be my mother, and thank you for being my mother, essentially.
TOMPKINS: He never did, no.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did he ever have any sort of recollection going back before August 5 of anything, or did he have to relearn everything?
TOMPKINS: No, he seemed to know things, but he didn't know how he knew it. He knew the grass was green, but he didn't know to say the grass was green. He didn't know how he knew that, but he knew it.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like...
TOMPKINS: He knew his math. He knew all his math. And he knew how to drive a car.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like when you got the call that this time you'd found him again?
TOMPKINS: I thought I'd lost him forever.
VAN SUSTEREN: And now — so what are you now going to do to try to sort of regain that relationship?
TOMPKINS: Well, we're going to be going to see him. We're making arrangements right now to go see him next week, to go spend a week with him.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Doreen. Thank you very much, and good luck. And I hope you'll come back and tell us the progress, and hopefully, your son will regain his memory. Thank you.
TOMPKINS: Thank you very much.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's go back to Dr. Ashton in New York. Doctor, is there any chance that this has some physical problem, this had some organic issue? I know that you said that it's probably some sort of, you know, event that caused this, but could it be physical with him?
ASHTON: It's unlikely at this point, Greta. You know, I'm sure while he was in the hospital, when he, in fact, presented to the hospital, the physicians who evaluated him there probably did a complete head-to-toe workup, and that included some imaging of his brain and making sure that he didn't have any infection or a metabolic derangement. So at this point, it really does fall into the psychologic and psychiatric category.
VAN SUSTEREN: It would not be unusual that he would not remember his mother but would remember how to drive a car?
ASHTON: Well, I think when you get into the shades of gray about what he does and does not remember, that varies from person to person. And you know, usually, luckily, this is a self-limited type of amnesia that does resolve on its own. But in some cases, you know, prolonged and very supportive psychotherapy is used. And even there are physicians who can help a patient regain some memory about specific things, whether it be a person or how to do something, with the help of medications to help relax them so they can explore their memories.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Dr. Ashton. Thank you.
ASHTON: Thanks, Greta.
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