Man With Amnesia Lost 46 Years in Workplace Slip

Wife uses photos to help man re-learn life after he hit head in workplace fall.

ByABC News
April 16, 2010, 3:09 PM

April 19, 2010 — -- The videos and photographs show scenes from a full and prosperous life: A couple getting married, raising kids, celebrating the holidays and taking family vacations.

They're precious memories. But the man who lived them cannot remember them -- any of them.

In fact Scott Bolzan has no memory of any part of his life story. It's all been erased.

"These are things I know I should remember," said Bolzan, 47. "My first date, my first kiss with my wife, our wedding day, the birth of my children -- all of those memories that everyone else in the whole world shares. ... These are things I know I should remember ... I have no emotional attachment to these days even when I look at the pictures."

Bolzan has an extreme case of severe retrograde amnesia. He slipped in the men's restroom of his office building and hit his head on the ground. He can remember nothing that happened prior to the accident. Over the past 16 months, he has had to re-meet family and friends, while embarking on a journey to re-learn his life story and re-build a sense of self-identity.

"The best word I can use to describe it is just being lost," said Bolzan. "Because I lost who I am."

"Nightline" followed Bolzan and his family over several months in Phoenix to document some of the amnesiac's "first" experiences as he struggled to make sense of his former life.

Bolzan's wife, Joan, 47, has organized their family photos in chronological order. Boxes and boxes of hundreds of snapshots cover an entire table.

"It's hard to think it's not there," Joan Bolzan said. "You just keep thinking that something, something will trigger it."

Each day, the couple chooses a pile of photos to review. Photos of a birthday party they threw for their daughter, Taylor. The tree where he proposed to her when they were college sweethearts at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb.

"This is the tree in the park at Northern by the lake," said Joan.

"Oh, that's the tree?" Scott replied.

"That's the tree!"

"Get out! So that's where it all started."

"That's it."

Joan does this in the hope something will spark some memory of who Scott was.

"I just try to take a little chunk at a time, in little pieces," she said.

Joan Bolzan acknowledged that living with her husband's memory loss sometimes leaves her at a loss.

"It's pretty overwhelming to think that all that happened and he doesn't know any of it..." she said. "That's what life's all about, creating memories, I guess."