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Apr 30, 2002

Amnesia victim needs your help

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We’ve all heard of the phenomenon called amnesia–that is a sudden loss of memory. Usually, the rare condition is caused by a blow to the head or an extremely traumatic emotional experience. We don’t know what has caused the particular case of amnesia covered in our next story, but suffice to say, it is nothing less than frightening. We ask viewers, particularly those involved in tourism, to look closely at the man referred to as John Doe…and try hard to remember if he looks familiar.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

Late Friday night employees of Robert’s Grove, a popular resort on the Placencia peninsula, were shocked to discover this man washed up on the beach. Wearing only these shorts and carrying no form of identification, he spoke incoherently of sand and salt water and days on end without food and water.

Police would later bring him here, to the Southern Belize Medical Clinic. Doctors immediately began to treat him for severe dehydration. When his physical condition improved, the patient told authorities he has no idea who he is and how is it he came to be washed up on the beach.

John Doe

“I just remember days and days without food or water on the sand and in a little rain, then more days without food or water in a little rain. And finally I swam for the light. And then on the swim right before I hit the shore I ran into a jellyfish. And I remember people picking me up, I think Army men and carrying me here.”

Janelle Chanona

“And you have no idea how you got…”

John Doe

“I do not know who I am.”

Janelle Chanona

“That must be scary.”

John Doe

“It is, but there are a lot of good people who are trying to help, compassionate people like yourselves, and that gives me comfort.”

Authorities estimate John Doe is in his fifties and he believes he is an American citizen. He says the name “Gary” sounds familiar to him, but he isn’t sure whether that’s his name or not. He has no tattoos, scars or other identifying marks on his body. His doctors hope that the bits and pieces of information provided so far, can be used to ascertain who he is.

Dr. Hailu Hurrissa, Southern Belize Medical Clinic

“He was not able to talk very good. Let alone after two days after getting six litres of drips, then he was able to talk and then he start saying something, appreciating things. But it’s still, sometimes when he sees uniform people he says, “They are still coming and they don’t have compassion on me.” So he was like just feeling like crying. Before he didn’t remember what is his name and now he’s starting to say, “I am Gary”, then he’s starting to remember his family’s name. I ask him if he has any family and he says, “No I don’t have.” He doesn’t remember. The only thing he says, he’s from Carolina, he remembered that. So I don’t have any clue how old he is, that’s all.”

While John Doe’s eyesight is a little blurry, overall his physical condition is improving. But Dr. Hurrissa says his mental capabilities might take a while longer.

Dr. Hailu Hurrissa

“Medically, maybe he is known as somebody who is depressed, psychotic, maybe mental sickness, psychiatric. Probably, because combined with amnesia… I cannot say Alzheimer’s disease because he can remember what happen, how many days he has been staying with me, but the only thing, he don’t remember anything before that.

I’m still waiting on the American embassy, what they will say. If the findings are relative, we’re able to relocate and then if they say send him, then I can send him to the embassy. Maybe they will take care of him, maybe somebody might come up and identify that he’s their relative. So when that happens, then I will release him.”

Janelle Chanona

“Until then he stays here with you?”

Dr. Hailu Hurrissa

“Yeah, until then I will keep him, try to work with him. He looks healthy, he’s hydrate very well, he can leave, but the only thing is if he leaves, where will he go?”

Belizean officials and officers from the U.S. consulate are currently trying to figure out just who this man is. Certainly, someone in the country has interacted with him at some point and should be able to recognise him. And by all accounts, John Doe wants to be found.

John Doe

“I would just hope to be back home with people that love me and care for me; that is all. That is all anybody I think can hope for.”

Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

If you can provide any information on the identity of John Doe, please call Independence Police at 06-22022, the Southern Belize Medical Clinic at 06-22460 or Channel 5 at 02-77781. If this mystery is solved by our viewers, we can give great thanks to Maya Island Air for their prompt and generous assistance in enabling us to travel to Independence and bring John Doe’s plight to the public’s attention.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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