For Man With Amnesia, Love Repeats Itself | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

For Man With Amnesia, Love Repeats Itself

Play associated audio

Forty-six-year-old Jeff Ingram has a rare type of amnesia called dissociative fugue. When he has an attack, his memory is wiped clean and he doesn't remember who he is or where he's from.

To chronicle their memories in case he forgets again, Jeff and his wife, Penny, came to StoryCorps in Olympia, Wash.

"You and I were talking on the phone," Penny recalls. "You said, 'Well, I have a medical condition that I probably should share with you.' "

Jeff told her about a time he went missing for nine months because he had lost his memory. They agreed to handle the situation together if it were ever to happen again.

"I said I would be your memory," Penny says.

Jeff eventually asked her mother for Penny's hand in marriage.

"You've told me that story several times," Jeff says, "and I really wish I could remember that."

Jeff has experienced three bouts of amnesia: in 1994, 2006 and 2007. Penny reminds him of the first one they shared together in 2006, three years after they first met.

"We woke up that day, said goodbye and you jumped on the freeway," she says. "No one knows what happened from that point forward because you ended up in Denver. I was going crazy."

Jeff found his way to national television and asked America to help him figure out his identity.

"What's the last thing you remember before you came to and you realized you were in the middle of Denver?" an ABC news reporter asked him.

"Just picking myself up off the ground outside of a building in downtown Denver," he replied.

He couldn't remember if he had ever been to Denver before or if it was even his hometown.

After the TV appearance, Penny called Denver police and talked with Jeff on the phone.

"I said, 'Hi, I'm Penny, your fiance,' " she says. But Jeff couldn't remember. He asked, "Do we have kids? What's my life like?"

"It was like meeting you again for the first time," Penny says. "And when you came home, I didn't know what to do, and so I offered to sleep in the spare room considering you didn't know me."

When he finally settled in their home, Jeff called Penny's mother and asked for Penny's hand in marriage — again.

"And my mom was like, 'I already told you, yes,' " Penny says with a chuckle.

They got married on New Year's Eve of 2006.

Jeff says his biggest regret about the amnesia is forgetting the wedding, but Penny tells him they'll get married again — so he can remember.

"It's harder for you because you have the memories and the heartache," Jeff says. "I just have nothing."

"Yeah, every time you don't pick up the phone when I call, I panic. I think I'm going to lose you again," Penny says.

She admits that losing him is a real possibility, that if Jeff ever forgets, comes home and decides he doesn't want to be with her, she'll have to let him go.

Jeff tries to relieve that fear.

"You have no idea how thankful and grateful I am to have you in my life. After my last episode when I came into the house, I knew I could trust you from the look in your eyes. I knew that that's where I should be," he says. "If I lose my memory again, I will still love you. I will always love you."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Out Of Ukraine, This 'Suitcase' Packs An Immigrant's Story With Humor

Ari Shapiro talks with first-time novelist Yelena Akhtiorskaya about her book, Panic in a Suitcase.
NPR

McDonald's Responsible For Treatment Of Workers, Agency Says

The National Labor Relations Board has found that McDonald's shares responsibility for working conditions at its franchised restaurants. The company will fight the ruling.
WAMU 88.5

Activists Protest Federal Minimum Wage, Saying Increase Doesn't Cut It

Protestors gathered outside Union Station to protest what they consider a paltry federal minimum-wage hike.
NPR

OkCupid Sometimes Messes A Bit With Love, In The Name Of Science

OkCupid, the online dating site, disclosed Monday that they sometimes manipulate their users' profiles for experiments.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.