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Our Health

February 1, 2013

Virginia woman pieces together 17 years lost to amnesia

(Continued)

While her vision, which over the past year had deteriorated greatly, was suddenly clear, Shawnda eventually realized that a 17-year chunk of her memory was gone. The only comfort to her was that Shaylin was unaware that her mother had forgotten her.

Migraines, or normal headaches, tingling, numbness, needle feeling in feet, forgetting certain things. April and May was same as above in March, but my left eye was starting to get worse.

Mid June at work, both arms go numb. Thought I was having a heart attack or stroke — ate candy bar and drank Hi-C because thought it was sugar. Left/Right went numb while driving — my rear and legs would get numb often.

June 26 — Forgot people's names at a wedding.

— Pain Journal, 2004

Strasburg, Va., a small town among rolling, green foothills, is a frequent stop for truckers headed down Interstate 81 toward Roanoke or north toward Pennsylvania. Shawnda was born and raised in the surrounding county, and it was I-81 that she took in 2004 to go to work at Alexander Properties, in nearby Basye, Va., where she and Cindy Davekos-Wilson sold timeshares at the Bryce ski resort. Shawnda, a tall, blond 29-year-old and new mother, had taken the job to make more money than she made as a paralegal. She and Cindy became fast friends.

That spring Shawnda started noticing symptoms. The vision in her left eye would fade. Numbness afflicted her extremities.

One day, "she called me up borderline-hysterical," Cindy said. "She went to hit the brake in her truck, and she couldn't get her foot to move. . . . I'm on the phone crying, but I'm not letting her know. This is my friend, and I'm trying to keep her strong, but I'm like, 'Something's really bad here.' "

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