Real Name: Sarah DiGennaro
Date: August 13, 1976
Location: Dundlak, Maryland
Details: On August 13, 1976, Sarah DiGennaro, then thirty-nine, was at a local bank when she began suffering from a serious migraine headache. In the past she had similar headaches, but on this day, the pain was much worse. The pain left her confused and disoriented; she could not even see out of her left eye. She left the bank and managed to make her way home.
Three hours later, her husband Paul came home and found her laying on the bed. She was partially paralyzed and talking incoherently. She was then taken to the hospital, where it was discovered that a blood vessel had burst in her brain. Doctors recommended a delicate a risky operation. Otherwise, she would likely remain incapacitated for the rest of her life.
Surgeons used a relatively new procedure at the time called microsurgery. This allowed them to repair the blood vessel. However, they then realized that there was a second ruptured blood vessel that had not been seen before in x-rays. The operation lasted over nine hours, but doctors were able to save her life.
During the first few days of recovery, Sarah knew that something was not quite right. She noticed that in just three days, Paul's appearance had changed drastically. She also could not recognize her daughter, Kerry. Soon, she discovered that sixteen years of her memory had been erased. In her mind, it was 1960, she was only twenty-three-years-old, and had three small children at home. In reality, it was 1976, she was thirty-nine and had four teenagers at home.
Two-and-a-half weeks after surgery, Sarah was released from the hospital. The neighborhood appeared to have completely changed. What had used to be a dirt road was now a paved street. Empty lots were now filled with houses. When she entered her home, everything had changed. She knew something was wrong, but decided not to tell anyone.
Two days after returning from the hospital, she realized that she was missing sixteen years of her life. While alone, she looked through family photo albums, hoping to have her memories return. She became very confused when using seemingly ordinary household appliances. She had an automatic dishwasher, which was rarely available in 1960. Microwaves and personal computers were also unheard of back then. Even the family car seemed futuristic to her.
As she tried to adjust to her life, Sarah noticed that her taste in music, fashion, and dance were that of a twenty-three-year-old. Her children suspected something was wrong. However, Sarah managed to keep her memory loss a secret until November 1979, when she realized that she was not alone. An article in the newspaper gave her the courage to tell her family about her amnesia.
In the years since, Sarah has recovered some of her memories with the help of her family. However, she still wishes that she could recover all of the memories of those lost sixteen years.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 10, 1991 episode. Sarah has also told her story on shows such as Today, Oprah Winfrey, and To Tell the Truth.