Deleted: Faith Helps Couple Cope with Amnesia

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Scott Bolzan has lived what many would consider a "charmed" life. The problem is -- he can't remember any of it.

Bolzan has one of the worst cases of amnesia on record. Doctors say his memory loss is probably permanent.

Yet even with his lost memories, Bolzan hasn't lost hope.

Life Deleted

Bolzan should be looking back on a life well lived -- a happy childhood, marriage to a loving wife, two great kids, a career as a professional football player, then a pilot, and the owner of a private jet company. But those events don't exist anymore in his mind.

"I've lost my identity. I've lost who I was. I don't know what I stood for. I don't know what my goals were, my dreams," Bolzan told CBN News.

In 2008, Bozlan slipped in the bathroom at work, fell and hit his head -- erasing his 46 years of memories. The amazing story is detailed his book, My Life, Deleted - A Memoir.

Bozlan describes waking up in the hospital not knowing his wife or even the meaning of the word.

"The first time I saw Joan... They said, 'You must be Joan, Scott's wife,'" Bolzan recalled. "[So I thought] boom -- wife, Joan, her."

Learning to Love God Again

Bolzan has retrograde amnesia, which means he remembers everything since the accident, but almost nothing before the event. The problem is a lack of blood flow to to the front part of the brain, where long-term memories are stored.

Since his accident, Bolzan has had to re-learn all the things most of us take for granted, thanks to Google, TV and Joan.

"I could not get the days of the week, the months of the year. I knew them, but I couldn't get them in order," he said.

Bolzan also forgot his Christian faith, so Joan told him about Jesus all over again.

"Trying to teach him about the Lord and faith, I just tried to show him God's awesomeness through our world," she said.

"There is a Lord. There is a bigger person who is not only watching over us, but creating amazing and awesome opportunities," Joan added.

A Family Changed

Joan also took on the role of breadwinner, which was a struggle because Bolzan was always the strong one.

"For me, it was just, 'Okay, Lord, You've got to pick up the slack of where he's lacking because that's been taken,'" his wife said.

Their children have also had to deal with role reversal.

"He's been the man of the family, and I think that's been the hugest hurdle for me is that now I'm teaching him things," said their daughter, Taylor.

The worst part is trying to capture past emotions.

"Most of the time, it's my perspective or whoever is telling the story. First of all, I'm a female so my perspective emotionally is quite different," Joan explained.

Tough Questions

"Why did I get married? Why did I want to play football? What did playing football mean to me? Why did I want to be a pilot? All these things," Bolzan said.

"There's an internal mechanism that everyone goes through except me. Of every decision they've made in their life, and every experience they've experienced, has made them who they are, and I have none of that," he continued.

On the bright side, Bolzman can't recall any painful memories.

"I don't have any prejudices, preconceived notions, no expectations," Bolzan told CBN News.

Long Shot Solutions

Doctors are trying to stimulate blood flow in his brain with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. But there are no guarantees.

"They kind of feel those memories are there, that they're encoded in him. But can't actively retrieve them," Joan said.

"Most people who have amnesia from a traumatic brain injury, which is a really common cause of amnesia, will usually recover their memory in 30 minutes, the next day, that's common," Dr. Jacqueline Carter, a neurologist with the Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Az. explained.

"To have [memory loss] this profound is unusual," she added.

Dr. Carter said the hits Bolzan took while playing football could be part of the problem.

"The more injuries you have to the brain, the more concussions you have. They become cumulative, and the more damage they do," she said.

Love Conquers All

But, Bolzan does have a little of what's known as "procedural" memory.

"I handed him a toothbrush and he didn't look at it like, 'What does it do?' He knew to brush his teeth," Joan recalled.

"I knew the rules of football when I was in the hospital -- not all of them, but I knew off-sides. I knew what a penalty flag was, some of the major ones. But I didn't know one team. I didn't know what city the team was in, not one player, not even the famous ones," Bolzan said

Once, he also remembered his childhood home.

"There's no voices. There's no faces. There's nothing like that. Just physical resemblances of a tree, a garage, a swimming pool," Bolzan said.

"That was about five months after the accident and we got excited that that would be the start of them coming back," he continued. "But that was it, just a one day, very short glimpse of my previous life."

The Bolzans hope his memory will return, but they're moving forward as if it will not, by learning to love each other all over again.

*Original broadcast Nov. 4, 2011.

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.