For two months, Travis Webb has lived with a woman he doesn’t remember marrying, in a house he has no recollection of becoming their home.
He’s reintroduced himself to people he’s told are his close friends, though he didn’t recognize them.
He’s been examined and run through tests by multiple doctors, who are still without an explanation for why Webb – Parkland College’s assistant baseball coach – woke up one morning this past November with his mind wiped clean of about three years of his life.
Webb says it’s been both weird and frightening.
“I’m 28. I’m healthy,” he said. “This stuff should not happen.”
His sudden memory loss started Nov. 10, Webb said. He’d been sick with what felt like the flu for about a week before, and woke up that morning feeling confused.
He recognized the furniture in the house, but didn’t know how he got there, thinking he still lived in Moline, where he coached before Parkland. He recognized his wife, Hannah, as his girlfriend and asked her if they’d gotten married after seeing their wedding picture on the bedroom wall.
Hannah Webb, a behavioral therapist in Danville, said she went to work Nov. 10, but called her husband during the day and on her way home and he didn’t sound like himself. She ran him through some questions on the phone and learned he knew his name, but also that he couldn’t tell her when his birthday was, what year it was and where they lived, she said.
She got home and took him to an emergency room, where he was examined and told he likely had transient global amnesia – a sudden, temporary memory loss that can’t be linked to any common neurological conditions – and that his memory would likely return within a few days, Travis said.
But it didn’t. In subsequent mornings, Hannah said her husband woke up in a panic, asking her the same questions he’d asked the day before.
“He didn’t know where he was, how he got there, and said, ‘Did we get married?’” she said. “At first I said, ‘Stop kidding.’”
Travis remembered family members, his wife said, but not anyone they’d met since they moved to Urbana, and kept asking how their dog, Sylus, had become so big.
Overcome with confusion
For a time, Webb said he passed out every day because he’d become so overcome with confusion. He’s had at least one episode of what may have been a seizure, blanking out for several minutes, he said.
Two weeks after his amnesia began, Webb said he regained his short-term memory going forward. But his life from 2012 through Nov. 24, 2014, remains a blank.
He’s now seen 22 different doctors, and has been given some possible reasons for what’s happened – maybe a medication interaction, maybe seizures, he said. One test found a cyst on his brain, but doctors ruled it out as the culprit because it’s on the wrong part of his brain to affect memory, Webb said.
Hannah said it took her weeks to persuade her husband to try and reconnect with friends who were suddenly strangers to him.
One of them, Atlanta Braves pitcher Daniel Winkler, said he and Webb have been friends for about a year, and he found out what happened to Webb when Hannah sent him a text about it.
“It was the craziest thing,” he said, “I remember his wife texting me and I thought ‘there’s no way this is real.’”
Winkler said he later also heard from Travis, suggesting they meet, and they got together at a local restaurant. For Webb, Winkler recalls, it was as though they’d never met.
Yet, Winkler said, “we’d hung out hundreds of times before.”
He remembers Webb saying to him, “’It feels like I know you, but I can’t remember. But it feels like we are good friends,’” Winkler recalled.
These days, he said, Webb is acting more like himself, though he still asks questions about the past. And if there’s a bright spot in all this, he added, Webb seems to have started taking life more on a day-by-day basis.
Parkland baseball pitcher Connor Gunnerman said he has known Webb since he was in high school and Webb was coaching at Black Hawk College in Moline. Webb saw him playing catch with his dad at Black Hawk, gave him some lessons and told him he was coming to Parkland and he’d be in touch about him playing for the Cobras’ baseball team, Gunnerman said.
“He’s just a real funny, a cool guy to talk to, not just during baseball but outside of baseball,” he said.
Gunnerman said he’s heard about Webb’s amnesia, but hasn’t seen him since it happened. With many guys on the team feeling close to Webb, he said, he expects things will be a little different when Webb returns.
Webb said he plans to approach his players with a questionnaire asking them about their past association with him and other things about themselves that will help him know them again.
Meanwhile, he’s been using Facebook to fill in some of the blanks about the people he’s been told he knows, and he’s also been keeping track of his days in a journal he started soon after his memory loss, he said. One doctor advised him to try and build new memories, he said, but not knowing how he lost the old ones or whether he’ll hang onto his new short-term memory is scary.
Webb said his wife has been wonderful throughout this ordeal, and losing all memory of their wedding has been one of the hardest things to deal with – though he can recall proposing to her in 2011. Because his memory of the wedding is lost, he said he and his wife plan to renew their wedding vows.
Webb also has a sideline instructional business, Controlled Chaos Baseball, which just finished a good year, he said, but he doesn’t remember any of it, and has had to put the venture on hold for the near future.
“According to my wife, I have a lot of clients around here,” he said.
Getting back to his coaching job at Parkland, where he first started his college baseball career as a pitcher, is the main priority for him now, Hannah said. Medical tests so far have found him to be otherwise healthy, she said, and she’s seen at least his short-term memory improve.
“It’s kind of like I have him back a little,” she said.