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'Sam' - The #Amnesia Patient Saved Through #Facebook

Facebook/Interpol (via The Mirror)
A lot of the time, it's easy to forget just how amazing it is that we live in such an interconnected world. The idea that global news reaches you within seconds of it happening or being able to communicate with people basically anywhere at any time is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. Every once in a while though, a story comes along that really exemplifies it.

Missing people call-outs have been par for the course on social media for years and rightly so, it's one of the most effective ways to increase the chances of someone recognising a picture, but rarely do you find a campaign to find the family of a person who can't remember who they are. This was the case with 'Sam', a woman who was found wandering around in Carlsbad, California with no memory of who she was or where she was going, barely grasping to consciousness.

She was found to have stage 3 ovarian cancer and doctors removed a volleyball-size tumour shortly after she was admitted. The cancer is thought to be the cause of her retrograde amnesia. Despite having been found in America, Sam spoke with an Australian sounding accent (although it could have just as easily been British) and said she had been dreaming about being in Perth, Queensland and Byron Bay. This prompted the identity search (fronted by Interpol and the FBI) to extend out to Australia. 

While all this was going on, a parallel campaign on Facebook and Twitter got under-way which Sam ran herself, aided by one of the nurses who treated her. Almost immediately the pages both started amassing a following of thousands, widening the search for Sam's family as more people were inspired into action by the bizarre, tragic story. Sam often expressed fears on the pages that she would die before her family found her.

On July 2nd, 5 months after first being found, Sam was identified by her nephew as Ashley Menatta, a 53-year-old from Pennsylvania. She has since been reunited with her sisters, one of whom she will live with during her continued treatment and recovery. Allegedly she's also spent a fair amount of time in Australia, which accounts for the altered accent.

While it was a TV interview which actually led to Menatta being identified, it's fair to say her story wouldn't have circulated anywhere near as widely without social media. Cases where trending actually has a practical application are still proportionately pretty rare, and genuine searches for missing people are offset somewhat by all the fake ones, but this is a prime example of the way a story can spread if it's given the chance. Becoming a part of a developing narrative is a very attractive incentive to people and in the cases where it can be used to encourage activism, it works wonders.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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'Sam' - The #Amnesia Patient Saved Through #Facebook Reviewed by Callum Davies on Saturday, July 11, 2015 Rating: 5

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