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February 1, 2013

Virginia woman pieces together 17 years lost to amnesia

(Continued)

Shawnda and Shaylin now live with Marsha in a house in the woods on the outskirts of Frederick County, in Virginia, decorated front to back with Wild West-themed artwork and antiques.

Shawnda Rush doesn't leave the house without her precisely done makeup and array of jangly bracelets. These days, she's less into miniskirts and heels than she was as a younger woman, and is now more comfortable in jeans and a sweater. She talks with a mild country twang, and her demeanor sways quickly and easily between that of a giddy pre-teen and of a 38-year-old woman weathered by multiple sclerosis.

A normal day includes fatigue, numbness, muscle spasms and temperature sensitivity. A bad day includes migraines, vision problems, extreme fatigue and emotional lows. She undergoes difficult, monthly infusions of the drug Tysabri.

"The infusion takes a little over an hour, and then after that they take the IV out, and they have to monitor you to find out if you're going to die," she said, laughing.

But Shawnda is at least lucky that her massive memory loss coincided with the advent of a tool for rekindling relationships: Facebook.

"You've got to love it," Cindy Davekos-Wilson said. "I got curious if she was on there. She has never not been in my mind."

Cindy couldn't find Shawnda under her married name and had never known her maiden name. In August 2010, however, she woke up to a realization: Shawnda's mother's name was Marsha Rush. She sat down at the computer and typed in "Shawnda Rush." Bingo.

Shawnda accepted her friend request, and the pair reconnected over lunch last March. Cindy told Shawnda stories about her former life, and Shawnda told her that neither Shawnda nor her mother had anything to do with her husband banning Cindy from the house. They both cried at the sandwich shop that day. After being strangers for the better part of a decade, the two were friends again.

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