A WOMAN whose case sparked a social media hunt after she was found on an American street with amnesia has been identified by her family.
“Sam”, as she was known by thousands following the story, has been named as Ashley Menatta, 53, from California.
About five months ago, she was found in Carlsbad, Southern California, unwell and with no memory of who she was. Her nephew identified her from a US television show about her.
He called his mother who then alerted the authorities.
According to the NBC 7 TV channel, Ms Menatta was born in Pennsylvania and had lived in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Several years ago, she moved to Southern California, where she lived in La Jolla, Vista and Carlsbad.
She reportedly loved travelling and never married.
Her sisters, in Colorado and Maryland, are said to have lost track of her in 2013.
She was found “barely conscious” by emergency services in Carlsbad in February.
Ms Menatta described an “extremely emotional” reunion with her family. “We were all sobbing,” she said. “They’re so sorry I had to go through what I did during this time without them.”
She told reporters she had been diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer after the authorities found her, and doctors removed a tumour the size of a volleyball.
“The doctors said it could have been growing for five years, causing me to be forgetful of things”, Ms Menatta said. The cancer has spread to other parts of her body and she had to have her uterus and other organs removed. Doctors told her she was probably suffering from “retrograde amnesia” – a type of memory loss brought on during the onset of a disease.
Her slight Australian accent led many people, including US authorities, to suspect she may originally have been from Down Under and she had strong memories of swimming at a beach in Perth, in Western Australia, and visiting other holiday spots in the country.
She also recalled regularly eating breakfast at an organic restaurant across the road from Perth’s Cottesloe Beach and dining out in Byron Bay, and she had dreams of Sydney’s Bondi Icebergs pool.
“I started dreaming about Australia – that was my first recollection of anything. I was in a lap pool; I’d have these incessant dreams,” she said in a televised interview.
As it turned it out, Ms Menatta had most probably visited these places during her travels. “Apparently I have a long time of visiting Australia for extended trips,” she said. “I’ve been going there throughout my life.”
Australian consular officials had offered assistance in solving her case.
Ms Menatta now plans to move to Maryland and live with one of her older sisters. “She was just telling me she has a four-bedroom large house and a lovely king-size bed waiting for me”, she said.
Ms Menatta’s Facebook page, set up with assistance from a former nurse who got involved in the case, said prayers had been answered. “Well, we have some great news,” the post said.
“‘Sam’ (Ashley is her name) and I want to thank you all who have been sharing, searching, emailing, posting, private messaging, calling, texting, twittering, NBC Channel 7 in San Diego, Australian News, England News, police, Missing Australians, Australian Missing Persons Register, FBI, interpol, and everyone else!!!! We could not have done this with out all of your help!”