NC couple overcomes memory loss, obesity to compete in triathlons

By Tom Roussey - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Just over two years ago, Scott Callahan weighed 380 pounds and couldn't even walk up steps.  Three years ago, his wife Sharon was a top account manager at FedEx.

Then Sharon suffered a viral brain infection that all but wiped out her memory of the past and her ability to remember things in the present.

As difficult as that has made things, Scott says it helped inspire him to lose 130 pounds and has actually made their marriage stronger.  The couple even competes in triathlons together.

Sharon shared with WBTV a book she carries around that contains information she needs to get through each day.  She writes down appointments and other reminders in it that she knows she would otherwise forget.

The book also contains pictures of relatives so that Sharon doesn't forget their names and who they are.

"Occasionally I'll just flip through the book, and I'll look at their pictures, and I'll give them a call to say hi," Sharon said.

"She has no memory of the past," Scott said of Sharon's memory.  "She doesn't remember high school, or being pregnant, or us meeting or anything like that."

Sharon says Scott has had to reteach her even the most basic things, such as the alphabet and how to spell.

Even the couple's son Christopher helps her out.

[He] will teach me what animals are called, because I've forgotten that," Sharon said.

Despite Sharon's memory troubles, she hasn't let it stop her from living life to the fullest.  With help from Scott and folks at the YMCA, she's able to run triathlons.

She also gets help from a Sharpie pen.

"We'll go ahead and write things like swim, bike, and run, because I forget the order at which we're doing things," Sharon said.

Pam Looby with the University City YMCA helped train the Callahans for the Lake Norman triathlon.

"I was a little nervous with her not having memory from a safety standpoint," Looby said.  "But Scott always kept her in his sight, never let her out of his sight with everything."

"I swim alongside of her, I bike behind her to remind her how to shift gears, because she forgets how to ride the bike everyday," Scott said.

Scott says Sharon's condition helped inspire him to lose well over a hundred pounds so he could be there for her.

He says 27 months ago he'd reached the point where he expected to die within five years.

He even scheduled gastric bypass surgery -- but then decided the risks were too great, instead committing to lose weight the natural way.

"I decided to choose the Y instead of the scalpel," Scott said.

Scott says he built up a support network both at the YMCA and online, and that helped keep him from quitting.

"If I didn't show up for a few days, they would kind of bust my chops about it," he said.

Scott says he hopes his story inspires others.

"You're never too old, out of shape, on too many medicines to do it," he said.

Scott says he wants to help folk who are either fighting obesity like he has or memory issues like Sharon has.  He blogs at, and he said he welcomes emails at

Scott spends a lot of time working out with and training Sharon.  He says in the midst of overcoming hardship, his and Sharon's marriage has been strengthened.

"I'm very lucky to have her in my life," he said.  "People always say, well I'm surprised you're not depressed.  Well we don't really have a reason to be."

Even though Sharon has difficulty remembering many things, her love and appreciation for Scott sticks with her every day.

"I love him very much, and I know I'm the luckiest girl in the whole entire world," she said.