A 24-year old got a mysterious disease where her body attacked her brain — and everyone thought it was in her mind

May 23, 2017

The following story is by Erin Brodwin, a senior reporter with Business Insider Science.  Her work has also appeared in places like Scientific American, Popular Science, and Newsweek. AEA is proud to have connected Erin with Caroline, the focus of her article.

There’s a blank year in 25-year-old Caroline Walsh’s once-spotless memory.

She’s pieced parts together from stories her friends have told her and a collection of photos on Facebook. But she cannot remember the day it all began — when her father found her in the middle of a seizure, her body writhing on the floor. She also can’t remember waking up with her hands tied to a hospital bed, begging her sister to help her escape, or the next day when she proclaimed she was the Zac Brown Band.

Caroline Walsh
Caroline at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Instead, Walsh’s first recollection of that time is of a recovery room filled with family and flowers. By then, her doctors had diagnosed her with a mysterious disease called autoimmune encephalitis, or AE for short. While there’s lot we still don’t know about the condition, experts believe it’s part of a larger class of illnesses in which the body turns on itself. In Walsh’s case, the disease attacked her brain, setting off a chain reaction of symptoms that mimicked those of other mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. Click here for the full story.

AEA is grateful for Erin’s work on raising awareness of autoimmune encephalitis.