Vanessa’s amazing story from Seattle

September 15, 2018

I remember so well the day I came back into consciousness in July 2017 in Washington. I was lying in a hospital bed, President Trump making a speech on TV, and ‘Get Well’ balloons on my left. First thought was, why am I here? And second was, isn’t Obama the U.S President?

Shortly after, my parents and boyfriend came into the room and I had a million questions running through my mind like, “Why am I in Seattle?”  “How long have I been in the hospital?” and “Why am I here?” My parents explained that I fell ill and ended up in the hospital just to keep it simple for me to understand. I was still confused as to why I was in Seattle because I’m supposed to be living in Arizona. My parents told me that I had moved back to Seattle from Arizona 3 years ago and I began to panic thinking I was unconscious for 3 years; thankfully it’s only been a month.

For the next few days, I tried understand what had happened and recollect memories lost.  My boyfriend was actually my fiancé whom I got engaged to just a couple months prior. I was shown photos of the engagement which I couldn’t remember, but just had to acknowledge that it happened.

This all began in May 2017 when I was experiencing neck and shoulder pain. These were symptoms that I didn’t think much about as I thought it was just pain from bad posture. I figured I take some Advil and use a Thera cane to massage the pain out. However, this pain worsened and I developed intense migraines and a short temper. Following this, I had fevers that fluctuated from really high to normal within a day.

My fiancé recalls the night he had to take me to the hospital. It was while we were sleeping when I suddenly got up, started spitting and babbling nonsense. This was very unusual so he brought me to the hospital knowing something was very wrong. At the hospital, doctors couldn’t determine the problem and put me into intermediate care. It just happened that they didn’t have any rooms left and I was transferred to intensive care instead. As soon as I was put into the ICU, the seizure began. Thankfully, I was in the right place at the right time and staff immediately put me into a self-induced coma to stop the activity.

Doctors from all backgrounds gathered to discuss the cause and treatment needed. Ideas were getting thrown around and one doctor even suggested chemotherapy. They scanned my body and found a teratoma just 3 centimeters large in my ovary that was immediately scheduled for removal. The doctor of infectious diseases also suggested that I undergo plasmapheresis to remove any harmful antibodies reacting to the tumor; that was when I was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis.

After treatment, I was put into rehab to learn basic functions like walking, eating and using the restroom.  I spent a large portion of rehab improving my memory. I remembered well the events that occurred over 3 years ago, but was struggling a lot with short-term memory. A year later, I’m back to my daily routine at work, hanging out with friends and even got married!

Thanks to Vanessa for sharing her great story of struggle and survival of AE!