Watch the video to find out more about this ‘brain on fire’ disease.
Video credit: BaptistHealthSF
When a teenager was wrongly diagnosed with mental illness, her family happened to learn about their daughter’s rare autoimmune disease from a TV show, which ultimately paved the way for her treatment.
Emily Gavigan started showing unusual behavior during her sophomore year at the University of Scranton in 2009.
The teen would often become paranoid, rambling that something bad was about to take place. Her parents had no idea what was going on with their daughter who was once full of life.
They decided to get her treated after she vanished one day and remained out of contact for more than 24 hours.
The Gavigans eventually learned that Emily had traveled from Pennsylvania to New Jersey to visit her grandparents without any money to clear the tolls.
Upon her arrival, the teen said to her grandpa that a truck had been following her throughout her drive. However, when the old man looked across the road, he couldn’t see anything.
The incident proved to be the last straw and Emily’s parents decided to seek treatment for her.
Her parents, as well as the doctors, believed the teen was suffering from a mental illness. She was given medication but she didn’t show any improvement.
When Emily’s condition worsened, the doctors tested her for physical problems – like brain tumors – but could again find nothing.
From psychiatrists to mental facilities, her family tried everything but Emily’s condition was only becoming worse.
One day, Emily’s family was asked by someone to watch an episode of the Today Show in which New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan shared her shocking story.
Cahalan revealed how she thought she had gone crazy in her story which was chillingly similar to that of Emily’s.
The reporter said she was suffering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis – a rare condition in which the immune system attacks a person’s brain, leading to severe neurological damage.
Cahalan’s story prompted the Gavigans to get their daughter tested for the condition.
Surprisingly, Emily was found to have anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in what was the first correct diagnosis of the unfortunate girl.
After a long struggle spanning more than a year, Emily returned to the life she lived before suffering from the rare disease.
In 2012, Emily appeared on the Today Show with Cahalan to share how Cahalan’s story saved her life.
At the time, she had no idea that her own story was about to rescue another girl suffering from the same condition in Omaha, Nebraska.
Like the Gavigan family, the Jensen family was shocked when they watched the clip and realized what was wrong with their 6-year-old daughter, Madison.
Madison’s timely diagnosis translated into a quick recovery, all thanks to Emily and Cahalan for sharing their stories.
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