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How does the brain heal from autoimmune encephalitis and why is there so much variability in the healing process?

How does the brain heal from autoimmune encephalitis and why is there so much variability in the healing process?

December 7, 2022 | by Kara McGaughey, PennNeuroKnow

A message from IAES Blog Staff:

The staff at IAES is proud to present to all of you another wonderful article/blog from the amazing team at PennNeuroKnow. Since 2019 IAES has been extremely lucky to be in partnership with the PennNeuroKnow(PNK) team to help us all better understand complex medical issues related to AE and neurology in general. The talented PNK team continues to keep us up-to-date and help clarify the complexities we face each day along our AE journey, and we are eternally grateful! You can find out much more about this stellar group at: https://pennneuroknow.com/

——

The holy grail! The million-dollar question! How long will it take to get rid of AE, to heal from AE…when will we feel and act ‘normal’ again? Why do we not understand more of the healing process’ from a diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis?

Kara McGaughey and the team at PennNeuroKnow help us further understand just how complex and individual our brains are!

——

Introduction

 

If you break a bone, your expectations about the healing process and how long it might last will vary depending on the nature and severity of the fracture. For example, a small fracture will come with a completely different timeline for recovery than a compound fracture (where the force of the break causes the bone to pierce through the skin).

Just like broken bones, no two cases of brain injury are exactly the same and the timeline of the healing process depends on the nature and severity of the injury. As such, when we consider healing from brain injuries, like autoimmune encephalitis (AE), the diversity of diagnoses and symptoms leads to a diversity of recovery trajectories, which can make navigating the healing process a confusing and isolating experience. Here, we dive into this diversity, exploring what healing from AE looks like, why the process takes so long, and why it varies so much.

How does the brain heal from autoimmune encephalitis?

 

“I felt like a robot controlling my body for the first time – speech, thought and movement all under shaky manual control. I felt like my brain was being reacquainted with my body.”

— Alexandrine Lawrie on AE recovery1

Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) is a collection of related conditions in which the body’s immune system produces antibodies that mistakenly attack the brain, causing inflammation. In order to begin the healing process, treatment is needed to shut down the overactive immune system, remove the antibodies mounting the attack, and reduce brain swelling.2-3 To accomplish this, doctors typically rely on a handful of treatments options:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce brain inflammation/swelling and immune system activity.
  • Blood plasma exchange to remove and replace the harmful antibodies circulating in the blood (which can find their way into the brain).
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), which includes helpful antibodies isolated from the blood plasma of thousands of healthy donors.
  • Immunosuppressant medications (like Cyclophosphamide and Rituximab) to directly suppress the immune system, if necessary.2-4

Steroids, blood plasma exchange, intravenous immunoglobulin, or a combination of the three represent the most common defense against AE.2,4 These first-line treatments can be helpful for stopping the immune system’s attack on brain tissue and reducing inflammation. Corticosteroids, for example, reduce brain swelling by preventing the production of inflammatory proteins by immune cells. These steroids also help to restore the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, a protective lining that shields the brain from inflammatory cells and  harmful antibodies that may be circulating in the bloodstream.5 In AE the blood-brain barrier can spring leaks, which allows antibodies from the bloodstream to penetrate the brain and wreak havoc.6 Closing up any leaks in the barrier that formed as a result of AE disease progression is a critical first step in the healing process.

However, recovery from AE can take time and is often not an abrupt rise and fall of symptoms (Figure 1, left). Instead, while many people do respond to available treatment options, the initial period of healing usually falls short of complete, giving way to a longer and more complicated recovery trajectory (Figure 1, center). For example, first-line therapies fail to resolve symptoms in about 50% of patients with AE, which means that additional and prolonged treatments are often required to suppress the immune system and give the brain an opportunity to repair and recover.4 In these cases, doctors turn to second-line therapies, like immunosuppressants. While having steroids on board promotes brain healing by stopping the leakage of antibodies from the bloodstream into the brain, immunosuppressants, like Rituximab, go after the cells that make the antibodies in the first place.5 When given long-term, Rituximab can be effective at reducing symptoms and keeping AE in remission.2,4

pnk symptoms - How does the brain heal from autoimmune encephalitis and why is there so much variability in the healing process?

Figure 1: Rather than a simple rise in symptoms that is quickly attenuated with treatment (black line, left), the timeline of healing from AE often comes with a series of ups and downs (green line, center). The height of these highs and lows depends on many factors, such as the specific AE diagnosis (i.e., the type of antibody causing the attack and the brain areas involved) and the time between symptom onset and treatment. As such, each AE patient’s path to recovery looks different (right).

While therapies, like Rituximab, can be incredibly effective, outcomes are still highly variable. Because no two cases of AE are exactly the same, no two recovery trajectories are either (Figure 1, right). Both treatment options and outcomes often depend on details of the AE diagnosis, such as the type of antibody involved. For example, a recent study of 358 patients with AE demonstrated that people with anti-NMDAR antibodies, LGI1 antibodies, and CASPR2 antibodies respond differently to Rituximab immunotherapy.7 These groups of patients with AE caused by different antibodies not only reported differences in symptom relief, but they ultimately reached different levels of day-to-day independence. Nevertheless, regardless of treatment approach and AE diagnosis, early and aggressive therapy is consistently associated with better outcomes. This means that as diagnostic tools and treatments improve, more people with AE have the opportunity to heal.2

How long does the process of healing from autoimmune encephalitis take?

“Good, bad, up, down, round and round;

I feel as though I’m on a merry-go-round.

Full of uncertainty if it will ever stop spinning;

Full of frustration as I remain on my couch sitting.

It’s going to be alright; it’s going to be okay; I will continue the fight day to day.

I will keep the hope and learn to cope;

I will continue my way up this slippery slope with hopes of support and love of some sort.”

— Anonymous on living with AE8

Since people tend to differ in their response to AE treatments, they tend to recover at different paces. For some, AE symptoms decline steadily with continued immunotherapy, leading to recovery within a couple months. Others experience persistent relapses, leading to a recovery timeline on the order of years (Figure 1, right). Research studies show that most patients continue to improve 18 months to 2 years after starting treatment, but there are some people with AE who experience ongoing and life-changing symptoms.9

Similar to how some types of AE respond better or worse to particular treatments, AE diagnosis also affects the timeline of recovery and the risk of recurrence. A recent study followed up with AE patients 3, 6, and 12 months after starting treatment, assessing and comparing their symptoms using a measure of the degree of disability or dependence. Researchers and clinicians found that after three months, two thirds of patients with anti-LGI1 or CASPR2 antibodies recovered to “slight disability” compared to only 30% of patients with anti-NMDAR or other antibody-based AE.10

This persistence of symptoms among patients with anti-NMDAR vs. anti-LGI1 or CASPR2 AE may come from the fact that different AE antibodies carry different risks for relapse. For example, the risk of relapse within two years for anti-NMDAR AE is 12%.9 There are other AE diagnoses, like anti-AMPAR AE, where the relapse rate is even higher, pushing 50-60%.11 This increased risk of relapse is thought to stem from the fact that patients with anti-AMPAR AE often have psychiatric and memory dysfunction that make them less likely to keep up with medications. However, while it may be more prevalent for some types of AE than others, relapse is not a given. These same studies show that patients who receive (and continue) with first-line treatments have a lower risk of recurrence relative to untreated patients.11 Risk of relapse is further decreased in patients who have been given both first- and second-line therapies.5,9 This clear payoff of continued treatment suggests that as we continue to make improvements to AE therapies, there is potential for the percentage of patients reaching recovery to continue to increase.

All in all, vast differences in AE diagnoses and symptoms lead to lots of variability in treatment options, the healing process, and recovery timelines. This diversity of AE trajectories makes setting expectations for the healing process especially difficult. It also highlights the resilience of AE patients, their families, and their support systems who tirelessly endure and advocate despite prolonged uncertainty.

“A dear lady friend of mine (with the same illness) said this great quote that I reflect on frequently:

‘Not every day is good, but there is good in every day.’

And that has been absolutely true.

Each day presents itself with its own challenges and even though I don’t know what the future holds,

I am most calm when I focus on the good one day at a time.

–Amy on her AE journey12

Work Cited:

  1. Lawrie, A. My experience with autoimmune encephalitis: A year of recovery. The Health Policy Partnership (2022). Available at: https://www.healthpolicypartnership.com/my-experience-with-autoimmune-encephalitis-a-year-of-recovery/. (Accessed: 25th October 2022).
  2. Dinoto, A., Ferrari, S. & Mariotto, S. Treatment options in refractory autoimmune encephalitis. CNS Drugs 36, 919–931 (2022).
  3. Abboud, H. et al. Autoimmune encephalitis: Proposed best practice recommendations for diagnosis and Acute Management.Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 92, 757–768 (2021).
  4. Dalmau, J. & Rosenfeld, M. R. Autoimmune encephalitis update. Neuro-Oncology 16, 771–778 (2014).
  5. Shin, Y.-W. et al. Treatment strategies for autoimmune encephalitis. Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders 11, 1–19 (2018).
  6. Platt, M. P., Agalliu, D. & Cutforth, T. Hello from the other side: How autoantibodies circumvent the blood–brain barrier in autoimmune encephalitis. Frontiers in Immunology 8, 442 (2017).
  7. Thaler, F. S. et al. Rituximab treatment and long-term outcome of patients with autoimmune encephalitis. Neurology: Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation 8, (2021).
  8. Fitch, A. AE Warrior Personal Stories Archives. Autoimmune Encephalitis (2022). Available at: https://autoimmune-encephalitis.org/category/ae-warrior-personal-stories/. (Accessed: 25th October 2022).
  9. Titulaer, M. J. et al. Treatment and prognostic factors for long-term outcome in patients with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis: An observational cohort study. Lancet Neurology 12, 157–165 (2013).
  10. Seifert-Held, T. et al. Functional recovery in autoimmune encephalitis: A prospective observational study. Frontiers in Immunology 12, 641106 (2021).
  11. Leypoldt, F., Wandinger, K.-P., Bien, C. G. & Dalmau, J. Autoimmune encephalitis. European Neurological Review 8, 31–37 (2013).
  12. Amy. Amy’s story. The Encephalitis Society (2021). Available at: https://www.encephalitis.info/amys-story. (Accessed: 25th October 2022).

 

 

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On June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org  

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE.   Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - How does the brain heal from autoimmune encephalitis and why is there so much variability in the healing process? For this interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.   AE Warrior Store 300x200 - How does the brain heal from autoimmune encephalitis and why is there so much variability in the healing process?

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Fatigue and Autoimmune Encephalitis: You’re Not Alone

Fatigue and Autoimmune Encephalitis: You’re Not Alone

November 30, 2022 | by Vanessa B. Sanchez, PennNeuroKnow

 

Introduction

Imagine you just pulled out a load of laundry from the dryer, and as you begin to get into the groove of folding clothes, out of nowhere, you have a profound loss of energy (1). What you are experiencing is called fatigue. Fatigue is different from drowsiness or sleepiness. For example, drowsiness is the need for sleep whereas sleepiness is the likelihood of being able to fall asleep (1, 3). To clarify, fatigue is the overwhelming feeling of tiredness, weakness, and a complete lack of energy (3).

Fatigue impacts millions of Americans every day. In fact, about 5 to 10% of visits to primary care doctors in the United States are due to patients reporting fatigue (3). Despite its pervasiveness, fatigue can be experienced differently across individuals. For example, males describe fatigue as feeling tired while females more often describe their fatigue as feeling anxious or depressed (2).

Fatigue is a common symptom of autoimmune encephalitis

Patients with autoimmune encephalitis (AE) describe fatigue as one of their main persistent symptoms, even after recovery (5). It can become so disabling that patients may drop out of school or work, thus negatively impacting their quality of life (6). Dr. Anusha K Yeshokumar, an autoimmune neurologist, conducted two studies to determine the outcomes of survivors of AE in order to find ways to improve patients’ quality of life (5). In both studies, she found that over 60% of patients reported experiencing fatigue (5).  Of these patients, she also found that over 80% of them reported feeling both physical (feeling weak, the need to rest, etc.) and cognitive fatigue (less alert, cannot think clearly, etc.) (5).

A notable finding in Dr. Yeshokumar’s study was that anti-NMDAR AE seems to act differently when it comes to fatigue, such that adults experience it much less than children (5). Another factor that influenced whether patients with AE experienced fatigue was the time of diagnosis and treatment. Anti-NMDAR AE is one of the most well-characterized AEs, so doctors tend to diagnose and treat patients faster than other types of AE. Other types of AE aren’t as well-characterized, which can interfere with a doctor’s ability to properly diagnose and treat patients quickly. Because of this interference, patients who do not get diagnosed as quickly are more likely to experience fatigue. For example, patients with other AEs reported the time from symptom onset to diagnosis and to treatment took almost 300 days while it only took 30 days for patients with anti-NMDAR AE! (5). As doctors and researchers learn more about other AEs, it can hopefully aid in earlier diagnosis and treatment to prevent chronic (≥6 months) fatigue.

Is your brain making you feel fatigued?

Fatigue is often associated with the sickness behavioral response, which occurs when the body tries to cope or fight off an infection (14). Scientists believe that the brain is responsible for this sickness behavioral response (7). In a recent study, scientists explored whether there are certain types of neurons that become activated when an infection occurs and may be responsible for sickness behaviors (7,8). To do so, scientists injected healthy mice with a molecule to induce a bacterial infection and make them sick (7,8). Afterwards, scientists performed a special technique called single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) on the brains of mice who did or did not receive the bacterial injection (7,8). scRNA-seq is a widely used tool used to study the identity of different types of cells (To learn more and read about scRNA-seq, check out this Penn Neuro Know article!). By using this sequencing technique, scientists discovered two specific populations of neurons that reside in the brainstem, the part of our brain connected to the spinal cord (7,8). Scientists found that these populations in the brainstem are responsible for several sickness symptoms, like appetite, movement, and body temperature (7,8). Changes in mouse behavior like a reduction in physical activity and/or weight loss are how scientists can make inferences that mice are experiencing fatigue (17). This is because fatigue is often associated with a decline in physical and daily activities.

In another complementary study, a team of scientists found another specialized population of neurons in a brain region called the hypothalamus that are responsible for sickness behaviors like fever and nausea (7,9). These key findings are now pointing scientists in the right direction toward fully understanding these neuronal populations in order to mitigate or prevent sickness behaviors, including fatigue.

Are there other explanations for fatigue?

Another reason why patients experience fatigue is because they may have chronic or relapsing neuroinflammation (5). Neuroinflammation occurs when the body’s immune system is triggered following an infection, or in the case of AE, to attack healthy cells in the brain. The brain has a protective sheath called the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which prevents most infections and foreign invaders from getting to the brain. In the case that infection or inflammation does occur, the body’s immune cells will release a special signal that can pass through the BBB to let neurons and microglia know danger is near. These signals alert a special population of immune cells in the brain, called microglia, that they should begin to defend against infection. Once microglia are alerted, they will activate neighboring neurons. When neurons receive this signal, they become strongly active and communicate with nearby neurons and brain regions (14). Scientists have proposed that this increased neuronal activity is what also contributes to fatigue (14). In the case of AE or chronic neuroinflammation, scientists postulate that because microglia and other immune cells are constantly activated and releasing that special signal, neurons also remain persistently active, and so do feelings of fatigue (14). 

Treatments for chronic fatigue

Doctors can prescribe some medications or over-the-counter drugs that can ease symptoms of chronic fatigue (13). Some doctors might suggest lifestyle changes to help manage and alleviate fatigue, such as practicing good sleep hygiene (i.e., getting a full 8 hours of sleep and keeping a sleep diary) and lifestyle changes (i.e., eating, drinking, exercising, etc.) (15, 16). Despite working for some patients, sometimes medications and lifestyle changes are not enough to alleviate chronic fatigue. In those cases, holistic interventions, like yoga or mindfulness, can also sometimes improve overall quality of life. For example, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) – another type of autoimmune disease – who practiced yoga for 2 or 4 months reported lower levels of fatigue (11). Other studies have found that MS patients who practiced trait mindfulness (the ability to practice living in the present moment) also reported being able to maintain a higher health-related quality of life (10, 12).

Research studies such as the one by Dr. Yeshokumar are huge steps towards understanding how fatigue impacts survivors of AE and being able to better treat patients. Both scientists and doctors are getting closer to understanding the exact biological mechanisms of fatigue in AE, which will hopefully aid in the development of treatments that target these mechanisms to improve patients’ quality of life.

References:

1-Medline. Fatigue (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003088.htm)

2-Rosenthal, T. C., Majeroni, B. A., Pretorious, R., & Malik, K. (2008). Fatigue: an overview. American family physician, 78(10), 1173-1179.

3-Dukes, J. C., Chakan, M., Mills, A., & Marcaurd, M. (2021). Approach to fatigue: best practice. Medical Clinics, 105(1), 137-148.

4-Son, C. G. (2019). Differential diagnosis between “chronic fatigue” and “chronic fatigue syndrome”. Integrative medicine research, 8(2), 89.

5-Diaz-Arias, L. A., Yeshokumar, A. K., Glassberg, B., Sumowski, J. F., Easton, A., Probasco, J. C., & Venkatesan, A. (2021). Fatigue in survivors of autoimmune encephalitis. Neurology-Neuroimmunology Neuroinflammation, 8(6). 

6-De Bruijn, M. A., Aarsen, F. K., Van Oosterhout, M. P., Van Der Knoop, M. M., Catsman-Berrevoets, C. E., Schreurs, M. W., … & Titulaer, M. J. (2018). Long-term neuropsychological outcome following pediatric anti-NMDAR encephalitis. Neurology, 90(22), e1997-e2005.

7-Hicks, A. I., & Prager-Khoutorsky, M. (2022). Neuronal culprits of sickness behaviours.

8-Ilanges, A., Shiao, R., Shaked, J., Luo, J. D., Yu, X., & Friedman, J. M. (2022). Brainstem ADCYAP1+ neurons control multiple aspects of sickness behaviour. Nature, 1-11.

9-Osterhout, J. A., Kapoor, V., Eichhorn, S. W., Vaughn, E., Moore, J. D., Liu, D., … & Dulac, C. (2022). A preoptic neuronal population controls fever and appetite during sickness. Nature, 1-8.

10-​​Grossman, P., Kappos, L., Gensicke, H., D’Souza, M., Mohr, D. C., Penner, I. K., & Steiner, C. (2010). MS quality of life, depression, and fatigue improve after mindfulness training: a randomized trial. Neurology, 75(13), 1141-1149.

11-Dehkordi, A. H. (2016). Influence of yoga and aerobics exercise on fatigue, pain and psychosocial status in patients with multiple sclerosis: a randomized trial.

12-Mioduszewski, O., MacLean, H., Poulin, P. A., Smith, A. M., & Walker, L. A. (2018). Trait mindfulness and wellness in multiple sclerosis. Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 45(5), 580-582.

13-Cassoobhoy, A. (2020, December 13). Medications used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). WebMD. Retrieved September 17, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/medicines-treat-chronic-fatigue-syndrome 

14-Omdal, R. (2020). The biological basis of chronic fatigue: neuroinflammation and innate immunity. Current opinion in neurology, 33(3), 391-396.

15-Encephalitis Society. Managing fatigue after encephalitis.

16- Brazier, Y. (2022, August 10). Fatigue: Why am I so tired, and what can I do about it? Medical News Today. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248002

17-Wolff, B. S., Raheem, S. A., & Saligan, L. N. (2018). Comparing passive measures of fatigue-like behavior in mice. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1-12.

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

 

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On June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org  

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE.   Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Fatigue and Autoimmune Encephalitis: You're Not Alone For this interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.   AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Fatigue and Autoimmune Encephalitis: You're Not Alone

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

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A Mother’s Wish for a Mighty Miracle’s 7th Birthday

A Mother’s Wish for a Mighty Miracle’s 7th Birthday


November 24, 2022 | By Janine Samuela-Carasus

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

As we wrap up caregiver awareness month and in the spirit of this season’s giving of thanks, the staff at IAES wish to share with you this beautiful story of hope and the true power of those that care for us the most. Each AE Warrior is here today because of those that care for and love us. We are thankful beyond words. We hope you find this story as inspirational as we have, and we truly hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

To read more of Zoe’s story and her family please enjoy the first blog in this AE journey: https://autoimmune-encephalitis.org/never-give-up-miracles-happen-every-day/

 

—–

My name Janine Samuela-Carasus. I am 29 years old and from the Philippines.

Five years ago, in the middle of August 2017, our toddler that was almost two years old was diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor Encephalitis.

We were stuck in a pediatric ICU unit for three weeks with Zoe and then, literally, lived in the hospital for the longest two months of our lives. As you can imagine, hundreds of tests and procedures were done every single day to try and figure out what was happening to our precious little girl. Our hearts were broken by every single negative result. No one knew what was happening to our girl. She seemed to be getting sicker and sicker each day.

Bills began piling up. All we understood was that her condition continued to worsen each day until she was not responding anymore. But with all this negativity, there was never a moment, a day, or a week that I thought of giving in and giving up. Never did a second go by that we lost hope that things would get better.  With constant prayer, the help of the Lord, and the vigilance of our brilliant doctors, we kept hope alive.

Eventually, we were able to bring Zoe home although she was in a non-responsive vegetative state. We had no idea or any medical assurance that she would recover and regain her strength again and be the precious girl we knew and loved.

For me, it was a mix of emotions. I was happy we were finally home and terrified of what the future would bring all at the same time. I worried if I would be strong enough for Zoe and if I would be able to help her. I did know one thing for certain, even if it took her forever to recover, I would be there. I knew even if it meant sacrificing my own life and personal dreams, I would be there. And I did. Never did I leave her side, nor did I sleep away from her even for a night. I, religiously, made her blended food and fed her via a feeding tube for months. I took her to doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and every appointment that was necessary. I made sure Zoe was and felt loved every minute of every day and spoke to her all the time as if nothing was wrong.

All our prayers were answered. Zoe’s recovery was a long slow two-year road that we all traveled together. We watched her slowly improve, we cried with her when the therapy was hard until she got to the point to be able to face the world again! 

To date, our daughter is back to being her best self. Her gross motor and cognitive skills are significantly improved. She has been able to overcome her stranger anxiety and started attending formal school. We are very excited for her to spread her wings and begin to fly. She will be bringing with her the scars of a well-fought past showing how strong and resilient she is. Our family will be right by her side!

Our fight and Zoe’s fight do not end here. AE could happen anytime in her life again. It can happen to anyone. I will always be proud of our story of faith, strength, and love. We plan to always fight for AE awareness so everyone can get diagnosed quicker and not have to go thru all the pain we had as a result of this terrible disease.

Zoe turns seven years old this month. I want Zoe to read and understand our story, her story. Zoe may not be able to remember all aspects of her AE journey but thru this story, I hope she understands, in her heart, that we, as a family, are one. And we will conquer everything that comes our way!!  

 

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Tabitha Orth 300x218 - A Mother’s Wish for a Mighty Miracle’s 7th BirthdayOn June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

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 Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

AE Warrior Store 300x200 - A Mother’s Wish for a Mighty Miracle’s 7th Birthday 

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5 Ways to Answer “How Can I Help”

5 Ways to Answer “How Can I Help”


November 23, 2022 |  By Michelle Seitzer of Caregiving Advice

A message from IAES Blog staff:

In the US, Thanksgiving Day and week are upon us. And we have much to be thankful for. For those within the AE community, we cannot thank all those that care for us, in any capacity, enough! As we round out Caregiver Awareness month and head into a holiday season of joy, peace, and grace, may we all continue to be aware and be thankful for all we have been given. 

Michelle Seitzer founder of Caregiving Advice has graciously offered to let us share her article regarding ways to help those that care for us the most. We hope you find this as informative as we have!

She offers wonderful tips, and many ways caregivers can be cared for!!!

——-

Want to help a caregiver whose life is busy, busy, busy? Here’s how!

During this week’s Coffee Chat—our brand new virtual support group that takes place Mondays at 11ET on Instagram Live—we talked about what kind of help is actually helpful for caregivers, and why it’s so hard to get it.

We first posted this article in February 2020, right before the world shut down. How times have changed since then! But the advice we shared here? It hasn’t changed at all. Caregivers still need help. Caregivers still want help. But caregivers get a little triggered by kind offers from well-meaning people—and here’s the main reason why.

Because it feels like more work.

When caregivers hear these age-old phrases—“How can I help?” or “Let me know if I can do anything!”—our initial internal reaction is STRESS. Because the thought of coming up with helpful tasks feels like extra work, and extra work is something no caregiver wants. We want someone to lighten our load, not add to it!

Now don’t misunderstand: We are generally thankful for the offers. We appreciate that you see our need for help and want to provide it. But we need you to make it a little easier for us. And sometimes, we just need a little more time to think about it! As caregivers, we need to say that. “Thanks for your offer, can I get back to you with some ideas? And can you check in with me in a week if I forget?”

So caregivers, next time someone asks you *THE QUESTION,* refer to these 5 simple suggestions. And if you’re reading this as a person who wants to help a caregiver, thank you for your willingness; we hope you find these ideas helpful!

#1: Bring us a meal.

An oldie but a goodie: make us a meal! Or make a couple of meals for me to stack in my freezer, or send gift cards for GrubHub, UberEATS, or our favorite local pizzeria. Planning meals is often the last thing we want to squeeze into our busy day, which leads to lots of unhealthy dinners like frozen pizzas—or even worse, skipping meals altogether.

#2: Come visit us.

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Offer to sit with our caree for a few hours while I run errands. Don’t feel comfortable with that? Just stop by for a visit when I’m there (if we’re all up for visitors that day)! Caregiving can be extremely lonely, so it’s a huge help to see friendly faces and welcome visitors! It’s equally as refreshing to have someone take over so I can get a few items checked off my to-do list.

#3: Fill our (gas) tanks.

If you really want to do something of monetary value for us, a gas gift card is always appreciated! There’s a lot of driving involved in caregiving, and it adds up. And financial pressures add to our already heavy caregiving load.

#4: Bring us groceries (treats included).

Screen Shot 2021 07 14 at 9.35.30 AM - 5 Ways to Answer "How Can I Help"

With online shopping now available in almost all areas—and with a variety of pick-up, drive-up or delivery options—this is an easy way to help that makes a HUGE difference!

Think of how much work it is to grocery shop…

It starts with planning: thinking about meals and snacks, then assessing what you need, taking note of what you’ve run out of, and jotting it down.

Then you have to figure out when to go, and depending on your caregiving situation, this can be a logistical challenge. Who can stay with your caree, if they need supervision? Or do you bring the person along, which comes with its own challenges? Some caregivers opt to shop at night when a spouse, partner, or child can stay home with the person you care for—but that often means shopping on tired legs and with a weary mind.

Now that you’ve figured out when to go, you have to drive there, go inside, fill your cart, empty your cart on the belt, load the bags in your cart, bring them out to your car, load them in your car, drive home, bring the bags into the house, then put the groceries away.

And then, of course, make a list of the things you forgot, because that inevitably happens, right?!

When you break down all the steps, you realize how much work is involved—and why it would be SUCH a help for someone to step in on this necessary life activity. (It also makes the case for paying the nominal delivery fee for those services, if you ask me!)

#5: Update others for us.

Offer to update others when something big happens. This one is a little tricky in terms of privacy, but it can still be super helpful.

The key word here is “offer.” Never give updates on my caregiving life without checking with me first. But if you know something big just happened (new diagnosis, a fall, change of living situation or school depending on age, a death or similar big loss/change in the family, etc.), ask me if I could help with letting others know.

Who are those “others?” Those are the people who would love to hear the latest on my caree but don’t necessarily need to hear it from me directly—i.e. my pastor, neighbors, boss/coworkers, friends I haven’t talked to in a while, to name a few.

It’s emotionally exhausting to repeat the same information — especially bad news — over and over again, so having someone offer to take on that task provides a huge sense of relief.

 

And there you have it! Five simple ways to help a caregiver whose life is busy, busy, busy. Pass this on to others who are looking for ways they can help, and let us know if you’d add anything to this list by commenting below. 

 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Caregiver Honorable Mention

Caregiver Honorable Mention


November 8, 2022 | By Mari Davis

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

.For all Autoimmune Encephalitis warriors, it is our caregivers, friends, and loved ones we rely on every single day in our AE journey. We rely on these amazing people for everything from giving words of encouragement, to a ride to doctor’s appointments, to help us relearn how to walk and talk, and simply be there by our side. We are honored and proud to add another one of these amazing sentinels to our list of Honorable Caregivers.

 —–

I, Mari Davis, would love to nominate my husband, Geoff Davis.

Geoff has been my rock throughout the ups, downs and all the shenanigans called Autoimmune Encephalitis. I was at work when suddenly I had seizures. No warning, no nothing. I was admitted to the intensive care unit and was intubated. Geoff was there. He had no idea what was happening, but he never wavered and was there.  He had to call our college-age children and my parents to let them know that I was sick. I was sick, and he had to tell them he had no idea what was happening. He was at my side each night during my admission. He has been my cheerleader and a driving force in my efforts to become as functional as possible. In the last 5 years he has cried with me, laughed with me, and danced with me.

When it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to return to a job I loved he cried with me. He has laughed with me while I’ve creatively tried to find elusive words. He has danced with me each morning before day rehab just to bring a smile to my face. Even when I know he was nervous about how I would do, he never let me know and he was there.

When I drove to Houston with our daughter and flew back on my own, I know he was scared, but he never let me know. Geoff simply offered support and was there. I know with Geoff, I can ask any question, no matter how crazy and he will answer it truthfully, even if the truth is difficult. He will be there. He has the patience of a saint. At times I have needed as much saintliness as possible. He had no idea how I would do long-term. He had no idea if the person I was before would be that person going forward. He was just glad I was here. And he was there.

I would also like to nominate his mother Rubye Neely for raising such a great man. Thank you, Rubye, for raising Geoff to be the person he is and the person that I know will always be there.

 

MariDavis - Caregiver Honorable Mention

 

Mari Davis, RN, ACM

Support Services Coordinator

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tabitha Orth 300x218 - Caregiver Honorable MentionOn June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

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 Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

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Continuing My Way Up The Slippery Slope: A Poem

Continuing My Way Up The Slippery Slope: A Poem


September 27, 2022 | By Angie Fitch

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

The staff at IAES is proud to share with you a poem written by an amazing AE warrior that has been battling AE since the Fall of 2020. Each one of us feel the emotions, the ups and downs and roller coaster like ride AE takes us on. Thank you, Angie, for so eloquently putting pen to paper the feelings we all share!

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——-

Good, bad, up, down, round and round.

I feel as though I’m on a merry-go-round.

Full of uncertainty if it will ever stop spinning; Full of frustration as I remain on my couch sitting.

I just want to live.

I just want to die.

I just want to do more than just survive.

I just want this nightmare to finally subside.

Convincing others and myself to remain positive and hopeful, when deep down inside I feel the opposite and woeful.

Confused, angry and sad is what I feel; But never reveal; All I can do is hope that I heal.

Why me, why now, why at all? The pity party sets in as I continue to fight and pray that I don’t give in.

The fatigue, the limitations, the pain and loss of ambition; The debilitating life that I have been given.

I will live; I will thrive; I will ultimately win and survive; This is what I tell myself; This is what I tell others as my pain remains undercover.

My strength then comes back; It’s going to be alright; it’s going to be okay; I will continue the fight day to day; I will keep the hope and learn to cope; I will continue my way up this slippery slope with hopes of support and love of some sort. 

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Tabitha Orth 300x218 - Continuing My Way Up The Slippery Slope: A PoemOn June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

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 Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Movement disorders as a window into the diversity of autoimmune encephalitis

Movement disorders as a window into the diversity of autoimmune encephalitis

September 14, 2022 | by Catrina Hacker, PennNeuroKnow

Whether it’s walking to the grocery store or hugging a friend, movement is a central part of how we interact with the world. We don’t usually think about how we’re able to move, but every motion is part of a beautifully efficient process that coordinates a complicated network of cells across the nervous system. When neurological disorders disrupt this coordination, the efficiency of our motor system breaks down, which can lead to a variety of movement disorders and produce a broad range of symptoms. Movement disorders are a common symptom across the many types of autoimmune encephalitis (AE) and can be especially important to the diagnosis of AE in children.

Learning the language of movement disorders

The scientific literature is littered with dozens of specialized terms doctors use to describe movement-related disorders. For doctors, these terms are helpful because they can precisely describe specific symptoms that help them distinguish between different diagnoses, but they can be intimidating to non-medical readers. To begin, let’s break down a few important terms describing the disorders most common in various types of AE. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and is only meant to capture some of the most common movement disorders that can result from common types of AE. (Click the name of the disorder to watch a Youtube video demonstrating some of these symptoms.)

Ataxia. Ataxia describes difficulty balancing and coordinating movements. In the most classic presentation of ataxia patients struggle with walking and running, particularly in situations that require more coordination such as walking up and down stairs1. Patients with ataxia can have a high risk of falling and in some cases they might have difficulty coordinating the movements necessary for speaking or writing2. One type of ataxia is thought to be caused by degeneration of neurons in a brain region known to be important for movement called the cerebellum1,2.

Chorea. Patients with chorea make involuntary, random movements. These brief and random movements are not repetitive or rhythmic but do appear to flow from one muscle to the next3. Chorea can occur in any muscle group, ranging from fingers and toes to facial movements. Interestingly, chorea subsides when patients are asleep4. Chorea is associated with too much activity of a neurotransmitter called dopamine that plays an important role in coordinating and initiating movement3,4.

Dystonia. Patients with dystonia experience involuntary muscle contractions that result in abnormal postures and repetitive movements. These contractions can occur anywhere on the body and are often painful. Like ataxia, dystonia can cause problems with speech and handwriting. In addition, patients with dystonia might experience foot cramps or drag their foot after prolonged exercise5.

Myoclonus. Myoclonus is a broad term describing sudden, involuntary jerking of muscles. This often involves twitching of a muscle followed by relaxation. If you’ve ever jerked awake while drifting off to sleep you’ve experienced a benign myoclonic jerk (this is not worrisome as an isolated event). Myoclonic jerks can occur on their own or be associated with different disorders6. The movements in myoclonus are quick and simple, while the movements in chorea tend to be slower and continuous. (Hear directly from a patient about her experience with dystonia and myoclonus here)

Movement disorders across different types of autoimmune encephalitis

While many types of AE can result in movement disorders, some subtypes have unique symptoms that distinguish them from others. Sometimes movement disorders are one of the most prominent symptoms to present themselves, whereas in other cases they may be more subtle and secondary to other psychiatric symptoms. Here we will discuss some of the subtypes of AE that most commonly result in movement disorders.

Several movement disorders often present together in patients with anti-NMDAR AE, the most common AE. Chorea and dystonia are observed in up to 90% of Anti-NMDAR patients7. While they can affect all limbs, in anti-NMDAR encephalitis they most characteristically affect the face and mouth8. In some cases these might be the first signs of the disease, so a clinician should consider the possibility of AE when patients visit the clinic with complaints of movement-related symptoms7.

Movement disorders are some of the most common symptoms of CASPR2-antibody associated encephalitis. Ataxia is observed in up to a third of patients and can be the only presenting symptom at disease onset, with other symptoms developing later7. The ataxia in CASPR2-encephalitis patients often manifests as a strong gait disturbance8 that occurs in brief, but frequent, bursts7. CASPR2-encephalitis can also present with a distinct form of myoclonus that distinguishes it from other kinds of AE. This form of AE is most common in elderly men9, and myoclonus of the lower limbs is often observed when patients are walking or standing. Spinal myoclonus leading to spasms around the abdomen has also been observed in CASPR2-encephalitis patients7. Finally, in some cases chorea is a prominent movement-related symptom of CASPR2-encephalitis7.

IGLON5-antibody associated encephalitis can also present with many movement disorders. While the best indicator of IGLON5-encephalitis is sleep disorders, some patients have also been reported to have chorea7. Another movement disorder reported in some IGLON5-encephalitis patients is axial rigidity, or rigidity in the trunk and hips. These movement disorders can make it difficult for patients with IGLON5-encephalitis to walk and balance and can put them at risk of falling8.

Many other types of AE are associated with movement disorders including (but not limited to) GlyR-, DDPX-, LGI1-, and mGluR1-antibody associated encephalitis7,8. It is important to note that although movement disruptions are common in many types of AE, they are rarely the only symptom and are not diagnostic on their own7,8,10. Instead, they can serve as one of many clues leading doctors toward a correct diagnosis. The neural explanation for how each type of AE leads to these movement disorders is not well understood. Determining the biological basis of the relationship between AE and movement disorders is an important area for future research that might help us to better understand these distinct subtypes of AE.

Movement disorders in children and adults with autoimmune encephalitis

In addition to distinguishing different types of AE, movement disorders are proving to be an especially important diagnostic tool for children with AE. Movement disorders can be observed in both children and adults, but they are more common in children, particularly those with anti-NMDAR AE. The presentation of anti-NMDAR AE in adults is now well understood and typically involves psychiatric symptoms and cognitive impairment as well as the movement disorders described above. The presentation of anti-NMDAR AE in children isn’t as well documented, but diverges from adults in that it more often includes seizures and movement disturbances7,10,11.

In many cases, movement disturbances are the first or only presenting symptom in children with anti-NMDAR AE. One set of case studies showed that four young patients eventually diagnosed with anti-NMDAR AE all initially presented with difficulties walking or coordinating movement10. Another study considered 50 cases of children with anti-NMDAR AE and found that motor deficits including dystonia of the hands and feet are key in diagnosing focal seizures that often accompany AE in these patients11. The initial presentation of anti-NMDAR AE can be ambiguous, and treatment is often delayed because a diagnosis is not immediately made. The presence of movement disorders and other disturbances (e.g., those accompanying seizures) along with other symptoms could be key signs to consider a diagnosis of AE in children10.

The diversity of movement disorders in various types of AE mirrors the diversity of the diseases themselves. Whether in distinguishing subtypes of AE or diagnosing children, they are a powerful spotlight under which the diversity of AE can be interrogated. Despite our growing understanding of how movement disorders can be used to diagnose various types of AE, there is still very little understanding of why different types of AE cause different types of movement disorders. Future work can leverage these known differences in movement disorders associated with different types of AE to better understand their biological basis and hopefully develop better treatments and cures. 

References

  1. Ataxias and Cerebellar or Spinocerebellar Degeneration | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/ataxias-and-cerebellar-or-spinocerebellar-degeneration.
  2. Kuo, S.-H. Ataxia: Contin. Lifelong Learn. Neurol. 25, 1036–1054 (2019).
  3. Chorea | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/chorea.
  4. Bhidayasiri, R. Chorea and related disorders. Postgrad. Med. J. 80, 527–534 (2004).
  5. Dystonia | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/dystonia.
  6. Myoclonus | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/myoclonus.
  7. Gövert, F. et al. Antibody-related movement disorders – a comprehensive review of phenotype-autoantibody correlations and a guide to testing. Neurol. Res. Pract. 2, 6 (2020).
  8. Uy, C. E., Binks, S. & Irani, S. R. Autoimmune encephalitis: clinical spectrum and management. Pract. Neurol. 21, 412–423 (2021).
  9. van Sonderen, A. et al. The clinical spectrum of Caspr2 antibody–associated disease. Neurology 87, 521–528 (2016).
  10. Yeshokumar, A. K., Sun, L. R., Klein, J. L., Baranano, K. W. & Pardo, C. A. Gait Disturbance as the Presenting Symptom in Young Children With Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. Pediatrics 138, e20160901 (2016).
  11. Favier, M. et al. Initial clinical presentation of young children with N-methyl- d -aspartate receptor encephalitis. Eur. J. Paediatr. Neurol. 22, 404–411 (2018).

 

 

 

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On June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org  

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE.   Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Movement disorders as a window into the diversity of autoimmune encephalitis For this interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.   AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Movement disorders as a window into the diversity of autoimmune encephalitis

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

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My Journey to Raising Awareness for Anti-NMDAr Autoimmune Encephalitis

My Journey to Raising Awareness for Anti-NMDAr Autoimmune Encephalitis

June 23, 2022 | By Reyna Felix

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

It is with great pleasure that IAES presents the story of one of our mighty Warriors. Reyna Felix, in her own words, explains the events that finally lead to her diagnosis during the beginning of a worldwide pandemic that left her alone without family and friends by her side at the very beginning of her AE journey. Her story was picked up by a few TV news channels and lead to an article written about her struggles in the Barrow Neurological Foundation newsletter. The link to this article is below. The Barrow Neurological Foundation strives to advance neurological research, patient care and provide education to help save lives. 

Reyna Felix 11 - My Journey to Raising Awareness for Anti-NMDAr Autoimmune EncephalitisMy name is Reyna and I am 29 years old. I have been married for 5 years (together for 11), I have worked as a 911 dispatcher for the past 7 years, and I am a dog mom to a fun rescue pup. I love to read, hike, exercise, travel, cook, and learn new things.

I am also a survivor of anti-NMDA receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis. Like most patients, my diagnosis was not easily found. The search for what was wrong with me included weeks of struggle for myself and my family. As you’ll read about in the article, I was dismissed from hospitals or left against medical advice. I spent time in a psychiatric facility, and eventually was correctly diagnosed and began the treatment process which led into the recovery process I am now in. I am missing many months of life from my memory, which is a common symptom of this disease. I received my diagnosis in April 2020 which was at the same time as a pandemic began around the world. This compounded the struggles experienced by my husband and family. Hospitals had restrictions on people accompanying patients in emergency rooms, ICUs, rehabilitation facilities, etc. and I was in no condition to be responsible for myself during the worst of my symptoms. There was about a 40-day period where my husband couldn’t be with me in person which increased the emotional stress of my condition for him. A teratoma was located and removed, I received a few IVIG treatments, and then I received two weeks’ worth of everyday Plasmapheresis which significantly improved my condition. It was during this time that I began to “wake up.” I spent two weeks becoming more alert, learning how to eat on my own, write, speak, walk, etc. during inpatient neurological rehab. I was discharged to return home with restrictions such as 24/7 supervision and outpatient therapies such as speech, physical, and occupational therapy that continued for 3 months. In June 2020, I started rituximab treatments that I continue to receive twice a year.

Reyna Felix 12 - My Journey to Raising Awareness for Anti-NMDAr Autoimmune Encephalitis

I continue to work on my mental and physical health, and I receive testing to ensure I am doing well by my doctors such as neuropsychological tests and cancer screenings. In September 2020, a local news channel picked up my story and did a short interview about Autoimmune Encephalitis which led to another news channel completing a story on me for my first World Encephalitis Day in February 2021. My neurologist shared with me that these two stories were shared amongst other doctors and hospitals and contributed to more awareness and for clinical studies needing to take place. More studies and awareness for this condition means that, someday, people will be diagnosed and treated properly which will lead to better outcomes for more people. I am not someone who enjoys attention.  I used to keep my life private but all I hope for from opening up about my experience is to help others get proper treatment, raise awareness for medical professionals and other people to understand more about the disease, and to show other patients and families that successful recovery is possible.

Autoimmune Encephalitis came into my life swiftly and had the potential to destroy it, but it has not won. My life looks differently now but I am alive. I have bad days and good days, but life is full of ups and downs that we can move forward through. While a lot of our symptoms and experiences can be similar, I think it’s important to remember that we are each individual so it’s also good to remind yourself to not compare your own personal progress and recovery to other patients.

To all my fellow warriors, we’ve got this. You are loved, you are strong, and you deserve to be happy and alive. To all our caregivers, families, friends, medical professionals, etc., thank you for what you do to help us each day. Additionally, I hold those who have passed from Autoimmune Encephalitis and their families close in my heart.

Reyna Felix 8 - My Journey to Raising Awareness for Anti-NMDAr Autoimmune Encephalitis

 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

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Points of Light Award: A beacon of light, love and hope for all of us!

Points of Light Award: A beacon of light, love and hope for all of us!

August 10, 2022

Tabitha Orth 300x218 - Points of Light Award: A beacon of light, love and hope for all of us!Our very own International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society President and founder, Tabitha Orth, has been honored with the Points of Light award! Tabitha & IAES would like to thank Points of Light for this honor. It is our fondest hope that all those suffering from Autoimmune Encephalitis, their caregivers, families, and friends have a less traumatic AE journey through the services IAES provides.

President George H.W. Bush, founder of Points of Light, said “The solution to each problem that confronts us begins with an individual who steps forward and who says, ‘I can help.’” President Bush founded the award in 1990 and formally recognized more than 1,000 volunteers as “points of light” during his administration.

President Bush saw the challenges facing the world as far-reaching and complex, and the solutions often felt out of reach. To tackle society’s greatest challenges and build a better future, he felt we must engage a wide range of people to make a positive difference in the world.

The Daily Points of Light Award honors individuals who change the world. Millions of people act on their power to do good every day, using their hearts, hands, and minds to help strengthen communities and solve persistent problems. On June 16th, Tabitha Orth, President, and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315th “point of light”.

 

 

Below, please find comments from Mari Wagner Davis:

I nominated Tabitha Orth for the Points of light award because to me that is what she and the International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society have been to me, A Point of Light. A true beacon in the darkness of my illness. I was a nurse case manager who had seizures at work and was diagnosed with limbic encephalitis. I have no memories of my time in the hospital but seemed to become aware of my surroundings in day rehab. I then looked for information and support and found that the International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society provided the most accurate and helpful information available. As I recovered more, I was able to volunteer and, in that role, Tabitha helped me make use of the skills I still had despite my memory issues and fatigue. She is a never-ending cheerleader and a great role model as well as an expert at helping others understand the complicated medical world of Autoimmune Encephalitis. It was a no-brainer to see she was the perfect candidate for the award.

~Mari Wagner Davis

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Tabitha Orth 300x218 - Points of Light Award: A beacon of light, love and hope for all of us!

 

On June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org    

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists patients from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to support research, raise awareness and personally help patients, families, and caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE.  Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Points of Light Award: A beacon of light, love and hope for all of us! For those interested in autoimmune encephalitis clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.   AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Points of Light Award: A beacon of light, love and hope for all of us! 

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

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Independence Day!

Independence Day!

June 29, 2022 | By Jeri Gore

If you have Autoimmune Encephalitis or are a loved one or caregiver of someone with AE, you know dependance. The AE Warrior is dependent. We are dependent on many things be it friend’s and family’s ability to take us to doctor’s appointments, rehab, food stores or for a simple ride around the countryside. We are dependent on canes and walkers, computers, and sign language for communication. We can be dependent on stair or wheelchair lifts. We are dependent on medical teams to understand AE and suggest best treatment options. We are dependent on our AE family as a community to get us thru a particularly bad day or week or month. We are dependent on the minds and hearts of others to help, accept, understand, and love us.

If you live in the United States, you know July 4th, every year, is a national holiday. It is Independence Day. It is a day much celebrated with family or friends, with fireworks and cooking out. It is a day of fun and laughter and overall joyful celebration.

If you are an AE Warrior, you know the need and desire for independence. Our dependence on the many things we need to survive AE may not have been on our mental radar before AE took over our lives in one form or another. For an AE Warrior, independence may mean many things. It may mean not needing someone’s help to turn on the lights or start your computer. It may mean no longer requiring a cane to be able to walk. It may mean no longer needing one infusion or another. For me, independence was the ability to drive again. That day is forever seared into my brain. I felt like driving down some country road, windows wide open, sun on my face and singing at the top of my lungs. It also came when I was once again able to concentrate enough to be able to read and understand a book. I felt like I had conquered a giant mountain!! I felt independence and it felt good, really good! I wanted to shout it from a mountain top!

In the spirit of celebration, I suggest we honor our AE independences big and small. We may or may not celebrate with cook outs and fireworks but maybe a little ‘happy’ dance in the kitchen or phone call to a loved one. May we learn to commemorate those small and large events that mark progress in our AE journey. This may not be easy some days but maybe, just maybe if we celebrate these small milestones of progress, it will help propel us onward on those other days when forward progress seems slow or nonexistent.

Happy AE Independence Day to all of you AE Warriors, loved ones and caregivers!!

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Your generous Donations allow IAES to continue our important work and save lives! 

Tabitha Orth 300x218 - Independence Day!

 

On June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

 

guidestar platinum logo 300x300 1 e1605914935941 - Independence Day!

 

 

Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org    

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists patients from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to support research, raise awareness and personally help patients, families, and caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE.  Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Independence Day! For those interested in autoimmune encephalitis clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.   AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Independence Day! 

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

why zebra - Aphasia as a Symptom of Autoimmune Encephalitis
A Happy Ending for Surprise Diagnosis for One Doctor by Another Doctor from a Land Far Far Away

A Happy Ending for Surprise Diagnosis for One Doctor by Another Doctor from a Land Far Far Away

June 23, 2022 | By Mozna Osman

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

IAES is proud to present to you the AE story of a doctor that truly exemplifies our international impact! We hope you find this as inspirational as we have.

—–

I am a family medical doctor living and practicing medicine in Khartoum, Sudan. My story began about three years ago when I realized I was often feeling very tired and had terrible headaches. I decided to go and get my own blood work analyzed to see if there were any obvious issues going on. What I found out was that I had Malaria and a UTI (urinary tract infection). As a doctor, I decided to go ahead and treat myself with the appropriate medications needed for both issues.

I thought I was doing well and, on the mend, but I was not. Not long after this, my son found me, unresponsive, on the floor. I was admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU) of a local hospital and was in a coma for a month. As luck would have it, a visiting doctor from Chicago was asked to review my case. After reviewing my medical chart, he diagnosed me with anti-NMDA Autoimmune Encephalitis. He suggested a course of treatment that included medication and plasmapheresis. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have had my case reviewed by a doctor from so far away.

I am now feeling much but better but I still suffer from memory issues like many patients with AE. My short memory seems more affected by AE than my long-term memory but is getting much better. I am happy to report I am back to practicing medicine and am working at AL-Shaheed Wedatallah Medical Center in Khartoum. I am hoping for a bright, happy, and healthy future.

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - A Happy Ending for Surprise Diagnosis for One Doctor by Another Doctor from a Land Far Far Away

For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

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Jackie Stebbins’ Book Release – Unwillable

Jackie Stebbins’ Book Release – Unwillable

June 8, 2022 | By Jackie Stebbins

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

Autoimmune Encephalitis Warrior and now author, Jackie Stebbins, released her first book regarding her AE journey to great acclaim in early June 2022! We are proud to support Jackie, to further AE awareness and to celebrate a very happy ending! Jackie’s book can be purchased on Amazon here.

—–

In some ways, I still cannot believe it’s true. I published a book! Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire, says Unwillable is “as moving as it is important.”

As I write this, it’s June 5, 2022. That means exactly four years ago, I took my place in a wing of a clinic in Bismarck, North Dakota, full of overstuffed, brown chairs and IV poles behind them. I was there for my first IV steroid treatment, to hopefully turn my brain back on from autoimmune encephalitis (AE).

As I sat in the recliner, broken from a violent seizure, lost from the past few months of hell, and still in a cognitive fog, my family prayed that the steroids pumped through my body could save my ailing brain. And in a grand stroke of luck, the steroids did almost immediately save me. My life was quickly turned around again, but so much had already been lost. Damage was done.

282611734 819445159443008 7686218785706316893 n - Jackie Stebbins' Book Release - UnwillableMy husband took a photo of me that day. My eyes look tired, afraid, and lost. Four years later, I see that same tired, scared woman, but I want to hug her and tell her: It’s okay. This story has a happy ending.

The capstone of the AE journey I’ve been on is the publication of my memoir, Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim My Brain. On June 1, 2022, Unwillable was officially launched and is available for purchase on Amazon.For me, this is one of the happiest outcomes I could have ever imagined after the past years of grief, loss, imbalance, heartache, tears, and life’s drastic changes. Unwillable was a way for me to process my trauma, share my feelings, and hopefully, help spread awareness about the illness that almost ended my life.

AE is a disease that devastates and destroys those in its path. Until we have standardized treatment, a cure, and no one else ever again suffers from this monster, the best we have is hope. Hope for better days ahead and dreams of an AE-free world. 

Wherever you and your family are in your journey with AE, it is my sincere hope that Unwillable finds a way to your heart and helps you in your struggles. 

In solidarity, 

Jackie M. Stebbins, Esq.

jmstebbins.com

unwillable.com

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Your generous Donations allow IAES to continue our important work and save lives! 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Jackie Stebbins' Book Release - Unwillable

For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Jackie Stebbins' Book Release - Unwillable 

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

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Psychosis or Something More? A Family’s Search for Answers

Psychosis or Something More? A Family’s Search for Answers

May 26, 2022 | By Libya Matney

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

The International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society is proud to present to you the AE story of one of our mighty Warriors in her own words, an article written about her AE path in the University of Arkansas newspaper (link below) and beautiful artwork given to her by a wonderful friend and artist depicting her within the struggle of this devastating diagnosis!

 

As a 21-year-old stay at home mom to a precious little boy, Benjamin, I never thought that something so life-altering would happen to me. My husband and I had spent 9 months trying to conceive our second child. Finally, in June of 2021, we were able to get pregnant. Around the same time, many random things started happening to my body. Nobody understood what was happening. My scalp was burning, I had chronic migraines, confusion, insomnia, OCD tendencies, and I started showing aggression towards my family. All these things seemed to begin to rule my life. I began cleaning my house aggressively and trying to get rid of everything that I own. I would tear things out of the closets and try to reorganize them at the same time. I was exhausted. I was forgetting everything. I began to believe that I couldn’t be left alone to take care of my son. My family and friends began taking turns staying with me during the day. At this point I had been to the doctor several times and had multiple blood tests and two CT scans. Everything came back normal.

On August 19th, 2021, my husband and mother-in-law decided to take me to a hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas (AR) to see if they could figure out what was happening to me. They performed the same blood tests and scans that I had received previously and, of course, they came back normal. On the way home from the hospital that day, I had what the doctors would call a “psychotic break”. I began kicking and hitting my husband in the car and trying to open the door to get out. My husband and mother-in-law frantically called my mom. She said that she could hear my husband in the background begging me to stop. My mom told them that she was on her way to us and to call 911. When the police and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived, my mom had my doctor on the phone to convince them that something was medically wrong with me and that I needed to be taken to the emergency room (ER). When EMS tried to get me to the gurney I dropped to the ground. They had to lift me onto the gurney and into the ambulance. This was when I was transported to the ER in my hometown, North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC). The last thing I remember from that fateful day was stopping in a restaurant parking lot and trying to get out of the car. I don’t remember the police or paramedics being there. I don’t remember anything from the rest of that day or the month that followed.

My family has told me that while I was in the ER, I kept trying to leave. I would fight the medical staff and my family so hard that they had to restrain my arms and legs to keep me from getting out of bed or hurting myself. During the 4 days that I was in the ER at NARMC, I had a CT scan, an MRI, a spinal tap, and multiple blood tests done. I ended up miscarrying my child the last day that I was there. I was transferred to St. Bernard’s Medical Center in Jonesboro, AR on August 23rd, 2021. During the transfer, I slipped into an unresponsive/catatonic state. A procedure was performed to remove the tissue from the fetus, as well as the same testing that had previously been done in the ER. Other testing that was done consisted of EEGs and ultrasounds. Six days after being transferred I was placed on a ventilator because of having back-to-back seizures and my heart stopping. After two weeks of having no nourishment besides IV fluids, a feeding tube was also placed in my nose. I was in St. Bernard’s for a month before they sent my blood and spinal fluid to Mayo Clinic. An infectious disease doctor diagnosed me with anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis and GFAP. A few days before I left St. Bernard’s, I woke up with a feeding tube still in my nose. I did not know the month, day, or what was happening. I couldn’t walk or use the right upper side of my body. Also, due to having been on the ventilator and having the feeding tube, I could not talk. I was given a letterboard to communicate and the first thing that I asked about was my pregnancy. I couldn’t remember miscarrying the baby. On September 22nd, I was transferred to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. Doctors began plasmapheresis (plasma exchange).  During the 10 days that I was there I received 5 rounds of it. I had another MRI, EEG, spinal tap, and two ultrasounds during my stay there.  Blood and spinal fluid samples were sent to Mayo Clinic to be rechecked. On October 1st, I was moved to Everest Rehabilitation Center in Rogers, AR, where I spent every day in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. I had to relearn how to walk, and I had to regain my physical strength and my voice. My last week at the rehab center, I finally got to see my son, Benjamin, after not seeing him for over a month. They included him in my physical and occupational therapy. On October 19th, two months after being taken to the first hospital, I was released to finally go home. When I got home, I started outpatient physical therapy at Mount Carmel Physical Therapy Center in Harrison, AR. I had physical therapy twice a week for 8 weeks. In January of 2022, I had two rounds of Rituxan infusions.

I am now back home with husband and son, and I can enjoy spending time with my family and friends once again. My life will never be the same after my AE diagnosis. I will always have to keep tabs on my stress levels and watch for signs of relapse. I still have months before I can drive again and am still at risk for seizures. However, I have learned a lot the past year. I’ve been cared for by people that will forever hold a place in my heart. I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I am thankful for the life and family that God has blessed me with. 

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Your generous Donations allow IAES to continue our important work and save lives! 

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Psychosis or Something More? A Family's Search for Answers

For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Psychosis or Something More? A Family's Search for Answers 

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

why zebra - Aphasia as a Symptom of Autoimmune Encephalitis

 

 

 

The Darkness of a Brain on Fire

The Darkness of a Brain on Fire

April 27, 2022 | By Chelsea Wagner

 

CW 3516 375x500 - The Darkness of a Brain on FireNumbers, numbers, numbers – we all have them. It’s how we organize and make sense of what’s happened to us. It is how we put our experiences into boxes so that they don’t spill over into every aspect of our lives.

For me it was 1,000 mg of steroids, 7 Plasmapheresis infusions, 6 EEG’s, 5 MRIs, 4 CT scans, 1 PET scan, 1 botched lumbar puncture, 1 traumatizing bedside central line insertion, and countless fascinated residents, fellows, and physicians who had no idea what was happening to me right in front of them. All those numbers were packed into a 31-day hospital stay split between 2 hospitals in the largest medical center in the world. And those numbers lead me here, to you, to the Autoimmune Encephalitis community.

During February 2019, I began to experience subtle signs and had an overwhelming feeling that something was “off” with myself. I had trouble spelling words, remembering passwords and even had trouble speaking with patients I saw as a genetic counselor. I began experiencing extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and other neurological symptoms. I would eventually go to the ER after my doctor discovered a right sided facial droop, fearing that I was having a stroke, I was admitted to the first of 2 hospitals.

During my lengthy stay on the stroke recovery unit (the youngest person by several decades), the doctors would be puzzled by my progressing symptoms and my eventual catatonic state. I lost the ability to speak, read, and write. After being placed on high-dose steroids, I became violent and turned into what the nurses and my family would call the “she-hulk” and throw objects, kick walls, and wrestle with hospital staff as they put restraints on my ankles and wrists and bound me to my hospital bed for days at a time. During this time, I would become a prisoner of my own mind. I endured auditory and visual hallucinations of my worst nightmares and lived in multiple alternate realities, many of which included me dying. I would return to reality for only brief periods of lucid time – although I could not speak or recognize my family, the terror and confusion were respite to what was happening inside of my mind. 

Eventually, the first facility would diagnose me with seronegative autoimmune encephalitis – but did not implement the well established treatment for AE – and I was sent home from the first hospital on a steroid taper with no attempt at plasmapheresis exchange or IVIG. The doctors were frustrated with me and with what little I was able to comprehend. They had given up on me regaining any semblance of normal cognitive function. They told my husband and family that I’d go home and I’d either “get better, or I wouldn’t.”

I didn’t. In fact, I was actively hallucinating as they discharged me from my first hospital and then spent an interim week drifting in and out of reality – barely able to communicate, having dystonic movements and absence seizures. I was clearly getting worse. I was fortunate enough to have personal connections to another hospital due to my job as a genetic counselor in the medical center. I was rushed in for a same day appointment with a leading neurologist in Autoimmune Encephalitis and admitted directly from her clinic to my second hospital.

After receiving the first of seven plasmapheresis exchange treatments, it was like a fog was lifted. Blobs of strange people began to take the shape of my husband, my mom, my friends and family. I found my voice, although Broca’s aphasia made it hard to communicate, I started making progress in speech and occupational therapy. Everyday it felt like fireworks were going off in my brain – the zing of new neural connections being made – I would tell my therapists “I can feel it in my brain” – every sense heightened, every new word remembered became a cause for celebration, every step around the ward was a sign of my physical strength returning. Who would have guessed the exhilaration of holding a crayon in my hand could bring, or the relief of hearing my name and knowing it was mine? The doctors were impressed and optimistic about my recovery, but no one could predict how much cognitive function I would regain.  I was told I would likely never be the same person I was before. And in so many ways that is true.

CW 7606 375x500 - The Darkness of a Brain on FireEven after my second discharge, I had months of speech therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation. I lost most of my independence – depending on everyone around me to drive me everywhere, make follow-up appointments, pay my bills because reading words on a screen was akin to reading hieroglyphics. I felt, at my worst, like a burden to those around me, weighed down by guilt and shame of the upheaval I had caused in our lives. I felt lost in my professional life, unsure of who I was or what I contributed to a society where my 19 years of education did not triumph over my brain trauma. I felt alone, because no one had been inside my mind and could understand exactly what I had been through: how harrowing, how terrifying, how humbling, it is to stand on the brink of insanity and be brought back from the darkness of a brain on fire.

No one except this community – reading your experiences, your struggles, your triumphs – they connect me in a way I never thought I would be able to connect and helped me understand my singular experience is part of a larger community experience. Almost three years later, I have returned to my full-time job as a genetic counselor and help patients navigate an overly-complicated and often frustrating healthcare system that I am all too familiar with. My compassion and empathy for those struggling with a diagnosis, finding resources, and advocating for themselves abounds. And I am grateful to be here, to be able to return to my career, to recognize my husband’s face, to be alive, to be typing these words. I know that when I lay awake at night (because, hello, insomnia!) thinking of how everything has changed for me since AE – there is light, there is hope, there is resilience, there is grit, there is strength in me. All it takes is a brain on fire to illuminate it.

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Become an Advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

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What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren’t working?

What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren’t working?

April 13, 2022 | By WhereAreMyPillows.com

Message from the IAES Blog Staff: 

We are pleased to share with you that Where Are My Pillows has returned to her blogging game! The post below touches on the shared challenges of autoimmune encephalitis patients who relapse or whose inflammation remains refractory to first- or second-line treatments. Please join us in wishing her full success ahead as she embarks on the next chapter of her healing journey!

—–

This post is part of the recurring #WhereAreMyPillows blog column for the International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society and is adapted from a blog originally published on  www.wherearemypillows.com.

Introduction

Q: What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren’t working?

A: You relinquish all unnecessary obligations, neglect your blog, and trade your human friends for Squishmallows who think no less of you for spending hours on end in bed.

wherearemypillows squishmallows 500x500 - What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren't working?

Friends who don’t mind doubling as pillows—now those are real keepers.

Joking aside, it’s an exhausting and demoralizing road. While being diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis (AE) in the first place is scary, failing treatments that normally give people their lives back is despairing. Recognition of the failure is slow. You’re told to hang tight and be patient for the immune system to adjust; but as months pass by without sustained improvements, the feeling that something is wrong begins to take hold.

The following runs through your head: Am I overreacting? Do I have permanent damage? Can this situation be salvaged? Will it be like this forever? Can I just give up and resign from this reality?

Embracing trial and error, and being fed up with the status quo

If you’re lucky, you have a doctor that realizes just how pernicious AE—brain inflammation—can be. More importantly, they realize they have multiple tools at their disposal to treat it and take responsibility for actually wielding them.

This can mean going beyond steroids, beyond IVIG, and sometimes even beyond rituximab (Rituxan). As far as I can tell, the doctors who create the best outcomes for their patients recognize that the amount of medications required is highly individual and that treatment responses are not always trackable via standard tests, especially for complex diseases like AE. And treating AE is ultimately a game of trial and error—part science, part art. The research can only run so deep for a rare disease that just started receiving attention in 2005.

Since I was diagnosed with AE in the summer of 2019, I’ve been put on methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol), IVIG, Rituxan, plasmapheresis, and tocilizumab (Actemra) at varying doses, intervals, and timeframes. And just recently, I started mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept) and received an infusion of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).

None of these are a surprising choice of therapies; they are all described in the medical literature as appropriate treatment options for autoimmune encephalitis. But what IS surprising to most people is that my doctors are actually:

  1. exercising all these options;
  2. overlapping some of them; and/or
  3. bothering to still treat me at all, given the protracted course of my illness (which began in 2014) and the fact I can still walk and talk.

It should not be surprising, but it is given the current paradigm of (arguably) conservative treatment that the average patient is offered. And sadly, a nontrivial subset of these surprised people are patients/caregivers that are still struggling, face seemingly impossible medical barriers, and rightfully suspect that there could be benefit from further treatment due to signs that their or their loved one’s inflammation is poorly controlled.

It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories and realize how easily I could be circling that drain.

That’s actually why I’m forcing myself to grind through the cognitive fog and write again. Some recent conversations have reminded me of how many people are needlessly struggling with obstacles on their AE journey, ones that can bypass others completely, all because of some stroke of dumb luck such as:

  1. The first doctor that saw the patient in the emergency room performed a spinal tap and believed the issue was neurologic rather than psychiatric.
  2. The patient lives in province/state “X” where a critical medication is on the formulary covered by the government/insurance plan—not province/state “Y” where a critical medication requires special authorization and is typically denied.
  3. The previously seronegative patient turned seropositive during a relapse, suddenly lending credibility to the diagnosis and making treatments more accessible.

wherearemypillows treatment chair 500x375 - What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren't working?

While the field of autoimmune neurology is relatively new, it is not so new that one different roll of the dice should be able to dictate the outcome of a patient so profoundly.  It is unsettling how many more junctures my own AE journey could have been derailed at, the above bullet points being just a sampling.

There is clearly a need for greater physician awareness, better standards of care, and shifts to the present paradigm of treatment. And the more that patients/caregivers challenge the status quo, the sooner that change will come.

My goal in speaking out is to help level the playing field for those being caught in the AE quicksand. I’m far from the only person out there who deserves the opportunity to take another shot at permanent recovery. To those that have humbled me by sharing your stories or provided encouragement for me to keep plodding forward, thanks for galvanizing me into ending a four month writing hiatus.

Reexamining the mechanisms underlying autoimmunity

As mentioned above: I recently started Cellcept and Cytoxan in an effort to pull me out of my relapse that began in spring 2021. We had added Actemra to my regimen in July, hoping that would turn things around; but after 5 monthly infusions with transient improvements only and no compounding benefits, my primary neurologist agreed to pull me back into the hospital for plasmapheresis. It had worked beautifully for me in January 2021 and we were hopeful another 5 rounds over 10 days would work the same the second time around.

It turned out to be a bust. I’m glad I went through with it though; otherwise, I would always wonder whether plasmapheresis paired with stronger maintenance therapy would be a viable solution, rather than having to progress to chemotherapy. Again, it goes back to that whole “trial and error” concept. You evaluate the options based on your unique clinical scenario, make a strategic decision, compare the results with existing scientific knowledge, and synthesize all available data to inform your next steps. Along the way, you progressively refine your mental models.

But that’s not the approach you’ll find all doctors using. A few years back, my treatments were stalled by the terribly ignorant no detectable antibody = no autoimmune encephalitis explanation. Somewhere in the middle, it was the poorly reasoned it’s impossible to relapse on Rituxan you probably never had encephalitis but rather just have adult ADHD explanation. And now, several doctors later—and after scoring 2 standard deviations higher on an IQ test as a direct result of plasmapheresis, not psychostimulants used to treat an attention disorder—we’ve landed on an explanation that contains a couple more shreds of logic.

The doctor in charge of my current treatment plan is a neuro-oncologist who, in addition to cancer, treats a number of autoimmune conditions beyond just AE including myasthenia gravis and neuromyelitis optica. He explained to me in simplistic terms that when it comes to autoimmune neurological diseases, he looks at the individual and in broad strokes considers how much of the immune dysfunction is antibody-mediated/humoral vs. how much is cell-mediated. Response to treatment can provide clues.

IVIG, Rituxan, and plasmapheresis are known to be most effective for addressing antibody-mediated autoimmunity; since I’ve had diminishing returns from these treatments over the past few years, he suspects a significant proportion of my autoimmunity is now cell-mediated. This would also fit with the theory that I have GAD65 encephalitis, which is thought to involve a T-cell mediated immune response. While the call is debatable, both him and my other neurologist consider me a true GAD65 positive patient now rather than a seronegative one, as the antibody appeared in my serum and rose in titre on the 3 occasions we checked last year. Either way, my primary doc is confident that it’s time to move on to medications that target both B AND T cells—in my specific case, Cellcept and a Cytoxan.

Now, I am not a medical professional who can responsibly assess the validity of this framework; but this neuro-oncologist is well-respected amongst his peers, and the rationale for his decisions make a hell of a lot more sense to me than the ones provided to me by other doctors in the past.  While Rituxan initially got me back to baseline in 2019 and is a highly effective, permanent solution for many patients, it upsets me when doctors are adamant that Rituxan is a magic bullet for treating AE and that any ongoing symptoms absolutely cannot be due to uncontrolled brain inflammation. Or said a little differently: if your previous AE symptoms return but your CD19 test results are at 0, your AE is well-managed and we’ve finished our job. This hard-and-fast conclusion seems incredibly irresponsible and lazy to me, when even a cursory glance through the medical literature yields hundreds of articles discussing the utility of alternative treatment strategies across a number of AE scenarios.

wherearemypillows treatment 500x375 - What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren't working?

Moving forward

The takeaway here is that if you are dealing with ongoing levels of significant dysfunction, experienced a period of relative normalcy followed by a return of disabling symptoms, or your specialist has limited experience with treating AE, there may be further runway to explore.

I say that with a note of caution, being careful to acknowledge not everyone is going to benefit from seeking further treatment and some are already working with wonderful doctors who are truly doing everything they feasibly can. But judging from going through 12 neurologists myself and hearing the experiences of hundreds of patients/caregivers, chances are your doctors may not have painted the full picture of the options out there. There is more to the immune system and the mechanisms underlying autoimmunity than what the average neurologist appreciates.

If you want to explore other options or doctors, take some time to educate yourself first. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to effectively advocate for yourself or your loved one. Without slogging through research publications, listening to the experts in the field, and/or joining support groups (like the International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society Facebook group to hear from others living with this illness, you tend to reach a ceiling on how far you can get. Alternatively, you might gain reassuring perspectives that help you realize your team of doctors is already handling everything appropriately.

As for me, I’ll be doing my best to keep advocating for AE awareness and better outcomes while I recover in the months ahead. You can also expect to see me popping up more regularly in online support groups and social media—see you over there! 😉

For more insight into what living with autoimmune encephalitis looks like, read more at my blog below or find me on InstagramFacebook, or Twitter.

wherearemypillows bio

WhereAreMyPillows is an autoimmune encephalitis survivor from Canada. Her favourite activities include writing on her health blog, taking photos, doing yoga, and finding her next spot to take a nap. 

Join her on the IAES Facebook group, and on her WhereAreMyPillows Facebook PageInstagram and Twitter #wherearemypillows

 

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Your generous Donations allow IAES to continue our important work and save lives! 

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Become an advocate by sharing your story. It may result in accurate diagnosis for someone suffering right now who is yet to be correctly identified. Submit your story with two photos to IAES@autoimmune-encephalitis.org

 

 

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren't working?

For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

AE Warrior Store 300x200 - What happens when your autoimmune encephalitis treatments aren't working? 

Be a part of the solution by supporting IAES with a donation today.

 

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Our website is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice. Nothing contained on our website is intended to be used as medical advice. No content is intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice. Although THE INTERNATIONAL AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS SOCIETY  provides a great deal of information about AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS, all content is provided for informational purposes only. The International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society  cannot provide medical advice.


International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society is a charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2016 by Tabitha Andrews Orth, Gene Desotell and Anji Hogan-Fesler. Tax ID# 81-3752344. Donations raised directly supports research, patients, families and caregivers impacted by autoimmune encephalitis and to educating healthcare communities around the world. Financial statement will be made available upon request.

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