Sarah’s Story

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Sarah’s Story

Haidyn Emmerich, Staff Writer

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When you think of the word rehab you usually think of drug addictions or alcoholism. You usually don’t think of the side of rehab that is seen through the eyes of those with severe injuries or disease repercussions. Over the summer Sarah Bailey, a junior at WVHS, suffered from a brain infection called anti-NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptor encephalitis, a disease that causes your own antibodies to attack healthy cells, specifically those in the brain. This can set a person back significantly with basic tasks such as remembering what to do next, and forgetting how to shower or apply your makeup. Noticing these symptoms and immediately getting medical attention is imperative because these symptoms can progress to the point where they can cause seizures, comas, and even death.
In an interview with Sarah, she described how she noticed her symptoms, and how they affected her daily life. “I was confused and was forgetting how to do simple tasks like vacuuming and remembering what I had to do next. Basically my daily routine. But it started off with me going to grab something for someone and forgetting what I was going to get, which I didn’t think too much of at the time,” she expressed. “I was in Italy when the symptoms first started and I remember how I became OCD about everything. My mom was frustrated with me because I always felt the need to go back to the hotel room and organize all of our stuff. My mom is a nurse and she was noticing how strange I was acting so right when we got home from Italy she rushed me straight to the hospital.”
Once Sarah got to the hospital she had a spinal tap, which is the procedure of taking fluid from the spine in the lower back through a hollow needle, usually done for diagnostic purposes, according to Mayo Clinic. By doing this, the doctors saw that she had an elevated white blood cell count in her spinal fluid which indicated that she had an infection in her brain. “I was confused and didn’t know what was going on. It was all so overwhelming,” Sarah said. She was rushed to Westchester Medical Center where they admitted her and immediately started her on a medication called IV-IG which was used to reduce the inflammation of her brain and to start her on the road to recovery.
Over the time span of seven weeks, Sarah worked on returning her brain to its healthiest state through exercises that helped her speech skills and improved her coordination. “You get paranoid when your brain doesn’t work right. I would get nervous when too many people were in my room, and I’d always think people were talking about me.”
After about two weeks in Westchester Medical Center, Sarah was moved to a more permanent room at Blythedale Children’s Rehabilitation Center where she stayed for several more weeks as she recovered. “I was constantly in denial about what was going on for the first couple weeks,” Sarah said. “I didn’t want people to think I was going insane. And trust me, it makes you feel like you’re going insane.”
Sarah was put on countless different medications throughout her time in rehab, and she continues to take these medications even though she has been emerged back into her daily life. She has been checked out of the hospital, but she has to worry about relapses throughout her life, and she has to stay constantly alert about possible changes in her actions. Sarah ended the interview by stating, “I’m just happy this whole thing is all over, and I’m glad I’m getting back to my life now. Obviously it’s scary that it’s possible that I’m going to have relapses, but I’m just going to have to pay attention to my actions and go back to being me.”

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