More than a headache - Tracy's battle with Autoimmune Encephalitis
Life, for the most part, can feel or appear calculable. Each day unfolds mostly the same as the last and we believe (or like to believe) we have an idea of how it all rolls out. At multiple points throughout our lives, however, life can pull a total M Night Shyamalan and reveal an unexpected twist. Some of these twists can be good, great even, offering us a new perspective, a chance for growth or an opportunity—and others can turn our entire world upside down. The latter of these twists recently popped up in the life of our social media rockstar/ ball of energy, Tracy Po, and we wanted to share with you her story of courage while contending with a life-altering disease.
More than a headache
Just over 12 weeks ago, Tracy, entered the hospital with chronic migraines. She had a history with these horrible head-splitters, having to visit the ER for them in previous years, but something about these particular migraines was different. Shortly after being emitted to St. Paul's in downtown Vancouver, Tracy's condition began to deteriorate. She started experiencing episodes of psychosis and catatonia (non-responsiveness). While no one knew the cause of her symptoms at the time, she would later be diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune disease.
Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis
Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis is a variety of brain inflammation caused by antibodies. It is relatively new to medical research, only being discovered back in 2007, and is often misdiagnosed. It affects both the body and mind, with symptoms including but not limited to headaches, fever, extreme fatigue, psychosis, hallucinations, seizures, decreased breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate issues. Nearly all patients who develop the disease require hospitalization, many need critical care—and, unfortunately, our Tracy was one of them.
During Tracy's time in the hospital, she endured a myriad of procedures, including multiple surgeries, lumbar punctures, MRIs, CT scans, infusions, blood tests and a colossal, nearly comical, amount of medications. This disease developed so rapidly and progressed to the point that Tracy had to be put into an induced coma and was completely bedridden for nearly a month. It was a very confusing and scary time for everyone involved, especially Tracy.
A Turning Point.
After an uncertain stage without any clear conclusion or cause, an ultrasound revealed a small tumour inside one of Tracy's ovaries, which doctors promptly removed. Tumours like this can, in rare cases, trigger an autoimmune response. Almost immediately after Tracy came out of surgery, she started to show some improvement. She slowly regained the ability to breathe and took her first assisted steps out of her bed in weeks. She was transferred out of the ICU to the Neurology ICU and then eventually to the Neurology ward where she began to relearn how to talk, walk, eat and drink again.
Recently, Tracy was transferred out of VGH and into the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, where she is undergoing an intensive therapy program, including occupational, physical and speech therapy. She has been improving every day and the hope is to have her status switched from in-patient to an out-patient, where she can attend her therapy sessions during the day and spend her evenings at home with her partner, Logan, and cat, Moose.
To Recovery + Beyond.
While this entire experience has been a painful and terrifying ordeal, Tracy has remained so incredibly optimistic and determined. Her drive to return to her regular life has propelled her forward and we're so incredibly proud of her spirit and unshakeable resolve. We hope to see her back here underneath the Cherry Velvet tree as soon as possible, which, at the rate she's progressing, may not be far off. Until then, please join us in cheering her on as she makes her way through this final stage towards full recovery and beyond—Go, Tracy go!
XOX Cherry VelvetPrevious: Happy Thanksgiving! Next: Our Elly Mayday Story