Mystery disease 'locks' woman inside her own body for three years

Olimpia first began to experience a 'numbing' sensation across the left side of her body.

A woman has tragically lost her battle with a rare undiagnosed disease which left her “locked” in her own body, unable to move or speak for years.

When Olimpia Popovici started experiencing a “numbing” sensation across the left side of her body, she assumed a trapped nerve had taken hold. The 43-year-old, whose condition quickly worsened, visited numerous doctors across the UK and in her home country, Romania, in search of an answer — but her diagnosis remained a mystery.

Olimpia Popovici before falling ill with the mystery disease.
Olimpia Popovici suddenly fell sick, losing the ability to speak or move. Source: Jam Press

Then, after one year, she had lost the ability to speak, swallow and move her limbs, but was still able to see, think and hear, with the business owner becoming “locked” in her own body. Now, her husband, Traian, 47, is sharing his wife’s traumatic story in a bid to raise awareness and to mark his first Christmas without her by his side.

'Horrible disease' took wife away, husband says

Traian told that his wife was “so loved by everyone – as a daughter, sister, wife and friend”, and that it is still hard to believe she is “she’s no longer around”.

“Olimpia left her mark on every place she went to and on every person who knew her. She was appreciated for seeing life so simply,” he said. “There are so many things that I’d like to say, but the words are too difficult to get out.

Olimpia in hospital with her husband, Traian.
The business owner became 'locked' in her own body, her husband Traian said. Source: Jam Press

“It’s a horrible disease that took away such a cheerful person, who always had a smile on her face and I’ll remember her spirit full of life. I had to watch her slip away more and more each day, and in a way, I had already grieved losing her before she passed – it’s not going to be the same without her. It’s going to be so difficult and sad this Christmas because that was her favourite time of the year.”

Scans reveal brain cells were shrinking

Olimpia, who moved to the UK in 2002 after graduating from nursing school, started experiencing strange symptoms in April 2020. For the next two years, she was treated for a stroke, until January 2022 when scans revealed that parts of her brain were shrinking.

“I remember the cause being a mystery, but we were told she had progressive cerebral atrophy, where brain cells are lost,” Traian said. “Her illness affected all her family, not just me, as her mum gave up her life back in Romania to be with us and support Olimpia in every aspect. “I had been a self-employed builder before, but I had to stop working when her condition got worse. We had to live on our savings and they’ve quickly gone.”

On October 21, Olimpia sadly lost her battle with the undiagnosed disease and a few weeks later, her family gathered in her hometown to say goodbye.

Olimpia in bed unable to move with her dog.
Sadly, Olimpia lost her battle with the mystery disease late last month. Source: Jam Press

Husband searches for cause of wife's death

Now, Traian is hoping to raise awareness in a bid to warn others of the signs to look out for, as well as searching for an answer.

“She had achieved so much in life – from owning a house to running a successful business – and it's a shame to see it all stripped away,” the 47-year-old said. “My wife was a prisoner in her own body and I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone. I didn’t expect to lose her so soon, and it’s been a very cruel time for all of us, but I hope to remember her for who she was, not how she left us.

“I remember her cooking, her cakes and her passion for trying new recipes. Olimpia loved long nature walks and visiting new places, as well as her two dogs, Winston and Sasha. I will continue on in her memory doing all the things she loved and one day, I hope to find out the cause behind this unimaginable loss.”

Jam Press

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