Woman told she was ‘mentally unwell’ later diagnosed with deadly brain flu

·3-min read

A woman who was misdiagnosed as being “mentally unwell” for two months was actually battling a deadly form of brain flu.

Samantha Redfield, 30, from Vallecito, California, first began noticing that her behaviours were changing last October.

From memory loss and extreme mood swings to insomnia and hallucinating, Samantha says she was initially misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental health issues.

But two months later, she was finally diagnosed with Encephalitis – a rare but serious condition in which the brain becomes inflamed and swollen.

She is now sharing her story for the first time to raise awareness in a bid to help others who may end up in the unlikely situation.

At first doctors told Samantha she was likely Schizophrenic. Source: Caters
At first doctors told Samantha she was likely Schizophrenic. Source: Caters

Ms Redfield, a former marketing consultant, recalled the diabolical toll the condition took on her as it emerged.

“My family have told me that I was hallucinating all of the time. I could not sleep, I stayed awake for 10 days straight. I would be extremely happy one moment, and a wreck the next,” she said.

“I absolutely lost my mind and who I was. I had trouble speaking and I could not read or write. During this time I also developed an intense fear of a Mexican drug cartel and I thought that they were trying to kill me and my family.

“I was still there, but I was blacked out and I cannot remember doing any of those things.”

Ms Redfield had first visited her doctor in October last year after experiencing stiffness and brain fog.

But after being dismissed she was taken back by her family two weeks later and was seen by another neurologist.

She claims she was then misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and was referred to a psychiatrist to help with her mental health issues.

“After securing an appointment with a psychiatrist, she was not convinced by the doctor's diagnosis and immediately knew that this was not schizophrenia or any other mental health issues,” Ms Redfield recalled.

“Luckily, she knew there was more to this and that I was sick. She urged my family to get me back to the hospital immediately to get admitted and my parents did just that.”

At one point during her stint in hospital, she took on the personality of a young girl. Source: Caters
At one point during her stint in hospital, she took on the personality of a young girl. Source: Caters

“I was hospitalised for two weeks. I had a week, where I remained undiagnosed, I had countless tests and invasive treatments but still no answer.

“Eventually a spinal tap was performed and I was diagnosed with Anti-NMDA Encephalitis, which is a rare autoimmune disease. To put it simply, my body was attacking my brain and my body was fighting for its life.

“My family told me that during the spinal tap I took on the personality of a little girl, and was acting like a child.

“The doctors used a treatment called a plasma exchange which truly saved my life and brought me out of the darkness and back to reality. This is when started to come back around and gradually over the weeks I kept getting better.

Ms Redfield is still on the road to recovery but says she has come an incredibly long way.

She continues to receive monthly treatments to help keep the symptoms at bay.

“I still have some problems with my short term memory, and I lost one month of time, but I am thankful that I am still here to share my story and raise awareness of the conditions in hopes of saving a life,” she said.


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