Viral Encephalitis Part 1

2017-07-08 11.55.00I opened my eyes after a long nap, and was surprised to see my mother sitting on a chair next to me. ‘Do you know where you are?’, she asked.

I looked around and realised I was in an unfamiliar place. It looked a lot like a hospital. I had to muster up all my physical strength to utter a single, ‘No’ in response.

‘You’re in Pantai Hospital’, she said. I looked around again, and it didn’t take long for me to realise there was an IV needle in my arm. I was, to say the least, horrified, given that one of my greatest fears has always been needles.

My mother then asked me, ‘What is the last thing you remember?’. I struggled to find the answer. I didn’t remember what the last thing I could remember was.

‘Do you remember being admitted?’, she probed. ‘Do you remember when you went to see the psychologist?’, ‘Do you remember that you went through an MRI?’. I couldn’t recall any of that.

She then proceeded to tell me that I was admitted into the hospital after failing to recover from a high fever I had contracted the week before. The complicated part? I lost my memory for 5 days in between.

Throughout the day, my mother fed me with details of what had happened in those 5 days.

There was a lapse in my memory because my brain suffered a breakdown in that period of time. Although I was conscious, my brain was not able to process anything – and therefore, none of what happened was committed to my memory.

I learned that with my boyfriend as an accomplice, my mother planned a last-minute trip  from my hometown, Kuching to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday after realising that my fever never subsided, even after consulting two different doctors and taking two different sets of medication.

While she was here, I had difficulty communicating with the people around me and I was only able to mumble a few words at a time. I was incoherent and my behaviour was child-like.

It was then that my mother knew that this was a problem way beyond her comprehension, and with the full support of my extended family, she checked me into the hospital.

I was checked into Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night after a series of tests, including an EEG that showed I had little no brain activity, much to the horror of the neurologist attending to me. After administering antibiotics via IV, I fell asleep and woke up the next day feeling like I had just taken an extremely long nap.

‘What am I down with?’ I asked. ‘Viral encephalitis’, my mother answered. I did not know what that meant, so she patiently answered all my questions. She tried to get me to drink water, but even water tasted strange to me. I couldn’t stomach any of it.

On the day that I ‘awoke’, I found myself to be the most helpless I had ever been. I was not able to take showers on my own, and I had to lie in bed all day because of the IV. Getting up to go to the toilet was physically taxing, and my muscles ached as if I had overexerted myself at the gym the day before. I had to be brought around in a wheelchair.

Yet, through it all, my mother was there to make sure I never spent a minute alone. She bathed me, put my clothes on for me, and patiently reassured me that I’d be all right; that I’m strong and managed to survive this.

My attending neurologist would check up on me daily, and every day, I made progress, little by little. My muscles ached less, and my appetite and mobility improved, albeit slightly.

I was able to go back to my apartment in Petaling Jaya for a few hours every evening after I had shown some progress, and my mother would tag along, tirelessly cooking and cleaning for me.

Later in the week, my father and brother flew over to Kuala Lumpur as well to join my mother in assisting with my recovery. On 13th June 2017, after 9 days of admission, I was finally discharged, and I flew home to Kuching to recuperate shortly after.

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