Raising awareness Your Stories Hannah's story Christmas Day 2017 marked two months to the day when I discovered that I had encephalitis. Nearly two months ago when I became a strange version of me – where I replied in strangely worded responses to comments and questions, and where I was taken to hospital by my husband who was terrified by the way in which I was responding to any kind of communication: disconnected, confused and completely illiterate: Three techniques so far from my regular personality that they terrified my family who couldn’t understand my difficulties. Initially, the GPs whom I saw were pretty convinced that I was their first case of the genuine flu this year. Hours later and in A&E, the suggestions were far more extreme – whilst I waited for blood tests and lumbar puncture results, the doctors decided that I was at too much risk to not be treated for Herpes Simplex Encephalitis. Whilst I remember the earliest stages and initial doctors’ appointments suggesting the flu, beyond that I remember very little for the next four or five days. My family and friends now tell me that they visited and I was asleep. Indeed, I was asleep for about 22 hours of each of those days. I vaguely remember waking up and seeing people I knew whom I couldn’t name and I can barely remember the hospital ward I was initially in before they transferred me to the neurological ward to be looked after by the team who knew the most about this apparently rare condition. I remember so little until about five days in. I remember being on the neurological ward and having three hour long doses of medication injected daily; I remember just trying to be normal and thinking I was managing, despite now knowing that I was far from normal at all. I want to say that I was terrified, as that’s the emotion that hit those closest to me, but in reality I was either asleep or pretending to be fine. My consultant and his team were amazing and tested me daily – I was lucky that the main problem seemed to be to my speech – I forgot important things, not least the name of my daughter, who is just two. Repetition means that a lot of these things have come back to me, but it’s not perfect – I’m a teacher and whilst I’ve been off in the run up to Christmas, I went in to see my class a few days ago and couldn’t remember so many of their names – I felt so guilty. I don’t not remember them – it’s their names. And this carries on throughout my vocabulary – especially when I’m tired. I forget important things and sound ridiculous when I try to explain what I’m saying. For me, this is traumatic because my speaking is vital to my role as a teacher, but also, my background is a Cambridge English degree, yet I feel like an utter buffoon when I can’t squeeze simple phrases from my head in front of 8 and 9 year old children. I’m just hoping that things will change with time. In many ways I have been so lucky. My infection level was so high that I was told not to leave after two weeks in hospital (I had to stay for three), even though I was desperate to return to my daughter at home. I know that, nearly two months on, my body is still fighting off the remains of the infection and that my speech and language is still far from perfect, but I just want to be back to normal – I’ve always been impatient and determined, and I hope that I can make these things work in my favour as I continue to return to health. But, it’s been a difficult two months. I’m so lucky that tiredness and some language issues are my biggest problems, but it remains difficult to accept that things aren’t okay. I’m desperate to be back at work, I don’t want peoples’ pity; I just want life to be back to how it was. Perhaps what my GP had to say when I saw him last week was important for me to remember: I have made immense progress in such a short period of time and I need to allow myself to accept how far I’ve managed to come. It’s been, and continues to be, a difficult condition that I continue to struggle with, but I’m on the up, and so incredibly lucky to have had such amazing care from friends, family and the NHS.