I have been a nurse, here in the Philippines for five years and counting. I am a board topnotcher, working at a JCI-accredited hospital, starting my Masteral, and applying to go to America. With my youth, capabilities, endurance, and dreams - life was limitless.  At the age of 25, my life stretched ahead of me.  

However, on February 13th, 2021, my life was stolen from me. Everything I had planned and worked for started to vanish. I had no assurance that everything would ever go back to how it was as myself and my identity was lost. 

Just before I had started to have severe headaches, fatigue, and fever coupled with the inability to go to the toilet properly as well as a loss of appetite. My symptoms were so generalized that I was suspected to have COVID, especially as this happened at the height of the pandemic. They also tested for dengue fever, typhoid, spinal cord injury, and even leptospirosis. However, all the tests came back negative, looking at my laboratory results you can see a perfectly healthy woman in her prime years. 

It was such a mystery for me, that I felt there was something wrong with me, but I could not decipher what it was. I thought it was all in my head or that the fatigue was making my mind blurry. Maybe I was possessed, or a spell had been put on me to make me sick. I consulted two “manggagamot” (doctors), however, they too could not pinpoint what was wrong with me. After a series of consultations done in the Emergency Room and the Health Clinic, they still could not identify what was causing my symptoms.  

 On February the 13th 2021 after attending my online class, I started to have delusions and talk as if I was possessed. I was talking nonsense and started having visual distortions – everything looked like an abstract painting. I wanted to talk but I could not put the words into my mouth and my vision was all neon lights with moving objects. 

Then I started to scream and howl because of the excruciating pain in my head. I could not understand what my family was saying to me, and I started to become agitated. If you had seen me at that moment, you would have thought I was possessed by evil demons like the ones in Halloween specials. My family, even my sister who is a nurse, did not know what to do with me so they took me to the nearest hospital, and they diagnosed me as a psychiatric patient. 

My mother, who is an advocate of mine insisted that I was not a psychiatric case. She did not know what was wrong with me, but she knew in her heart that it was not something psychiatric. So, she told my sister to take me to the hospital where I worked. She thought that whatever my diagnosis they would accept me as I worked there. However, when we arrived at the emergency department I was endorsed as a psychiatric case, but they wanted to focus on the high temperature I had. They said they would let my fever go down first and then admit me for psychiatric treatment.  

I cannot remember what happened that next morning on February the 14th, apart from my mom telling me to please go to sleep. 

Then I woke up on April 21st, 2021. I could not do simple things such as reading, counting, and writing. I could not remember my family; I could not remember who I was. I felt like I was a child trapped in a 25-year-olds body as I needed to re-learn all the things that I knew before. My family told me I had been in a coma for almost two months meaning I had missed my sister’s and father’s birthdays as well as class and work for a long time.  

They also told me that I had been diagnosed with Anti-NMDA autoimmune encephalitis. It is a rare autoimmune disease causing my immune system to attack the brain causing inflammation. Even tests to confirm such disease must be sent to foreign countries such as France. 

Luckily my family was able to get a very capable and smart neurologist. Immediately after being admitted to the hospital, I had lots of tests done and every common disease was ruled out. Therefore, he started possible treatments for brain inflammation because by looking at my ECG you could see continuous seizures as if my brain was being “fried”. They gave me all the antibiotics, anti-viral medication, and even antipsychotic medications they could, but I showed no improvement. 

They, then, decided to send my lumbar tap sample to France however this was going to take a month to come back so my neurologist decided to give me steroids, IV IG, and then Rituximab. These treatments posed a great risk to me as they make your immune system low, and we were in the middle of a surge of COVID infections.  

Then a miracle happened – I woke up. I was so disoriented and unaware of who I was. Slowly after one month of rehab, I was able to regain my personality. I was able to write, read, count, walk, and go back to my normal life. After two weeks out of confinement, I was able to go back and work as a nurse. 


My story might not be the most exciting thing you will read, however, my story showed that in the end no matter how successful or strong you are as a person you will be tested. With my experience, I learned to value the importance of slowing down, especially at this moment when everybody is busy with achieving timelines that have been put in by society.  

Slowing down or resting does not make you less of the person you dream to be.  

Also, I learned the value of family, at the end of the day, your family will be the remedy for any problem you have in your life. They are persons in this world who are willing to sacrifice what they have and give the most unconditional love in this world. Lastly, I have learned to become more compassionate and caring as a nurse because my life now has a different purpose. 

It is not just a life for me to live but it is in my responsibility to make the gift of life a meaningful one.   


Want to hear more encephalitis stories? Come along to our next event My Brain: My Story and meet others affected by encephalitis.

Date and time: Sat, 7 Oct 2023 13:00 - 18:00 BST

Location: Online or The Grand, York, UK