In the mid 1990’s, I suddenly had double vision. I was fatigued, but had no fever. We had only recently come to the Washington DC area and had no family doctor. We made some calls and set up appointments with doctors. They could provide no information except that it didn’t fit their specialty.

One night I was feeling really fatigued, and we went to a hospital emergency room. We were the last in line and the nurses indicated that I didn’t appear to have an emergency condition, and I should come back tomorrow. My wife explained my condition that it had been ongoing for at least 10 days, and the doctor should see me. He came, discussed things with me, and then indicated that he would soon be back. He came back and indicated that we needed to listen carefully. First, you need to advise family that you are very sick and your chances of survival are 50-50. Then he said, just between us, your conditions were much worse than 50-50. He indicated that there was no medical testing but that my condition fit closely to Herpes Simplex Encephalitis. He then said that I was in very poor condition medically. In fact, he said, “the first objective is to keep you alive”. If we can do that, we will figure out what to do next. Then he said, “There is no official treatment… it is a virus, and there is only one viral disease for which medications are being developed… that is, medications for AIDS… what we will do is give you the best AIDS medications available, and we will give you the maximum level for all at the same time, and hope for the best”.

After a little discussion, he gave me a shot for sleeping. I woke up about three days later in a maximum care unit. I had had seizures, etc. I was there for a period and in the hospital for 45 days. I had lost 45 pounds. My voice and hearing were disconnected from my verbal skills. That is, nothing I said could be understood. All said and done, I came out better than all had expected. I am operational within most criteria. One side of my lower brain is dead, the other side can compensate to a large degree. My short-term memory is very poor. My mood is not stable. I am under long-term care and taking medications for life. But, it is good to be here.

One last note; when I came home from the hospital, I had a reverence for life in every form: animals, plants, bugs, snakes - everything! I should add one last note; I struggle with memory. My story is as my memory produces it. One memory of my time in the hospital is true; I woke up one night and needed to urinate. I said to myself, ‘you’re feeling good. Just start taking care of things’. So I got up, but something was on my right arm. I took it off, then I noticed something was also on the other arm. It came through the arm of the gown so I reasoned that if I took the gown off, it was OK. So I took it off. It is now hanging on the cord between me and its base connection. I’m confused, but I hear this voice. ‘My ___, what are you doing? Get in bed. I’ll get some help’. I had ripped off the connection on the right, messed up the connection on the left side, and was standing in a pool of blood. I wouldn’t be here except the skills of the nurse I never met.