Gary’s Story

I lived in Detroit, Michigan, in February 1950. I was eight years old and in the third grade. I contracted the measles, which transitioned into encephalitis. The only symptom I had suggesting that it was encephalitis was I that could not stay awake. My mother telephoned my doctor and he said for her to call an ambulance and have them take me to the children’s hospital. By the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital, I was unconscious. I was given a spinal tap (they took fluid from my spine), and it was determined that I had encephalitis.

I remained in a coma for the first two weeks that I was in the hospital. I was fed through tubes in my nose and was given shots in the bottom of my feet. I had no control over my bodily functions and hospital staff had to put diapers on me. On two occasions while I was in a coma my parents were summoned to the hospital because the doctors believed that I would not live until morning. After I awoke from the coma, I was extremely weak, very nervous and I shook terribly. I would not speak and I could not feed myself. I had difficulty remembering and identifying common objects.

After one month in hospital, I was well enough to go home. There were no rehabilitation facilities or hospitals at the time that I could be referred to.  Therefore, my rehabilitation from encephalitis fell on my mother and my sister. Once at home and weighing 48 pounds, I had to learn how to walk again, remember occurrences from my past and increase my very limited vocabulary. For the most part, I stayed in bed from March until September 1950, recuperating from encephalitis.

Encephalitis is an extremely difficult illness for anyone to overcome.  A person must continue making an effort to overcome their difficulties resulting from this illness. I suggest that individuals go to a rehabilitation facility for treatment following their battle with encephalitis.

Set yourself small reasonable goals to accomplish. Progression can be slow and it may take several years to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself. You must persevere and not let yourself get discouraged by setbacks along the way. It will help if you have the love and support of your family and your friends.

I am currently 77 years old, and I am still quite nervous from the encephalitis that I had in 1950. I retired from the US Air Force after 21 years of service. I had also worked as a civilian employee in the Department of Defense. While in the Air Force, I acquired a Bachelor’s degree and afterwards I obtained a Master’s degree. This was very difficult for me to accomplish, and there were many setbacks along the way.  Encephalitis has left me a very nervous person for almost all of my life.

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Page Created: 11 December 2023
Last Modified: 11 December 2023
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