Encephalitis Cases

  I met Chris, my now husband, in Bali, in 2003. Corny, even then, it was a kind of love at first sight. Chris, originally from the USA, was an extremely confident, assertive, productive man, in possession of himself, and a wicked, intelligent wit. As a woman approaching 40, I too knew who I was, but was completely blind-sighted by this attraction, that would have me leave my native Canada to live with him in Bali. Within a year, things would not be the same. His personality started to erode, slowly at first. He began to change, and neither of us understood why.

In 2004 Chris was rushed to Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok, with what seemed like a severe case of Dengue (mosquito-borne virus). "How would you describe the pain, on a scale of 1-10," the doctor asked. When he said 10, he was treated like a weak cry-baby, or worse, a drug addict looking for an easy score.

We were told by his doctor that the terrifying psychotic episode he experienced, right at the time of his discharge, was normal of dengue. I worried, but suspended disbelief. Having no experience with tropical disease, I believed what this Bumrungrad "5-star hospital" doctor told me, in spite of the fact that I could find nothing in my online research that linked this kind of behaviour with dengue.

Later that year we bought a home together in Canada. What should have been a joyous time was wrought with difficulties. Chris was severely depressed, and negative about everything. I suspected this may have had some-thing to do with the weather, the lack of light during the long, dark winter months, maybe some kind of culture shock. He was so unable to cope I finally sent him to a psychiatrist, who suggested, as this was the first time in his life that he'd ever felt depressed, that he must be miserable in our relationship. His doctor, with the best of intentions, prescribed a chemical cocktail of anti-depressants and pain killers, which only exacerbated his feelings of uncertainty and failure.

Three years, and many arguments, anxieties, and resent-ments later, Chris had a seizure in a restaurant during a business trip in Bangkok. We ended up back at that same Bumrungrad hospital. After much digging on my part, we finally got the right diagnosis. Chris did not have dengue three years earlier, but encephalitis.

It has been almost a year now since we have discovered the root of his difficulties and personality changes. That right diagnosis has eased some of the tensions, both personal and in our relationship, but we now struggle, as a couple, to figure out how to move forward from blame and resentment. Chris, I believe, especially from what I have read here, got lucky. But the wrong diagnosis has left us with many battle scars. He continues to combat fear, confusion, and panic toward what most of us would find the most benign of situations. Still, four years later, most days are not easy, or predictable. For either one of us.

Encephalitis happens to the entire family.

I write this in the hopes that anyone in this situation will listen to their intuition. If a diagnosis doesn't feel right, please keep searching. Your loved one is dependent on you.

I don't know how this will end, but I am happy to report that Chris is improving. Slowly, he is finding himself again, rediscovering and accepting himself, this new self, which may be permanent. And together we are finding the humor in all of this. Laughing, in my estimation, always wins out over crying..

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Posted: May 1, 2009
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