Woman’s Struggle With Auto-Immune Disorder Featured On Medical Mystery Series

By David Singleton
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Emily Gavigan’s battle against anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis will be featured on HLN’s medical mystery series, “Something’s Killing Me.” The autoimmune disorder causes the immune system to attack the brain. The mysterious illness mainly strikes young women.

The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Emily Gavigan can pinpoint the moment she thought she lost her mind.

It came one day in January 2009, as the Laflin native, then a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Scranton, drove home after coffee with friends.

“It was almost like somebody pressed a button. I was all of a sudden very manic and paranoid, and I thought trucks were following me,” she said.

It would get worse, much worse.

There were the stays in the psychiatric wards, the powerful medications and the ever-worsening symptoms that would leave her, a little over a year later, teetering between life and death from a mysterious ailment none of her doctors had ever seen before.

On Sunday at 9 p.m., HLN will revisit Gavigan’s story as part of its medical mystery series, “Something’s Killing Me.” The episode, titled “Into Madness,” features Gavigan and Dr. Mitchell Gross, the neurologist who treated her at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Gavigan, now 28 and living in Mount Pocono, sees the show as an opportunity to further raise the profile of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, the autoimmune disorder with which she was finally correctly diagnosed in 2010. The disease, which causes the immune system to attack the brain, strikes mainly young women.

“I think there are a lot of people who are sick and undiagnosed with this, so there is real value in the awareness we are creating,” she said.

Most of all, she said, it’s about saving others from what she went through.

The day Gavigan experienced her first manic episode in January 2009, her mother, Grace, called a psychiatrist who treated her for anxiety in high school and set up an appointment.

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