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Teenager’s memory was wiped OVERNIGHT due to a brain-swelling condition

A teenager’s memory was wiped overnight after her symptoms of a brain-swelling condition were misdiagnosed as school stress. 

Rafaela Domingos, now 17, started acting strange at home in front of parents, Jorge and Florbela. She would sleepwalk and daydream.

Doctors said she had absent seizures – which sometimes cause a person to blankly stare for a few seconds – and believed it was brought on by stress.

Miss Domingos, of Ashford, Kent, was rushed to hospital after she suffered a seizure at school. She didn’t recognise her parents when they came to collect her.

Medics kept her in hospital overnight for tests. But, during the night, Miss Domingos’ memory disappeared and she didn’t even recognise herself.

She was diagnosed with encephalitis and after a 10 weeks, when an infection or the body’s own immune system attacks the brain. 

The swelling on her brain was so severe that she needed to be placed in a coma in an attempt to save her life. 

Now, three years later, Miss Domingos has finally made a full recovery – but doesn’t have any recollection of the period in her life. 

 Rafaela Domingos, now 17, started acting strange at home 

Miss Domingos, of Ashford, Kent, forgot who her parents, Jorge and Florbela, were. She had been having absence seizures in the run-up to her diagnosis of encephalitis

Miss Domingos, of Ashford, Kent, forgot who her parents, Jorge and Florbela, were. She had been having absence seizures in the run-up to her diagnosis of encephalitis

Miss Domingos has finally made a full recovery - but doesn't have any recollection of the period in her life. She is pictured recently at home

Miss Domingos has finally made a full recovery – but doesn’t have any recollection of the period in her life. She is pictured recently at home

Mother Mrs Dominos, a teaching assistant said: ‘It was every parent’s worst nightmare – she had no memory of me, her dad or even of herself.

‘It was a fear unlike anything I’ve ever known – with her memory loss, it was like we’d lost her. 

‘She looked at me blankly, with fear in her eyes – to have your own child looking at you with such terror, to not know you at all, it broke my heart into pieces.

‘And as her condition worsened, the parts of memory she regained stopped and got worse – and she was so terrified she tried to run away.

‘My own daughter was so scared, and felt so alone that she had tried to run from the hospital – because she didn’t know her own family.

‘I couldn’t believe what had originally been diagnosed as stress turned into something so surreal and so horrific.’ 

Mother Mrs Dominos, a teaching assistant, said her heart broke in pieces when her daughter looked at her blankly with fear in her eyes, unable to recognise her

Mother Mrs Dominos, a teaching assistant, said her heart broke in pieces when her daughter looked at her blankly with fear in her eyes, unable to recognise her

Miss Domingos spent two months in hospital (pictured) regaining her memory. Her condition was so severe she was put in a coma to save her life

Miss Domingos spent two months in hospital (pictured) regaining her memory. Her condition was so severe she was put in a coma to save her life

After a seizure at school, Miss Domingos was kept in hospital overnight for tests. Her memory was completely wiped and she didn't even recognise herself

After a seizure at school, Miss Domingos was kept in hospital overnight for tests. Her memory was completely wiped and she didn’t even recognise herself

WHAT IS ENCEPHALITIS? 

Encephalitis is an uncommon but serious condition in which the brain becomes inflamed.

It can be life-threatening because when the brain swells it pushes downwards onto the brainstem. The brainstem is the part of the brain that controls the vital functions of breathing and circulation.  

Anyone can be affected, but the very young and very old are most at risk.

Encephalitis sometimes starts off with flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature and headache, but these don’t always occur.

More serious symptoms develop over hours, days or weeks, which include confusion or disorientation, seizures, changes in personality and behaviour or loss of consciousness. 

It’s not always clear what causes encephalitis, but it can be caused by viral infections. 

Either an infection invades the brain (infectious encephalitis is when an infection invades the brain, and post-infectious or autoimmune encephalitis is when the immune system attacks the brain in error.

Several common viruses can spread to the brain and cause encephalitis in rare cases, including the herpes simplex virus – which causes cold sores and genital herpes – and the chickenpox virus.

Up to 6,000 people are stuck with the condition in the UK each year. Around 250,000 people in the US have battled the condition in the last decade, according to The Encephalitis Society.

Mrs Domingos said her and her husband, a factory manager, had an idea something wasn’t right when their daughter was having symptoms of sweating, a lack of appetite and sleep problems. 

She said: ‘We had an idea something was off for a while – Miss Domingos was struggling to sleep, and slept walked.

‘We’d often find her looking into space, almost daydream like which we later learnt were absence seizures.

‘But when she had a big seizure at school, doctors said that they wanted to keep her in overnight.’

After the seizure at school, Miss Domingos was rushed to hospital where her memory returned after a couple of hours. However, as she slept, her memory was wiped.

Mrs Domingos said: ‘In the aftermath of that, she had asked who I was – and my heart stopped. 

‘As a parent, it was the hardest thing I’ve had to witness – her being completely blank at who we were. 

‘Even when she regained consciousness, she was struggling to make any sense when she was talking.

‘We tried to keep everything as normal as possible, and I asked her to sign a card for her dad’s birthday.

‘But looking at that, I remember feeling horrified – she wasn’t able to write properly, and it was at that point, five days after she was brought in, that the specialist were contacted as it was obvious something sinister was happening.   

‘Her father and I became desperate – she didn’t know us, and it seemed doctors were as clueless as we were.’

After ten weeks, Miss Domingos was treated with a four stage encephalitis.

Mrs Domingos said she was horrified when her daughter was unable to even write a birthday message in a card for her father. They are pictured at home together

Mrs Domingos said she was horrified when her daughter was unable to even write a birthday message in a card for her father. They are pictured at home together

Mrs Domingos said her daughter went through a range of treatments which failed to work, until her blood was filtered to get rid of the substances attacking the brain. Miss Domingos is pictured in hospital with get well soon cards

Mrs Domingos said her daughter went through a range of treatments which failed to work, until her blood was filtered to get rid of the substances attacking the brain. Miss Domingos is pictured in hospital with get well soon cards

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused either by an infection or through the immune system attacking the organ. The cause in Miss Domingos’ case is still unknown.

Symptoms of encephalitis include seizures and sleep disturbances – as Miss Domingo was experiencing – as well as confusion, inability to speak, high temperature and hallucination.

A diagnosis often takes a long time because the symptoms of encephalitis can be mistaken to be something else. Several tests may be needed.

The condition can be deadly because the swollen brain pushes downwards onto the brainstem and stops it functioning. The brainstem is the part of the brain that controls the vital functions of breathing and circulation. 

Up to 6,000 people are stuck with the condition in the UK each year. Around 250,000 people in the US have battled the condition in the last decade, according to The Encephalitis Society.  

Mrs Domingos said her daughter went through a range of treatments which failed to work. 

Eventually she had plasmapheresis – a procedure which removes the substances that are attacking the brain from the blood.

Mrs Domingos said: ‘She [Miss Domingos] needed catatonic treatment which was an entire plasma change.

‘Her entire blood was filtered, and after undergoing that and radiotherapy, all of sudden her arms were working again.

Miss Domingos said: 'Now I'm almost three years on, and I consider myself in good health. 'I now focus on my passion, photography and campaign for early diagnosis's to help saves lives'

Miss Domingos said: ‘Now I’m almost three years on, and I consider myself in good health. ‘I now focus on my passion, photography and campaign for early diagnosis’s to help saves lives’

‘She could smile, she could move but she had no memory of her ordeal or who she was.

‘Even as she recovered, she didn’t know us or even who she was, which was the most heart-breaking thing.’

Miss Domingos spent two months in hospital taking 26 tablets a day. Slowly, she ‘came back to life’, her mother said.  

Miss Domingos said: ‘I still have no memory from two months before my diagnosis to two months after. My first memory was a very blurry return home.

‘But I realise how lucky I was.

‘I was diagnosed relatively early, but people can get brain damage for life.

‘I might still need time to process certain things, but now when I hear my parents talk about it, it makes me realise the ordeal they went through.

‘Now I’m almost three years on, and I consider myself in good health.

‘I now focus on my passion, photography and campaign for early diagnosis’s to help saves lives.

‘As terrifying as it was to lose my memory, it could have been so much worse and I feel very lucky.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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