Coma, Paralysis: Woman Battles Back From Rare Disease

A 22-year-old has rallied back from a coma due to a disease that once baffled doctors, it is being reported by McClatchy Newspapers.

When Amy Applegate first entered the hospital last November, doctors thought she had encephalitis, according to a report on

The classroom aide, who works with special needs children, had called-in sick to work early one morning due to flu-like symptoms; by 10 a.m., her mother found her lying on the floor dazed and confused. Later, she was unable to walk or talk.

Tests confirmed seizures; within 24 hours she had slipped into a coma and was placed on a mechanical ventilator, according to the report.

Doctors were baffled. They tried steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin, but nothing worked.

But a technique called plasma exchange, which cleansed her blood of the antibodies responsible for her immune system’s failure, worked, according to

Applegate came out of her coma, and doctors came up with a diagnosis: acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which affects one in 250,000 people. Applegate’s immune system had attacked her brain and stripped it of myelin, it is reported.

The disease can be deadly or cause permanent disability, but Applegate is making progress through rehabilitation and plans to one day return to the classroom, according to the report.