Encephalitis at 20 Years

September 28th, 1996…I awoke feeling a bit ill, just as the night before. Not a serious illness, but flu like symptoms, a stomach ache and just over all sickness. I remember lying on the coach and watching a Notre Dame football game. I remember getting up to take a hot shower thinking that the warm jets might help me feel just a bit better. That is all I remember….

On September 28th, my sister was having her sweet 16th birthday party at our house. It was to be a grand affair, certainly the social event of the season….and I wasn’t there. My parents found me passed out naked on my bed and I was rushed to the emergency room. There I lay unconscious (in a coma?) for nearly a week. I slowly awoke a week later, but really it took me months to fully wake up. Sometimes I think I never fully did.

My diagnosis: Viral Mengeo-Encephalitis. A virus had breached the blood brain barrier and caused swelling in my brain. I missed over a month of school and then slowly reintegrated myself into normal life.  But things were never normal after that.

There are 20 years of things to fill in here, but for those stories you’ll have to wait for the book.

Back then there was hardly any internet. It took me 10 years to find people online with similar experiences. Eventually I did. So a big Thank you to Encephalitis Society and Encephalitis Global!

I have had to deal with the after effects of this illness for 20 years and will have to for the rest of my life. I am the same person, just a little more sensitive and extreme version. The roller coaster  seems never ending: depression, mania, insomnia,  concentration problems, brain fog…the list goes on and on.

But I have also had some experiences and adventures that probably would not have happened otherwise – 3 months backpacking through Europe when I was 19, studied philosophy, more world travel, Duke University, Northwestern Law, 100 mile ultra marathons and more….So now through exercise, yoga, meditation and over all healthy living I try to manage my sensitive injured brain. And with the loving support of family and friends I live a wonderful life.  So, Salud!

Live with Gratitude and Humility (also Horror and a little Weirdness for flavor)


Zachary H



About Zachary H

I'm an attorney, writer, entrepreneur, and adventurer
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