Schoolgirl's video raises encephalitis awareness

13-year-old, Charlotte Parsons, from London, who developed encephalitis earlier this year has created a video to help raise awareness of encephalitis.

Charlotte’s story

Charlotte’s dad dropped her off at school but two hours later received a phone call saying Charlotte wasn’t well and needed picking up. When her dad Dean arrived at the school Charlotte was unable to recognise him, she was also talking about a cat which they no longer had anymore.  The only person Charlotte was able to recognise was her mum, Kelly. Charlotte’s parents took her straight to A&E where she started to have seizures.  She spent 10 days in hospital and was tested for meningitis and stroke.  She was then discharged home with antibiotics. However a month later doctors rang Charlotte’s parents to tell them that test had revealed she had encephalitis and needed to return to the hospital.  Charlotte missed 20 weeks of school and had over 166 bags of intravenous antibiotics over that time.
It was a shock to see how quickly she deteriorated. Just the night before she had been getting glowing reports from teachers at parents’ evening and the next thing you know, she didn’t know where she was."Kelly, Charlotte's Mum
She went on to say 'She had just started coming out of her shell at school before she got ill and she’s been quiet and anxious ever since. She hasn’t really wanted to talk about it much while her memory is slowly coming back. I think she is trying to understand what has happened to her and wants to get more involved.’

Charlotte’s video

Charlotte has created the following video which has been shared nearly 1000 times to help build awareness of encephalitis.
'I just wanted to spread awareness of encephalitis, not many people know about it, not even my parents. It’s very rare and there is not much information about it out there.'
I just wanted people to know that it’s a serious and rare brain infection that can be fatal or life-changing."Charlotte
'I missed my friends and dance and drama lessons and just the whole routine of getting up and going to school - it’s been a boring 20 weeks. 'Hospital gets boring especially when I started to feel better and just wanted to go home, but I was on three IV antibiotic drips-a-day so had to stay in, I was allowed day leave occasionally which was nice but the thought of going back in filled me with dread. 'I will try to raise more awareness the stronger and more confident I get.'

Know the symptoms of encephalitis

There are around 4,000 cases of encephalitis in the UK each year, 10% are fatal so it is crucial to know the symptoms. This information comes from the NHS choices website here. The symptoms of encephalitis are initially mild, but they can quickly become more serious. Encephalitis usually begins with flu-like symptoms, such as:
  • high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • headache 
  • nausea and vomiting
  • joint pain
After this initial stage, more serious symptoms can begin to develop within hours or days, which may include:
  • changes in mental state, such as confusion, drowsiness or disorientation
  • seizures (fits)
  • changes in personality and behaviour
  • loss of consciousness
Flu-like symptoms that rapidly get worse and affect a person's mental state should be treated as a medical emergency. Dial 999 immediately to request an ambulance. Other symptoms of encephalitis can include:
  • sensitivity to bright lights (photophobia)
  • inability to speak
  • inability to control physical movements
  • stiff neck
  • hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren't there)
  • loss of sensation in certain parts of the body
  • partial or total vision loss
  • involuntary eye movements, such as side-to-side eye movement
A rash may develop if the infection is caused by a particular virus. For example, if the herpes simplex virus is responsible for the infection, you may have the characteristic blisters on your skin, eyes or mouth.

Finding out more about encephalitis

Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of The Encephalitis Society, said: 'Having survivors such as Charlotte come forward to show the human side of this "hidden disability" can only be a good thing for informing the public about encephalitis.
We have a long way to go to make the public and some health professionals aware of a condition which affects more people than Motor Neurone Disease and some forms of meningitis and yet remains less well known"Dr Ava Easton
'The sad fact is that not many people have heard of encephalitis unless it has happened to them, a family member or friend.  'We want to change that and with the help of Charlotte and others who bravely share their stories, we are confident we will.' Visit the Encephalitis Society to find out more here.
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