20-yr-old Indian girl diagnosed with rare disease in UAE

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At present, she is in no condition to travel.

When her older daughter was married off, 40-year-old single mum Bindu Lalitha felt relaxed. An employee at a tailoring shop, Lalitha had been struggling hard to raise two kids after her husband abandoned them.

But, Lalitha's life was turned upside down when her 20-year-old daughter, Neethu Shaji Panikker, was diagnosed with a rare medical disorder - autoimmune encephalitis - in March, while she was visiting the UAE. The disease refer to a group of conditions that occur when the immune system attacks healthy brain cells, leading to inflammation of the brain. "We were told by doctors that people with autoimmune encephalitis may have various neurologic and psychiatric symptoms. My daughter has all such symptoms," said Lalitha.

"I worked odd, menial jobs to raise my kids after coming to the UAE 10 years ago. My daughter was married in December last year to Jithin, who works in Sharjah. She came to the UAE on a visit visa in late January and got ill by March 17," Lalitha told Khaleej Times.

Neethu was referred to the Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Abu Dhabi as her condition worsened. By March 27, Neethu was on ventilator and has been there ever since.

"The doctors at the hospital have done so much for us. I can never stop thanking them. How much I thank them, it will not be enough," said a grateful Lalitha.

At present, Neethu is in no condition to travel. However, Lalitha hopes to take her daughter back home to India to provide her with care. "The hospital has provided us with counselling on how to care for her after discharge," said Lalitha.

Treatment for autoimmune encephalitis may involve intravenous immunosuppressive therapy and tumour removal when necessary. Early treatment decreases the likelihood of long-term complications, speedy recovery and reduce the risk of recurrence.

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What is autoimmune encephalitis

Autoimmune encephalitis is a rare medical disorder. According to medical reports, neurologic symptoms of the condition include impaired memory and cognition, abnormal movements, seizures, and problems with balance, speech or vision.

The disorder also shows psychiatric symptoms including psychosis, aggression, inappropriate sexual behaviours, panic attacks, compulsive behaviours, euphoria or fear. Symptoms may fluctuate, but often progress over days to a few weeks, and can eventually lead to loss of consciousness or even coma.

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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