GILBERT, AZ  (3TV/CBS 5) -- This year on World Encephalitis Day, the city of Gilbert lit its water tower red to raise awareness for the rare disease.

Reyna Felix, a 28 yr-old 911 dispatcher, found herself on the other end of the phone-line in April of last year.

"My co-workers said I was kind of crying and not acting like myself and then at about midnight I guess I collapsed out of my chair and went into a seizure."

Felix was taken to the emergency room and after an MRI and multiple tests, she was sent home undiagnosed. In the next 24hrs she would have two more seizures. Felix says this period was a blur, but family tells her, her behavior became more erratic.

Scrambling for answers one doctor suggested she was schizophrenic, and a nurse claimed it was COVID-19.

"Again, it just seemed like no one knew what was going on."

It took three weeks and at least six seizures before she was transferred to Barrow Neurological Institute where she was diagnosed with encephalitis, a disease that causes inflammation in the brain.

"Encephalitis is a broad category of conditions that can cause brain dysfunction and yes it can be misdiagnosed in its early stages," says Dr. Ram Narayan a Neurologist at Barrow Neurological Institute.

Narayan says it's important to know the signs. First, is there a sudden change in behavior? Like irritation or hallucinations. Another sign is a lack of alertness.

The disease is often caused by a viral infection, but for Felix it was an auto-immune attack.

Felix says if it wasn't for her family advocating on her behalf she doesn't know where she would be.

"It does have very high death rates from not getting treated properly and I was receiving medication for psych issues that were stopping my heart when that was unnecessary so I might not be talking to you today, but luckily I am."

For more information about encephalitis click here.


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