We acted for Tom (not his real name) who suffered encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) caused by the herpes simplex virus - Herpes Simplex Encephalitis (HSE) - when he was three weeks of age.
Tom is now 21 years old. He is very sociable and has a great sense of humour. He enjoys music, drama and horse riding. He loves holidays!
However, his encephalitis has left him with permanent brain damage. He suffers from epilepsy. He cannot walk and does not have full use of both of his arms and hands. He requires 24 hour care because he needs help with everyday activities such as eating and getting dressed. He has learning disabilities. He can understand you and talk, but because of the effect of the brain damage on his speech he is difficult to understand if you don't know him. He often uses a computer to communicate. As a result of the brain damage caused by encephalitis he will never be able to live independently.
Tom received treatment for encephalitis, but late. With prompt medical treatment just 24 hours earlier independent medical experts tell us Tom would have avoided much of his brain damage. He would have at least been able to walk, communicate without assistance and he would have been independent with just some help with specific tasks, instead of being reliant on others.
In Tom's case the first sign something was wrong was when his mother noticed he was sleeping for an unusually long time and when he woke he 'startled' slightly.
Tom's mother acted quickly- she took him to A&E at the Royal London Hospital.
However, unfortunately Tom did not receive immediate treatment. His condition was allowed to deteriorate. He became lethargic and started to suffer an increasing number of fits affecting more parts of his body. He stopped taking milk, and became unrousable. By the time he was treated 48 hours after admission he had suffered irreversible brain damage.
'Tom's case demonstrates the importance of spotting the signs of encephalitis early and getting treatment promptly. Tom's life could be very different now if the hospital staff had recognised the early concerning signs he was displaying and given him treatment.
It is because of our clients like Tom we are supporting The Encephalitis Society and World Encephalitis Day. Increased awareness of symptoms will lead to earlier suspicion, diagnosis and treatment of encephalitis, and we will hopefully see less clients like Tom, who have been left severely permanently disabled as a result of this terrible disease'.