Brave Encephalitis Victim Helps Raise Awareness Of Condition

Expert Lawyers Praise Katie Chadwick On World Encephalitis Day


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

The family of a young woman who was struck down with a life-threatening strain of encephalitis have spoken of her on-going battle to recover, to help raise awareness of World Encephalitis Day.

Brave Katie Chadwick spent over 100 days in a coma in critical care in hospital after contracting Encephalitis, an illness which causes inflammation of the brain and attacks the body’s immune system.

After spending months in a coma, with medics unable to say if she would ever recover, the 24-year-old has defied the odds by learning to walk, talk and read again.

Inspirational Katie now hopes to raise awareness about the rare illness, which affects 4,000 people in the UK each year, by telling others of her ordeal on World Encephalitis Day, on Monday 22nd February.

Katie’s ordeal began in October 2014, when aged 22, she began feeling ill, with a headache and sore throat, just before heading off to Spain on holiday.

Her mum Leisa Chadwick, 49, a conveyancing executive, who lives in Colne, Lancashire, with her husband Paul, 49, a farmer, and younger daughter Emilie, aged 13, said: “She complained of a sore throat and tiredness and I just thought she was run down. But when she came home it was apparent she was very unwell.

“She started saying that the left hand side of her body felt numb and that she had no feeling.  We’d see movement from her left arm and leg but she’d be convinced she wasn’t moving at all.

“Soon after she started having bouts of delirium, where she would react to situations totally out of character.”

Katie, who had formally studied dancing and singing at  The Hammond School in Chester, was seen at two hospitals and by a GP before being admitted to the Royal Preston Hospital.

Within two days of being admitted  to Royal Preston Katie, who played netball twice a week for a local netball league, was diagnosed with encephalitis and put into an induced coma to protect her brain from epileptic fits she was suffering.

Katie has now instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care she received as her family believe opportunities for an earlier diagnosis were missed.

Leisa said: “She was such an active healthy girl, but she kept being misdiagnosed and all the time she was getting worse. At Preston they diagnosed that she was suffering from autoimmune encephalitis. Initially her symptoms were even mistaken for a psychiatric illness, and she was placed on a psychiatric ward”

“They didn’t think she was going to pull through and we had no idea what her condition would be if she did. She was very, very poorly, we didn’t think she’d survive.”

Thankfully Katie turned a corner and gradually she began to regain feeling in her hands, then arms, head and legs and then started to focus and regain her sight.

“She has had to learn to do everything all over again, talking, reading and writing, feeding and dressing herself,” said Leisa. “They said her survival rate was very low, but she has survived and come through.

After spending nine months in hospital, Katie needed months of intensive rehabilitation to learn to function again.

Although she is no longer confined to a wheelchair, formerly sporty Katie still suffers from mobility problems, struggles to sleep and has lost a significant amount of weight.

She has been left with cognitive problems, such as difficulties with memory, concentration and ability to focus on one thing at a time.

As a result of damage to her vocal cords and the physical effects to her body through her illness Katie, who was auditioning for theatrical roles when she fell ill, is no longer able to sing or perform or play netball.

Sixteen months after her diagnosis she has undertook a phased return to work in December 2015, and has been cleared to drive again.

Although doctors have begun to reduce the amount of medication she is taking, Katie will have to take drugs to control her seizures for the rest of her life.

After experiencing the devastation the illness caused, Katie’s friends and family have raised over £12,000 for The Encephalitis Society, who have supported Katie and her family throughout her recovery.

Solicitor and personal injury expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell, Sarah Coles, is helping Katie investigate whether medics missed opportunities to diagnose her illness sooner, and has praised her bravery at speaking out to raise awareness of the condition.

Expert Opinion
"Katie is an amazing young woman whose life was completely taken over by Encephalitis. Her determination and continuing strength in overcoming the effects of this condition are remarkable.
“Over the years we have represented many clients who have suffered Encephalitis and have seen the devastating impact the condition can have on not only their lives but also their families and loved ones.

“We hope to spread the word about World Encephalitis Day and help raises awareness about The Encephalitis Society and the amazing work they do to help educate and support those who have been affected by this condition.”
Sarah Coles, Partner

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical misdiagnosis, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.