Warning to readers. This is a story of 56 years of a “mistaken identity.” A miracle, if I may proclaim it. In this fourth issue of a series on “success post encephalitis,” you might find yourself amazed by the resilience of the human spirit.
In November 2011, I had the momentous occasion to meet Carol Sues at an encephalitis survivor/caregiver conference. She was 58 at the time. It had been 56 years since being stricken by encephalitis, a brain injury. She fought seizures, mostly depended on a wheelchair or walker, spoke in 2-word phrases, lived in a group home and relied heavily on her sister to complete her thoughts while she anxiously shuffled postcards. I sought to understand her, but admittedly was too early in my own post-encephalitis journey to know how to bond with others in a way that held meaning.
Something I learned about Carol that year was that despite being a thriving toddler, encephalitis compromised her abilities, including balance, speech, expression and mobility. Doctors offered little hope after her illness, concluding, “She’ll never walk, talk or be independent. Might as well put her in an institution.” That was 1955.
Carol wasn’t allowed to go to public school. Continue reading