Mattoon Woman Speaks Out About Her Rare Autoimmune Disease

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Mattoon -

It's a rare autoimmune disease where one day you're fine, and the next day you feel like you're going crazy. A 25-year-old Mattoon woman experienced the disease first hand over the summer and is now sharing her story to encourage others.

The disease is called Anti NMDA Receptor Encephalitis, which is a rare autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the brain. One day you can feel perfectly fine, and the next have paranoia, seizures, and hallucinate.

Thursday marks one week since Kira Hartley's homecoming, after being in the hospital for three months.

"I didn't want them to think I was crazy and that I needed to go to a mental ward," recalls Hartley.

It all started in June when Hartley's fiancé, Brock Runner, noticed Hartley acting out of the norm.

"She started saying off-the-wall things, started laughing uncontrollably, and at that point I took her to the hospital again. I knew something was not right and wanted to figure out what was going on," explains Runner.

Hartley had three trips to the ER in less than 24 hours before transferring to Carle Hospital in Champaign. That's where she was officially diagnosed.

"I had a lot of memory loss in that time period. I had a lot of way-out-there visions, like I would see ghosts and phantoms," says Hartley.

Hartley says she also acted out violently, throwing tantrums and kicking and punching at nurses and doctors. She says she doesn't really remember doing so, but was told that it's a typical symptom of the disease.

"She had formed a basketball sized teratoma on her right ovary," says Runner. "It started secreting an antibody and her immune system started attacking the source of the infection. The teratoma has tissue similar to that of a brain, so her immune system turned on her brain and started attacking it."

After months of not feeling like herself, Hartley's glad to finally be home, spending time with her fiancé, along with getting back to her favorite hobby, couponing.

The disease changed the lives of Hartley and Runner. Now they just want Hartley to get stronger so they can focus on planning their wedding.

"The next goal is deciding on a new date," says Runner.

As for Hartley, she says she looks at life in a new light. "Before I didn't appreciate life as much, but now that I'm overcoming this disease, I've got a whole different outlook on life. I appreciate it a lot more."

The cause for the disease is unknown.

Hartley wants others going through similar circumstances to always keep fighting. Hartley's mom says if it wasn't for her team of doctors and nurses, she wouldn't be here today.

Hartley and her fiancé plan to get married sometime next spring or fall.

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