Today’s entry is a guest post contributed by my Dad, Joe Snyder. It really emphasizes how the effects of anti-NMDA reach far beyond the person whose body it inhabits. The disease is non-discriminatory and will terrorize anyone in its path. The heartbreaking difference between what my family experienced and what I lived is that they were fully cognizant while it was happening and will therefore forever have those moments seared into memory. I was blindly unaware of what I’d become.-ES
When Erica was about four years old, she became afraid of wolves. And it was easy to see why, since wolves played so prominently in some of the stories read to her. In retrospect, maybe not such a good idea at bedtime, but then I was a new parent and just learning the ropes. After finishing a wolf story, we would have the same conversation each time. She would ask rather anxiously: dad, are there any wolves where we live? No, I would say.
But she would be unconvinced at first. So I would start with the most logical and truthful explanation – an occasional wolf might visit the Black Hills proper, but would not likely venture into Rapid City where we lived. She still seemed doubtful, since that still left the door open to possibility. So then my second offer. The truth is, I would tell her, I have somewhat of a reputation among wolves; wolves fear me. They have posters with my picture on it saying, “Stay away from this guy!” So even if, for some crazy reason, a wolf did come to our door, I would open the door, they would see it was me, and they would run for the hills!
This always worked, and she would slide back under the covers, safe and sound. I remember walking out the door and blowing the smoke off my imaginary pistol finger. Bang. Another wolf slain. It was that easy. Erica’s troubles removed, and she’s off to whatever dreamland four-year-olds go to – probably the Care Bears were there back then, I’m guessing.
Flash ahead almost 30 years later to 2013. I am at a rehab facility watching through the safety of a video monitor as Erica rages up and down the hall. An entire section of this wing has been given over to her insanity. And now I watch as she slams her body against doors that won’t open and curses people who aren’t there, including the doctors who are trying to save her. She seems completely lost to me and to herself. She has been living in and out of restraints for weeks, assaulting nurses if they’re not careful, hallucinating, trying to move people and objects with her mind – a mind that was once so sharp, so witty and alive. Now look at her.
But hope does remain. In the past week, the doctors finally offered an official prognosis of Erica’s condition and how it might be treated, and they are working feverishly to bring her back. And there are those intermittent times of lucidity, when the brain swelling goes down, she finds herself again, and she cries softly and asks for the umpteenth time — because her memory keeps being erased – what’s happening to her, why is she here in the hospital? And she pleads for me as her dad, to help her.
I am completely helpless — and exhausted too, of course. I begin to beat myself up, since there are no wolves around to do me this service. So. Your old imaginary pistol finger works pretty well against wolves, I guess, but it shoot blanks at NMDA encephalitis, isn’t that it? Pretty lame. What kind of a dad am I? All I can do is watch her through the monitor when she takes a violent trip to Wonderland, hold her during those times when she comes back, and numbly pose the same questions to an endless line of doctors, pace the halls, drink coffee and look anxious and stupid. If only I could take her place and spare her this. If only I could…appoint myself as Bad Boy of Wolf World once again! Yes! I would just open the door on this hideous disease and it would see that it was me, Erica’s dad, and it would run for the hills! Everything fixed. Night, night. Dude, who’s seeing wolves now? Get a grip. Hey, it’s my hallucination, and I’ll cry if I want to.