A FENLAND woman has spent the weekend celebrating with her family after being discharged from hospital 14 months after a mystery illness left her fighting for life and in a coma.
Doctors are still mystified as to exactly what caused 20-year-old Rachel Humphrey to collapse at the family home in December 2009 causing her to have so many seizures the only way to treat her was to put her in a medically induced coma.
Her frantic parents Peter and Kim Humphrey and her older sister Grace were warned to expect the worse as top consultants at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge battled to diagnose Rachel’s illness.
Peter, who is well-known in the area as a director of his own architects firm, and Kim spent five months camped at her bedside as Rachel battled for life.
Speaking from the family’s converted-barn home in Wisbech Kim explained Rachel’s illness started as what seemed like a cold during a visit home from De Montfort University at Leicester.
The family are avid Ipswich Town fans and Rachel had come home to go to the match with her parents on December 12.
“She complained she was getting a bit of a cold, but didn’t really think anything of it and she went back to Leicester after the game.
“On the Sunday she rang to say she was feeling worse and thought she had flu and she asked us to go and bring her home,” explained Kim.
Once home Rachel’s condition didn’t seem to get any worse and as Swine flu was prevalent at the time the family put her symptoms down to that after checking the NHS website.
“We were due to host a big meal on the Thursday and although Rachel seemed to be a lot better I thought it would be wrong to invite people when we had Swine flu in the house, so I arranged to hold the dinner at my sister’s.
“I left Rachel while I went to help organise the table. I wasn’t gone long, but when I got back Rachel was trying to communicate with me, but couldn’t. I called an ambulance straight away and then Rachel started to have a seizure,” explained Kim.
Rachel was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn where she continued to have seizures. The medical staff couldn’t stop the seizures and the following day she was seen by a consultant neurologist from Addenbrooke’s Hospital, who immediately asked to have Rachel moved to the Cambridge hospital.
Rachel was admitted to the Neuro Critical Care Unit where she was put in the medically induced coma. Doctors took various samples in a bid to diagnose a cause of the Rachel’s collapse, but despite speaking to experts around the world including America they were unable to come up with anything.
Every so often throughout the months she was unconscious doctors tried to rouse her but each time she would start to have seizures again and they had to put her back into a coma.
“It was an absolute nightmare. We didn’t know what to expect and it was made harder because without a diagnosis it was impossible for the doctors to give us a prognosis. It was a case of trial and error with various medication,” explained Kim.
Eventually the medication started to work and Rachel was allowed to come round nearly four months after first being taken ill. She continued to have good and bad days but almost seven months after being admitted to hospital she was well enough to start rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
She has had to re-learn her motor skills including walking because being bed-ridden for so long had caused Rachel’s muscle to seize up.
Fortunately Rachel never lost the ability to speak and as a mad-keen Ipswich Town the first words she spoke after coming round was the football club’s name.
When she started to learn to write again the first words she wrote were Ipswich Town and one of her first visits home saw her off to watch her team play and she has been following the side’s ups and downs using an Ipad during her time in the rehabilitation unit at Addenbrooke’s.
Rachel has been home for weekends since November and was due to be home for Christmas but she had a set back and spent the festive period back in hospital.
But on Friday Rachel was finally allowed home. She still has a long way to go for a full recovery, but she is making progress daily.
Her main problem is her memory, which at the moment is sometimes missing but the drugs she is having to take can affect this.
She will continue with physiotherapy and will have follow up appointments with her consultant to ensure her recovery stays on track.
“It has been a terrible time for us all, but we are absolutely delighted to have Rachel home and we can’t praise the Neuro Critical Care Unit and the rehabilitation ward at Addebrooke’s enough.
“They have been brilliant and have supported us and Rachel the whole time, they are fantastic,” said Kim.
Rachel is obviously delighted to be home and said the worst part of her hospital stay was the food, she can’t actually remember being ill.