Teen’s Family Shares Her Story to Raise Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis Awareness


Throughout her life, Hallie Hale has always been drawn to dance. There was something equally challenging and relaxing, hypnotic and focused, about what she could achieve. Her parents knew her as an avid dancer and an active 13-year-old, so when they discovered Hallie seemingly unresponsive on the bathroom floor, they were terrified. What had happened to their daughter? In a story from Cafe Mom, this was the first event in a long series of diagnostic missteps and scary moments that ultimately culminated in Hallie’s diagnosis of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

When they first found Hallie in the bathroom, her parents called out to her, but there was no response. By the time the paramedics showed up at the home, Hallie’s face was drooping. Concerned about a potential stroke or other serious issue, the teen was airlifted to the hospital to undergo testing. Although Hallie was more responsive at the hospital, her behavior still seemed “off.” Paired with the fact that she had struggled with fine motor skills in the previous months, the doctor was concerned that something was going on with her brain. After an MRI showed a brain abnormality, Hallie was initially misdiagnosed with a rare and serious type of migraine called hemiplegic migraine.

But when Hallie remained disoriented, frustrated, and irritable, and didn’t seem to understand where she was even after returning home, her parents knew something else was going on. They had already called the doctor by the time the hallucinations set in. Additional brain scans were abnormal. Further testing, including a lumbar puncture, found that Hallie had anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Plasmapheresis and IVIG infusions helped Hallie begin to feel better, but she’s still in the recovery process. Hallie’s left side is weak, so she cannot return to dance right now. She can read and write but struggles with math. Her parents remain hopeful that, in the future, Hallie will continue getting stronger and improving.

If you would like to donate to the Hale family to assist with necessary expenses during treatment, you may donate here.

About Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis

First identified in 2007, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (anti-NMDAR encephalitis) is an autoimmune neurological disease in which your body creates autoantibodies that attack NMDA receptors in the brain. As a result, the brain swells, inhibiting signaling and causing a multitude of symptoms. Anti-NMDAR encephalitis is slightly more common in females than males. It is often more common in younger individuals as well. Up to 60% of individuals with this form of encephalitis also have some sort of benign tumor somewhere in their body. Symptoms relating to anti-NMDAR encephalitis may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Changes in mood, personality, or behavior, such as agitation, irritability, or aggression
  • Speech disorders
  • Autonomic dysfunction
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Movement disorders such as involuntary rhythmic movements
  • Confusion or short-term memory loss
  • Hallucinations and/or psychosis
  • Seizures

Learn more about anti-NMDAR encephalitis here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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