Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis Can be Confused for a Stroke


Thirty-year-old Brendan O’Reilly was told that his rare disease affects only one person in 250,000. He was also told that he is lucky to be alive.

Brendan’s symptoms confused his doctors at first. They began with balance problems, loss of function of his hands, and problems speaking. His condition worsened to the extent that he was rushed to the Ipswich Hospital in Queensland, northeastern Australia on January 31st.

His brother, Dan O’Reilly, described Brendan’s condition as rapidly deteriorating. By the second week in the hospital, his left side was completely paralyzed.

Marie O’Reilly Brendan’s mother spoke with the Daily Mail after he was put into intensive care. According to his mother, his doctors sent his medical records to several hospitals hoping that they could find a specialist who was familiar with his condition.

Marie said that the doctors told the family that Brendan could have a brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, or cancer.

Three weeks later, in February 2023, after the doctors performed a brain biopsy, Brendan was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). The disease causes an intense attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord resulting in damage to nerve fibers and paralysis.

The Long Road to Recovery

Brendan’s recovery has been slow. He has been in intensive care for months.

Brendan had lost the ability to speak but Marie said that his speech returned after five days of plasma exchange. There is minimal improvement so far on his left side. He is able to stand and is beginning to walk again.

Brendan is expected to fully recover and be able to return to his job as a “trucky” sometime within the next two years.

Setting Up a GoFund Me

Brendan’s brother, Dan O’Reilly, is hoping to raise money to support Brendan’s children during his recovery by setting up a GoFundMe. Dan’s message to everyone is that Brendan will be in the hospital for “many months to come.” He is slowly recovering with the help of physiotherapy, yet it will be a while before he is able to return to work and support his son, age 7, and daughter, age 3.

Brendan’s family has raised $12,297 with a goal of $30.000. The local rugby league has organized a raffle that will also help Brendan and his young family with his ever-increasing medical bills.

About ADEM

Although the cause of ADEM is still unclear, symptoms are often noticeable after a bacterial or viral infection. The majority of ADEM patients begin to recover after the start of treatment and fully recover within six months showing no permanent injury to the spinal cord or nerves.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email