Dick’s Story: Limbic Encephalitis

elderly man poses for pictureDick was enjoying his retirement as a full-time volunteer at Crayons to Computers when his memory began to go awry. He told his granddaughter that his car was due for an oil change, when he had just had the oil changed a few weeks earlier. After a neighbor borrowed his car, he had no recollection of her doing so. “I was acting funny, but I didn’t realize I was acting funny,” Dick recalls.

Then, while out with friends one evening, he lifted a glass of water to his mouth and heard it land with a crash on the table. By now, his friends were worried. Some began praying for this kind, energetic widower with a penchant for plaid shirts. One friend thought Dick had suffered a mild stroke, while Dick was certain that he had a brain tumor.

Eager to solve the mystery, Dick made an appointment at the UC Brain Tumor Center, where a specialist carefully reviewed his medical history and progressing forgetfulness. The specialist quickly ruled out the possibility of a brain tumor and, determining that Dick was suffering from a complex cognitive problem, referred him to a neurologist at the UC Memory Disorders Center. Dick underwent neuropsychological testing, and an MRI was quickly performed.

The news was good. Dick’s forgetfulness was caused by a treatable condition called limbic encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain triggered by exposure to an antibody in his blood. Dick began taking two medications and continued his visits with the neurologist.

Over time, his memory returned to full capacity. “During my visits, my doctor always gave me some words to repeat,” Dick says. “On my last official visit, he said, What day is it today? And I said, It’s Sept. 21, the day I get my driver’s license back.” Case closed.

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