The mother suffered from delusional symptoms when her immune system attacked her brain

One mother in three had to be taken to a psychiatric hospital when a tumor in her ovary caused a condition in her brain that made her hallucinated and violent.

Lorina Gutierrez, 39, suffered from attacks, her heart stopped and she lost the ability to walk, talk and eat alone because of the rare disease.

Her doctors thought she was having a nervous breakdown and her husband, Stephen, 42, had even sprayed her water because she thought she was possessed.

But the real culprit was a rare swelling of the brain called autoimmune encephalitis, triggered by a tremendous growth on one of its ovaries.

Lorina Gutierrez, 39, suffered from hallucinations, convulsions and violent behavior because of her immune system that attacked her brain, a condition triggered by a tumor to the ovaries

Mrs. Gutierrez's husband, Stephen, 42, said that his wife acted as if possessed by an evil spirit, becoming paranoid with cameras in the couple's house and also trying to punch Gutierrez during the his psychiatric evaluation

Mr. Gutierrez, a truck driver, said, "I was so scared, it was like being possessed, and the night after we got home from the emergency room, we got up all night.

"He could not sleep and was just talking nonsense. He kept saying," We have to get out of here, we have to leave. "

"He kept getting up and trying to get out of the house.

"The next morning I took her to her doctor, who asked me if she had drunk or used drugs."

The couple, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is made up of parents of Jonathan, 25, Matthew, 19 and Alyssa, 16, and is now determined to raise awareness about the condition.

Autoimmune encephalitis is a serious disease in which the body's immune system reacts excessively – in this case to Mrs. Gutierrez's tumor – and attacks someone's brain.

It can cause convulsions, difficulty in movement or communication, psychosis, aggression and panic attacks.

According to the International Encephalitis Society, the condition affects about 90,000 people worldwide each year.

The spouses Gutierrez and their doctors were baffled by his sudden change of character, which made her paranoid and there were cameras in her house.

He said: "They believed I was having a nervous breakdown even though I did not have a history of mental health problems.

& # 39; In the course of a few days, my husband said that my attitude has completely changed.

"I can not remember it, but he said I was scaring and I was worried that there were cameras at home.

"I told him we had to unplug them, I kept trying to get away and leave the house."

Ms. Gutierrez's condition was triggered by a huge six-by-six-inch (15 cm) tumor that had grown on one of her ovaries. After the tumor has been removed, doctors have eliminated harmful immune cells from his body using the blood filter and steroids

Mrs. Gutierrez (pictured before her ordeal) said she did not remember much of her treatment, but now she is doing her mission to raise awareness of autoimmune encephalitis


Autoimmune encephalitis is a serious medical condition in which the immune system attacks the brain, compromising its functionality.

It is caused by a problem with the immune system (the body's natural defense against infections).

The immune system exchanges healthy tissue in the brain as a threat and attacks it, causing the brain to ignite and swell.

The body produces antibodies that attack NMDA receptors in the brain, which are proteins that cause electrical impulses.

Their functioning is necessary for judgment, perception of reality, human interaction, memory and control of unconscious activities such as breathing and swallowing.

It is not always clear why the immune system malfunctions this way.

Some cases of autoimmune encephalitis are caused by the fact that the immune system reacts to the presence of a tumor (abnormal growth) within the body.

The main symptoms are similar to the flu, but people also develop memory loss, difficulty sleeping and may become unable to communicate or speak in a coherent manner.

They could become confused, have hallucinations or exhibit strange behavior.

Other symptoms include convulsions, loss of consciousness and movement disorders.

Source: The Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis foundation

The situation reached the point of crisis when she tried to punch her husband during a medical examination, and the doctors decided to send her to a psychiatric unit.

"The doctors thought it could be depression or nervous breakdown and I trusted that," said Gutierrez.

"During his psychiatric consultation he struck me and we had to restrain her, he was so out of character.

"It was then that she was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, and at some point I threw her some holy water."

Comparing his wife's terrifying behavior to the 1973 horror film, The Exorcist, he joked: "Later, my family told me they would not be surprised if his head had started spinning after I'd done it. . "

While in the psychiatric hospital the doctors realized that Ms. Gutierrez's symptoms were caused by her immune system that attacked her brain.

And it was then that they found a six-by-six-inch (15 cm) tumor on one of her ovaries.

Autoimmune encephalitis can occur as a result of growths because the body produces antibodies to fight the tumor, but they overreact and influence the brain.

At this point Ms. Gutierrez was experiencing six seizures a day while the doctors removed the tumor and tried to free the body from dangerous antibodies using a process called plasmapheresis – filtering of the blood – and heavy steroids.

Mrs. Gutierrez said: "During my stay at the hospital I coded in blue and they had to revive me.

"I lost all the functions, the ability to walk, talk, eat or even go to the bathroom alone. I was a 39-year-old woman who wore diapers for adults.

"Over the course of three months I have undergone language therapy, both physical and occupational, but I do not remember much of it.

"At the moment I am in remission but I could fall at any moment. It is not curable, it is only treatable. It has affected my whole life. It was an extremely traumatic experience. "

Ms. Gutierrez, who needed language therapy, both physical and occupational, said she can not be cured of the condition, which causes swelling in the brain, and fears she can return at any time

Despite the trauma of her illness, Ms. Gutierrez believes her faith has helped her stay positive.

And she and her husband are now dedicated to raising awareness on autoimmune encephalitis.

Despite the trauma of her illness, Lorina believes her faith has helped her stay positive.

He said: "I am a survivor and I really feel I can help others with experience and information." Now I know this is my purpose. "

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