Scientists unlock man’s mystery disease that caused up to 60 seizures a day
ROCHESTER, Minn. — A Minnesota attorney with a brutal and unknown disease that caused him to suffer up to 60 seizures a day finally got the answer to what ailed him, thanks to a recent diagnosis by some of the world’s top medical professionals.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Greg Widseth, a lawyer in Crookston, Minn., was coaching his son’s ninth-grade basketball workout before a sudden and rare condition hit him, putting him in the hospital and forcing his wife to search for answers.
Widseth, who according to the Star-Tribune once had a photographic memory, said he remembered very little of what led up to the illness. He suffered what the Star-Tribune described as “lightning jolting in his brain.”
But his local neurologists couldn’t determine what was wrong with him, or how to treat him, after anti-seizure drugs failed, according to the report.
“They were like, ‘Well, it just happens,’” Widseth’s wife, Nan, told the Star-Tribune. “No, it doesn’t just happen,” she said.
His wife, a former emergency room nurse, looked to the Mayo Clinic for answers.
Mayo is a world leader in medical diagnoses and research. The clinic determined that Widseth, 47, was hit by a rare disease that prompted his immune system to attack his brain cells. The disease caused the man to suffer up to 60 seizures a day.
Widseth’s wife said her husband couldn’t even recognize her after the first few seizures.
Thanks to special blood and spinal fluid tests developed by Mayo Medical, researchers determined that Widseth had antibodies known to target certain brain cells.
Doctors gave Widseth a round of immunosuppressant drugs, which aim to suppress or reduce the strength of the body’s immune system.
In just four days, Widseth was feeling next to normal again.
“It was like a light switch was turned off,” Widseth said.
According to the Star-Tribune, people with illnesses similar to Widseth’s often have a fever before the onset of their illness, indicating they may have had an infection that set off their immune system.
However that wasn’t the case for Widseth, whose condition didn’t have a particular trigger point.
The Star-Tribune reports Widseth is now back at work. He said he sometimes suffers from memory lapses, but is combating those by putting more important things down in writing. It’s not yet know whether he will be completely in the clear.
“Relapse happens in about 25 percent of the cases — but that’s usually in the first year,” Widseth told the Star-Tribune. “I’m almost beyond that.”
While physicians were able to treat Widseth, his disease was never specifically identified.