Practice A Patient’s Journey

Herpes simplex virus encephalitis

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 13 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3630
  1. Raymond Egdell, patient’s father1,
  2. Darren Egdell, patient 2,
  3. Tom Solomon, professor of neurological science 3, director4
  1. 1Worsley, UK
  2. 2Leigh, UK
  3. 3Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool L9 7LJ, UK
  4. 4Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7BE
  1. Correspondence to: T Solomon tsolomon{at}
  • Accepted 15 May 2012

Darren Egdell developed herpes simplex virus encephalitis 10 years ago, aged 31. He and his father, Raymond, look back at the initial illness and describe his remarkable progress

Raymond—the patient’s father

When Darren first became ill, the doctor diagnosed flu; and all the symptoms pointed to flu. It was only two days later, when he woke one morning mumbling and incomprehensible, that his mum and I realised there was more to it than flu. We phoned an ambulance straight away.

A young doctor rushed into the accident and emergency department, and I feared the worst. He said it was either meningitis, a growth on the brain, or encephalitis. I didn’t want to think about meningitis or a growth on the brain, and I’d never heard of encephalitis before, so I told him that if I could choose, I would have that. But he told me that was the last one I should pick, because it was the worst. Fortunately it didn’t take long for the doctors to reach a diagnosis and start the treatment with aciclovir. They saved Darren’s life. Without a diagnosis and treatment at that point, they would not have been able to do anything for him.

He was in hospital for about six weeks. We were there all day, every day. But it was hard. For a couple of weeks we didn’t know whether he would survive or not; but even when he did, nobody told us what sort of person we would be taking home from the hospital. When he came round, he didn’t know who we were. And bizarrely, he couldn’t speak any English at first, only French. He had done French at university and spoken it fluently. But his mum and I don’t speak French so it was impossible to converse with him. We had to have …

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