Looking for Viral Brain Injury Expert

Terry W. Henderson terry.henderson at shepherd.net
Sun Sep 15 12:36:22 EST 1996

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your interest and empathy.  I hope I can answer your
questions adequately, as I am not an expert in this field but have only
learned what is relevant to my fathers condition at a level that I can

> From: Richard Kerr <kerrr at CRYPTIC.RCH.UNIMELB.EDU.AU>
> Newsgroups: bionet.neuroscience
> Subject: Re: Looking for Viral Brain Injury Expert
> Date: Thursday, September 12, 1996 5:44 PM
> At 19:14 12/09/96 GMT, you wrote:
> >I am searching for someone who has developed significant expertise in
> >field of viral infection induced brain injuries.  
> >
> >My interest in such a person is driven by a family tragedy.  My father,
> >otherwise healthy and vibrant man, was suddenly struck with a herpes
> >viral insephalitis (spelling?) and nearly died from the illness.  This
> >occurred a little less than two years ago.  
> >
> >He was a physically fit, intellegent and educated professional engineer
> >working in the Petroleum Industry in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  
> >
> >His recovery has been slow and difficult.  The lasting effects of the
> >illness are the nearly complete destruction of the temporal lobes and a
> >severe lack of short term memory.  The result is a nearly complete
> >inability to absorb new information, even though his long term memories
> >generally intact.
> This is very sad.
> what do you mean by "destruction" of the temporal lobes?
> Destruction of their function only? without alteration of their
> or a mass and chronic inflammation triggered by the body's immune
> to the herpes type virus.
> or the death of the neurons/glia/both.

What I have been told is that the viral infection actually killed neurons
in various parts of the brain, but concentrations were clearly higher in
the temporal lobes.  The MRI that I saw displayed cross sections of his
temporal lobes as nearly white in color.  As I understand it, neuron
density is indicated by relative darkness.  Few neurons in the temporal
lobes survived the infection.  

The secondary effect of the death of neurons is the release of toxins into
the brain from the dying neurons.  Most of his initial recovery was a
result of the steady elimination of these toxins, allowing the surviving
neurons to function more normally.

> If it is due to inflammation, then this may subside in time (yes, I
> acknowledge that the event was nearly two years ago) then again there may
> no improvement.  I don't know of a newsgroup that deals with this type of
> "injury' however, you may wish to contact your version of the A.M.A. and
> some points to virologists/?cognitive therapists.

A local organization, named Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain
Injured (ARBI) has been working with him for the past eight months or so. 
He has made slow steady improvemnet with his cognitive therapist.  The main
hurdle continues to be his inability to retain new information.  He is
still a very intellegent man, but one of his strongest assests was a nearly
photographic memory.  Oddly enough, the only new information he seems to be
able to retain is numeric.  He was always very good at remembering numbers
and he is now able to recall his room number.  However, he is convinced
that it is not his room anymore...
> For mine, your father is lucky to be alive, this type of viral infection
> potentially lethal......was your father under a lot of tension/stress as
> think this encephalitis usualy strikes the old and the

Your conclusion about stress seems accurate.  My father was only 49 years
old when the illness struck him, but his job was very stressfull.  He and
one other gentleman were in charge of all oil and gas well completions and
workovers for all of western Canada.  The two of them remained alternately
on call 24 hours a day for periods of two weeks at a time.  in addition,
the Oil industry has been very prone to downsizing over the last ten years
which made the workplace very uncomfortable.  On more than one occasion my
father and his partner were asked to decide who should be laid off from
their subordinates.  

Coincidentally - perhaps - my father's retired partner died of massive
heart failure within one year of early retirement.

Just the same, we as his family are glad that he survived the illness. 
Unfortunately, his quality of life is not great as he must remain in long
term care in a locked unit at a local hospital, as his lack of memory makes
him a danger to himself if left unsupervised.  If any family member should
become wealthy we would of course arrange for private care at home but that
is not a viable option at this time.  Our only hope is that some advance in
medicine will come along that might provide a method to regenerate his
temporal lobes to some degree.  He is still a physically healthy man of 50.
 He may well live another 30 years or more.  Hopefully research in this
area will provide assistance in the near future.

By the way, anyone doing research in this area requiring volunteers for
testing of new techniques or medications, we are willing as we have little
to lose.  Of course, we do not want to risk his longer term health or his
life, but any improvement in the functioning of his temporal lobes would be
very welcome.

> My wishes for his recovery.
> Richard

Thank you again for your post and your kind wishes.  Our best to you and
your family.

Terry Henderson

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