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Newham Hospital and Royal London clinicians praised after teen’s ‘miracle’ recovery from rare condition

PUBLISHED: 07:59 24 August 2020

Georgia, 16, was diagnosed with a rare condition called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Picture: Barts Health

Georgia, 16, was diagnosed with a rare condition called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Picture: Barts Health

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A family has praised staff at Newham and Royal London hospitals for the “miracle” recovery of their teenage daughter following an extraordinary diagnosis.

The Gomes Pozzebon family. Picture: Barts HealthThe Gomes Pozzebon family. Picture: Barts Health

The Gomes Pozzebon family never imagined what was to come when Georgia, 16, started hearing voices.

Barts Health clinicians later identified a rare condition as the physical cause of her symptoms and managed to cure her psychosis during a complicated surgical procedure.

“I will forever be grateful to the team that looked after my daughter for such a long time and made this miracle possible,” Georgia’s father Dirceu Pozzebon said.

The remarkable ordeal began when Georgia was taken a hospital to be assessed by a psychiatrist.

The Gomes Pozzebon family. Picture: Barts HealthThe Gomes Pozzebon family. Picture: Barts Health

She experienced a psychotic episode during the first 10 days there and needed constant supervision.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) decided Georgia required sectioning - a legislation that allows a patient to be kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

She was then taken to the Coborn Centre for adolescent mental health at Newham Hospital and treated primarily for psychosis.

Mr Pozzebon said: “The days passed, and she became more and more unwell, she presented with extreme psychotic symptoms and was very distressed.

“The consultant psychiatrist tried many different combinations of antipsychotic medication, but nothing ever changed Georgia’s state”.

When Georgia didn’t respond to a range of treatment, the Coborn team suspected there could be an underlying physical reason, so they sent off a blood sample for further analysis.

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To the family’s surprise, it came back with a positive result for anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

This rare condition occurs when antibodies produced by the body’s own immune system attack NMDA receptors, which are proteins that control electrical impulses in the brain.

Their functions are critical for judgement, perception of reality, human interaction, memory and the control of autonomic functions, such as breathing.

Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is linked to common ovarian cysts (teratomas), which can contain brain tissue and can come under attack from the immune system.

The condition is particularly common among young adults and children, and females are around four times more likely to be affected than males.

After her diagnosis, Georgia was transferred to The Royal London Hospital where an MRI scan was organised to check for a tumour.

Georgia was rushed into surgery and a teratoma tumour was found.

Barts Health gynaecologist Elizabeth Ball said: “Finding the small pea sized teratoma during surgery was like finding a needle in a haystack, but when we saw how well she was the day after, we knew our efforts were worthwhile.”

The tumour, which proved to be non-malignant, was removed and Georgia improved rapidly.

Mr Pozzebon said: “Georgia went from being really unwell but was then given the second session of steroids and in less than 24 hours, my daughter popped back into the real world.

“The first question Georgia asked me was, what date it was and where had she been since January 1, when she started to feel unwell.

“It was like a miracle.”


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