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Marta Huertas explains how she overcame it

Marta Huertas is a clear example of overcoming. The girl, who now faces her life normally, has managed to overcome herpetic and post-herpetic encephalitis thanks to advances in science. The documentary ‘Mirar a la por’ tells his story.

The herpetic encephalitis it’s a rare disease (with an annual incidence of one case per 250,000-500,000 inhabitants in industrialized countries) which is commemorated worldwide on February 22.

But it is even more infrequent, unusual and serious postherpetic autoimmune encephalitis, an associated disorder that appears later in approximately one 25% of these cases.

This was precisely the tessitura of Marta Huertasa young woman from Oriola (Alicante) who, after six years of suffering, since 2016, has successfully overcome the disease and its subsequent complication, which she herself describes as “two diseases that have devastated her life and that of all the people around him”.

Now, his story is coming to light thanks to a documentary produced by Eucalyptus. ‘Look at the fear’ it covers the entire evolution of the young woman, from the diagnosis and treatment to the successful overcoming of the disease.

The documentary has the social endorsement of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) and with the scientific endorsement of the Spanish Society of Pediatric Neurology (SENEP)and claims the lack of resources and the necessary investment in science and research in Spain.

The day that shook Marta’s life

At just 12 years old, Marta Huertas went to the Emergency Department on Friday, April 9, 2016 with seizures. A day that without any doubt, neither she nor her family will be able to erase from their minds, as it marked their lives forever.

After several weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and numerous tests, Marta is diagnosed with herpetic encephalitis, a inflammation of the brain caused by an extremely serious and deadly infection.

From that moment on, the young woman began to follow an aggressive treatment which, however, did not completely control many symptoms.

“After an initial 21-day treatment, Marta comes home better, but with erratic behavior and some strange quirks,” he explains Fuensanta Gil, mother the patient

And since then, Marta was no longer the same.

“She was very sad and depressed, and with a considerable increase in psychiatric disorders, behavioral disturbances and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCDs),” reports the mother.

A new relapse

Due to the numerous symptoms she was experiencing, Marta had to be admitted again. A very hard stage in both his life and that of his parents and sister.

For Alba HuertasMarta’s sister, the situation was particularly hard, as she felt abandoned by the people who had always taken care of her.

Marta Huertas herpetic encephalitis
Image of Marta Huertas taken from the documentary

The light at the end of the tunnel

The first encephalitis that Marta suffered caused him significant cognitive sequelaewith the presence of brain damage that occurred to him alterations in memoryto the attention span and the executive function (organize, plan, inhibition).

In addition, physical and cognitive alterations continued to occur with significant behavioral disorders, as well as a regression of their abilities. A reality they did not understand.

But that the doctor Josep Dalmau, neurologist and ICREA researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS) at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelonahe unraveled, giving Marta’s parents the answers they needed.

“Being able to contact and receive a response from the researcher who had discovered this type of disease was like winning the lottery,” he explains Kiko Huertas, Marta’s father

An expert in neuro-oncology, paraneoplastic syndromes and autoimmune encephalitis, Dr. Dalmau has discovered ten autoimmune diseases, called autoimmune encephalopathies, mediated by antibodies against brain proteins and receptors, including encephalitis due to antibodies against the NMDA receptor, according to the .

Marta was then sent to this maternal and child hospital in Barcelona after numerous medical visits and interventions, where her case could be oriented towards a new therapeutic approach.

“After the first session of the new treatment, Marta was already a different girl”, remembers her mother excitedly.

The importance of research

As the experts explain in the documentary, “from cases like Marta’s, the focus was put on the percentage of patients (especially children) with herpetic encephalitis who, despite having overcome the initial viral infection, experience a ‘ second symptomatic wave’, which resembles the disorders documented during the initial wave of symptoms caused by the primary virus but, however, this virus is no longer present in the body (it has been eliminated)”.

Thanks to this finding, it was possible to understand the case of Marta i develop treatments that mitigate and control the effects of the second wave of symptoms, “which is really not simple”, admits the researcher.

The doctor Thaís Armangué, researcher at IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic in Barcelona and head of Neuroimmunology at Hospital Sant Joan de Déudetails that “Marta’s immune system, trying to fight the virus, had promoted a response against her own brain”.

In this way, “he developed antibodies against the NMDA receptorgiving rise to a postherpetic autoimmune encephalitis”, he adds.

This was the key reason why Marta was behaviorally impaired, unable to utter a sentence or understand simple commands, as well as being totally dependent.

Thanks to Marta’s story, important advances have been made in postherpetic autoimmune encephalitis, but more research is still required.

“It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” concludes the doctor.

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