Paranoid young woman admitted to hospital until family realizes she really isn't crazy

Aug 30, 2018
10:51 A.M.

She had been a healthy, happy college student, until one day suddenly she wasn't, and the personality change came with a whole host of serious medical concerns.


Emily Gavigan was a sophomore at the University of Scranton in January 2009 when her family started to notice drastic changes in her usual happy-go-lucky attitude. Up until then, she had been active, had a boyfriend, and was on the Dean's list at university.

Almost overnight, she became completely paranoid, believing trucks were following her and that people were out to get her.

She checked herself into both the emergency room and a pyschiatric hospital, but no one could figure out what was causing the severe personality shift. Soon afterwards, her condition started to include physical ailments as well, and she became critical.


At that stage, doctors' only possible diagnosis was schizophrenia, and warned her parents that she would never finish college, and would never work.

Convinced it was a mental health disorder, doctors started to ply her with mood stabilizers and anti-depressants, and her condition only continued to worsen at an accelerated pace.

Then one morning her aunt called her father, Bill Gavigan, and told him she had watched the Today show, where a woman had spoken about her battle with a rare but very dangerous autoimmune disease.


"She said, 'I saw this incredible young woman named Susannah Cahalan on the Today show this morning, and she has this terrible disease that sounds exactly like what Emily's been going through," Bill said.

Doctors were skeptical of Bill's suggestion, and Emily continued to worsen. A year after she had first been admitted to hospital, she could no longer walk or talk. She developed a blood clot in her brain, and was in critical condition.

Bill remembered the article that Cahalan had written about her condition, and handed it to the doctor, begging him to test his daughter for the condition. Within an hour, she was being airlifted to the doctor who had treated Cahalan.


Emily's life was saved just in time by the life saving treatment for her condition, Anti-NMDAR Encephalitis.

In 2012, she appeared on the Today show with Cahalan, where she shared that she was about to graduate from university after having recovered completely and being able to return to school.

While most people want to forget such an awful time in their lives, Cahalan shared just how important it was for her to have shared her story, because if she hadn't, Emily wouldn't have been alive today.

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