Jennifer Brea – TRANSCRIPT
Hi. Thank you. [Jennifer Brea is sound-sensitive. The live audience was asked to applaud ASL-style, in silence]
So, five years ago, this was me. I was a PhD student at Harvard, and I loved to travel. I had just gotten engaged to marry the love of my life.
I was 28, and like so many of us when we are in good health, I felt like I was invincible. Then one day I had a fever of 1047 degrees. I probably should have gone to the doctor, but I’d never really been sick in my life, and I knew that usually, if you have a virus, you stay home and you make some chicken soup, and in a few days, everything will be fine. But this time it wasn’t fine.
After the fever broke, for three weeks I was so dizzy, I couldn’t leave my house. I would walk straight into door frames. I had to hug the walls just to make it to the bathroom. That spring I got infection after infection, and every time I went to the doctor, he said there was absolutely nothing wrong. He had his laboratory tests, which always came back normal.
All I had were my symptoms, which I could describe, but no one else can see I know it sounds silly, but you have to find a way to explain things like this to yourself, and so I thought maybe I was just aging. Maybe this is what it’s like to be on the other side of 25. Then the neurological symptoms started. Sometimes I would find that I couldn’t draw the right side of a circle.
Other times I wouldn’t be able to speak or move at all. I saw every kind of specialist: infectious disease doctors, dermatologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists. I even saw a psychiatrist. My psychiatrist said, “It’s clear you’re really sick, but not with anything psychiatric. I hope they can find out what’s wrong with you.”