Norwich man reveals his ‘horrendous’ battle with rare autoimmune disease

Ross Buggins back at work after he recovered from a rare disease called NMDA receptor encephalitisPi

Ross Buggins back at work after he recovered from a rare disease called NMDA receptor encephalitisPicture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A Norwich man today told how he ended up in a mental health unit and attempted suicide because of a disease so rare it took months for doctors to diagnose.

Ross Buggins, from Earlham, began feeling unwell in June this year and visited the doctor with vomiting and rashes.

'They said it was a bug and gave me antibiotics,' he said.

Two days later the anxiety began.

'The depression became horrendous,' he said. 'It got worse and worse and ended with me trying to hang myself.'

In August, he headed off to Crete on holiday with his girlfriend to try to help his illness, but the trip ended on the A11 when he tried to climb out of the car on the way to the airport.

'I was so paranoid, I thought we were going to die in a plane crash,' he said.

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The police escorted him back to Norwich and his family decided to call the crisis team at Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).

On August 30 he was sectioned.

But Mr Buggins didn't have mental health problems. He had a disease called anti NMDA receptor encephalitis.

'It was a living hell,' he said.

The 30-year-old was taken to the Priory Hospital in Nottingham, as there were no beds in East Anglia. But he tried to escape and was moved to Cheadle Royal Hospital in Manchester.

On September 5, he was moved to a secure ward at Hellesdon Hospital where he spent seven weeks.

Back in Norwich, he was given more medication to treat his depression and anxiety.

'I don't remember a single thing,' he said. 'All I can go by is what family and friends have recorded. But, I was a mess.'

He eventually collapsed at Hellesdon as his sodium levels were so low from the amount of drugs he was taking.

Mr Buggins was transferred to the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital (N&N) for treatment.

It was there a doctor realised he may not have a psychological problem, but a neurological disease.

A sleep specialist at the hospital was curious that Mr Buggins kept dropping into coma-like sleeps during the day.

He carried out a blood test for anti NMDA receptor encephalitis.

It took three weeks for the results to come back, but they showed that he had the rare autoimmune condition which was only discovered in 2007.

The treatment started the next day and five days later he was discharged from hospital. Two days after that, the section was lifted and by November 24 he had returned to work as a partner at Shore Tech Systems in Norwich.

'Obviously my family have been through hell as they can remember the whole ordeal.

'What is scary is that there are probably other people out there in the mental health system who have this disease and are not really psychotic, just presenting those same symptoms,' he said.

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