Please pass this on to anyone you know who has a female family member with psychiatric issues, as well as to all health professionals you know, to get the word out. They can simply test for the antibody in the blood.
"It looked very much like the beginnings of a schizophrenic or bipolar episode," said Christopher Kobet, a fourth-year neurology resident at University Hospital who helped pinpoint Echols' problem.
But the real culprit wasn't in her head: It was a tiny tumor on her left ovary.
The tumor was a teratoma, a freakish, but not uncommon, conglomeration of basic cells growing out of control. Some teratomas, if they're big enough, even contain eyeballs or tiny feet.
The tumor was so small - less than a centimeter - that it wasn't visible on CT scans, said Ed Richards, the director of gynecologic oncology and advanced pelvic surgery at University. But they knew it had to be there.
The implications of not making the right diagnosis are frightening.
"How many women, as recently as the 1950s and 1960s, were institutionalized with this because people thought they were schizophrenic?" Richards asked.
Echols was released on Dec. 23. She's waiting to find out when she'll be cleared to return to driving and to go back to work. And she's working to raise awareness of what made her so ill.
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