Letchworth man takes on Great North Run after rare brain condition left dad in coma

PUBLISHED: 17:49 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:23 10 September 2019

Matt Wilson (centre) pictured with fellow runners Manjit Singh and Dave Baldwin. The trio finished with a respectable time of 1 hour 46 minutes. Picture: Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson (centre) pictured with fellow runners Manjit Singh and Dave Baldwin. The trio finished with a respectable time of 1 hour 46 minutes. Picture: Matt Wilson

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A Letchworth man ran the Great North Run on Sunday for a charity which supported his family after a rare brain condition left his dad in an eight-day coma.

Matt Wilson, 37, ran alongside two friends in a bid to raise awareness for encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain which has devastating long-term effects.

Matt's father, John Wilson, 71, was diagnosed with auto-immune encephalitis in February, in a case described by a neurologist as "one of the worst he had seen".

Encephalitis is an inflammation caused either by an infection entering the brain (infectious), or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (autoimmune).

The symptoms can range from mild confusion and memory loss, to severe psychosis and seizures. It affects up to 6,000 people in the UK, and can strike at any age.

Matt recounts the early months of fear as his dad's condition left doctor's stumped.

"We saw three separate GPs and were referred to a memory clinic twice, because initially doctors thought he was suffering from dementia," Matt said.

"In October time, dad started forgetting basic information - but soon he was turning up at the wrong house, and not even recognising his children. It was terrifying."

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Eventually, after a visit to a private neurologist at Hitchin's Pinehill Hospital in February, Mr Wilson received his diagnosis.

At this point "he was having seizures every few minutes".

The 71-year-old, who is an electrician, was placed into a medically-induced coma, and hospitalised for eight weeks.

He continues to recover well at home, with his "memory slowly returning to normal" after taking steroids to reduce the swelling.

Matt, a keen runner who took on the London Marathon last year, is eager to raise awareness for a condition often called the 'invisible disability', given how hard it can be to diagnose.

"The Encephalitis Society did so much for us, giving us much-needed information and investing time with us," he said.

"Before my dad got sick I had never even heard of Encephalitis. The sooner the condition is treated the better the chance of recovery."

"I wanted to give something back and raise awareness for this terrible illness."

To support Matt's cause, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/MattDaveandManj

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