A 29-year-old man who woke from a 3-month-long coma to find out he was going to be a dad again said his infant daughter has given him the strength to recover from autoimmune encephalitis, which he initially thought was the flu.
Joseph Cullen, of Derby, England, was left paralyzed from head-to-toe by the illness, but has slowly regained use of his arms and was finally able to hold his daughter, Poppy.
“I found out I was pregnant two days before he went into a coma,” Billie Smith, Cullen’s partner, told SWNS. “I thought it’d be best to keep it from him until he got better. It was awful when he was put into a coma but it was for the best. I had mixed emotions because I had just found out we were going to have a baby. It was incredibly upsetting, but I always held out hope he’d wake up.”
Cullen’s condition was reportedly touch-and-go several times during those three months, but when he finally woke up Smith was elated to deliver the news.
“I was stunned,” Cullen, who has since been moved to a rehabilitation center in Sheffield, told SWNS. “I was already in disbelief at my condition and the position I found myself in. It was the best news I could have wished for.”
He was unable to attend the birth of his daughter, but when he was finally able to hold her on Dec. 23, he said he could not stop crying.
“It was the most amazing movement for me.”
He’s now focused on regaining the ability to walk for Poppy and his other children, and is set to be released from the rehab center in August.
“The kids have given me the strength to get better,” he told SWNS. “I can’t wait to go home now. I just want to be home with my children.”
Autoimmune encephalitis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy brain cells leading to inflammation of the brain, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). Patients may experience neurological or psychiatric symptoms including impaired memory, abnormal movements, seizures, issues with balance, speech or vision and others.