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‘Stay determined’: Lake County teen with rare disease shares recovery journey

By Marlei Martinez

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    LAKE COUNTY, Florida (WESH) — At 13 years old, Hallie Hale contracted a rare autoimmune disease called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Paramedics airlifted her to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando in January after she collapsed at her Fruitland Park home.

“She told me that she couldn’t see or hear me,” said her father Dathan Hale.

Hallie’s mother Sarah Hale said she lost her ability to remember how to swallow and would sometimes forget how to sit up.

“She was just a normal kid. And then all of a sudden, she was gone,” said Sarah Hale.

The disease can cause seizures, hallucinations and put people in a coma.

But Hallie’s doctor at Orlando Health saw the signs, diagnosed her and started treatment immediately.

“If we had been late by a week, I’m sure she would have been more like a comatose state where she’s unresponsive, unable to function,” said pediatric neurologist Dr. Vikram Prakash.

Hallie spent nearly two months in the hospital and went home with a wheelchair.

Now nine months later, she said she feels like her old self.

“Lots of determination,” Hallie said. “I’m doing a lot better. In March, I didn’t know where I’d be today.”

Her parents said they are especially grateful for Hallie’s doctors, nurses and specialists at Orlando Health and Nemours.

Thanks to treatment and prayers, they said Hallie was able to get back on stage and dance with her friends for a recital in May and December.

“She’s made tremendous strides. It’s amazing,” said her father Dathan.

Hallie was able to start her freshman year of high school while getting treatment at home. Now that she is back on track, she has a new goal for the new year: driving.

“I think we could very much say that we have our daughter back,” Sarah said. “She’s our miracle.”

After an incredibly difficult year, Hallie is sharing her message of hope.

“Stay determined,” she said. “Because you’ll get somewhere one day.”

The plan is to continue Hallie’s treatment through 2024.

Her parents said she is already back 98%.

“We’ve definitely seen God’s hand in every aspect with every challenge that’s come our way,” Sarah said. “We have definitely all changed. And I think we’ve all changed for the better. We’re a stronger family. She’s a stronger kid.”

The Hales are sharing words of encouragement for others battling illness as we head into the new year.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dathan said. “It’ll be OK. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but just give it time, patience.”

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