Pete Gregg woke up to his wife, Johna Gregg, 23, screaming. Once he turned on the light, it became apparent she was having a grand mal seizure. The first hospital the Greggs visited claimed Johna was having an anxiety attack due to a mental breakdown and transferred Johna to a mental hospital. Upon arrival at the mental facility, the medical professionals realized there was indeed more to her story, and Johna was once again transferred - this time 80 miles away from home.

johna1Johna's health had deteriorated, and by the time she arrived at Ruby Memorial she was in a coma. After another treacherous grand mal seizure, she coded and was intubated. When Johna was diagnosed with Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, Pete became worried he may lose her and was saddened by the moments his wife was missing at home, like their son's first steps. Johna woke up from her coma after two months and was transferred to Kindred Hospital Pittsburgh, 150 miles away from home, to continue her recovery.

Her disease, caused by an ovarian cyst, is a rarity that occurs when antibodies produced by the body's own immune system attack the NMDA receptors in the brain. These receptors are critical for judgment, perception of reality, retrieval of memory and the control of unconscious activities like breathing and swallowing. Johna was unresponsive and restrained and unable to verbalize due to the ventilator. 

johna2Johna has little memory of her recovery due to the nature of the disease, but Clare, an RN, remembers the fear in Johna's eyes. Kristen, a therapy assistant, made sure to spend more one-on-one time with Johna to build a personal connection of trust and just focus on setting attainable goals, like writing one's name. Johna and her Kindred team had a lot of work to do, but they had one big goal in mind: Get Johna home to her children.

"When you have enough hope for that person, it's not just a patient, but a person with a life and a family. There is no giving up." said Kerry, RN.

With that network of hope and support, step-by-step Johna made progress. First she got off of the tracheotomy, then they were able to remove the feeding tube and she could eat again, and then she started walking again. But it was the little things that made her husband Pete smile the most, like interacting with people again.

Every week, Johna made even more progress, and eventually she was able to go back home to be with her family. Life has picked back up, and now Johna has started a Facebook page, A Struggle Within - Johna Gregg , where she shares her personal story and all of the notes Pete made while she was healing. Pete and Johna are grateful to the staff at Kindred for getting her back home and never giving up.