Matt Walsh visited Children’s National Hospital in December 1965. He was 7 and had been sick with what his family thought was a cold. “When I didn’t get out of bed that morning, my siblings hit me with pillows because they thought I was fooling them,” he says.
But Matt wasn’t playing, he was unconscious. His parents called an ambulance. On the way to the closest community hospital, paramedics jumped into action when his heart stopped beating. A doctor immediately transferred him to Children’s National.
“I was in a coma for a day or so,” Matt recalls. “My mother says the doctor refused to leave my side.” The doctor diagnosed Matt with viral encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can result in permanent damage. Matt’s parents were traumatized by the experience, but Matt says he was not afraid. “My vision returned slowly and there were all of these people in white. I thought surely I must be in heaven.”
Doctors saved Matt’s life. “In addition to surviving the encephalitis,” he says, “I was spared all of the potentially devastating complications of the illness.” It wasn’t long before he was back to playing and fooling around with his siblings.
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