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'I thought my brother was trying to shoot me, so I tried to get him first'

SAMANTHA Hopkins had to be restrained from attacking her older brother during a narcolepsy hallucination.

"It was like world war three in my house that night. I thought my brother was trying to shoot me and I got up to try to get to him first. My mother had to stop me. I didn't understand what was happening like I do now."

At the time, the then 17-year-old had no idea why she was suffering awful hallucinations and night terrors, or why she was falling asleep during class, on the bus and on the chair at home.

Samantha was the only one in her family to get the swine flu vaccination in December 2009 during a routine visit to the doctor.

She says she "felt very thirsty afterwards", but there were no other signs of what was to come.

By March, she was falling asleep all the time and the doctor put the symptoms down to being a busy teenager.

Shortly after that, hallucinations and night terrors began and an array of other symptoms followed.

"The hallucinations are like seeing a ghost figure over the bed or someone standing in the corner of the room. The night terrors happen when I'm in a deep sleep and they feel very real."

Samanth, from Rathfarnham, Dublin, also has attacks of catoplexy two to three times a day, where her legs buckle under her or her head drops and her jaw hangs open.

The catoplexy can be brought on by any strong emotion "like laughing, crying or anger so I try to control these. I try not laugh too hard at something funny, for example".

countries

Sleep paralysis is another symptom, where "your body is awake but your brain is not. You can't move any limb and it feels like someone sitting on your chest, you can't breathe".

Then her mum heard about other countries connecting swine flu vaccine with narcolepsy and asked the doctor to check. It was 18 months from the time the symptoms began to when Samatha's diagnosis was confirmed.

She is now on medication three times a day and has to take regular controlled naps.

Samantha is very upbeat about her prognosis: "I can't change it, so I may as well get on with it."

hnews@herald.ie


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