The teratoma sparked encephalitis, a potentially deadly autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the brain and triggered Kira to have seizures and hallucinations of demons.
Kira Hartley, 27, was diagnosed with a monstrous mass identified as a teratoma, a germ-cell tumor that contains several types of body tissue such as hair, teeth, muscle and bone.
A year after the teratoma was removed along with an ovary, Kira says she still suffers short-term memory loss.
Kira Hartley, 27, was diagnosed with a massive tumor identified as a teratoma on one of her ovaries
It caused her hallucinations, memory loss and a rare auto-immune disease that causes inflammation in the brain
Kira’s story was featured last month on Animal Planet’s series Monsters Inside Me.
In the episode, Kira and her now husband Brock Runner explain the odd events that lead to the discovery of the massive tumor.
They said the first sign came on a June night in 2016 in their Illinois home, when Kira’s taste buds were off during dinner. She recalled tasting a metallic-like flavor in her food.
WHAT IS AN OVARIAN TERATOMA?
Ovarian teratomas are germ-cell tumors that begin in egg cells in women
There are 2 main types of ovarian teratoma:
- Mature teratoma, which is non cancerous (benign)
- Immature teratoma, which is cancerous
Ovarian teratomas can expand by half an inch each year
If left unchecked they can become massive and damage surrounding organs
The largest ever recorded was the size of basketball and weighed more than 5 pounds
But over the next few days, she experienced sleepless nights and then panic when she nearly passed out while taking a shower.
After being rushed to the hospital, an emergency room doctor sent her home on a antibiotics for a urinary tract infection that when severe, can lead to those same symptoms.
It wasn’t until Kira began hallucinating and shouting about demons coming to get her, that her fiancee knew something was seriously wrong.
By the time Kira arrived in the ambulance, she began seizing and turning blue. Doctors stabilized her by putting her in a medically induced coma, which she stayed in for over a month.
Doctors discovered a rare auto-immune disease called limbic encephalitis during an MRI.
Limbic encephalitis is caused when the body produces antibodies against itself. The limbic system in the brain controls emotions and is usually associated with a cancer or tumor.
A CAT scan then found a complex mass that size of a football on Kira’s right ovary which was in fact a teratoma.
A teratoma is a tumor that contains cells from different parts of the body. For Kira, it included cartilage, esophageal, lung and nervous-system tissue.
Neurologist Dr Graham Huesmann said: ‘It had hair and a small collection of bones.’
The tumor was one foot by one-and-a-half feet and weighed four pounds.
Because the teratoma contained brain tissue, Kira’s immune system created antibodies to fight off the tumor but began attacking her actual brain resulting in her erratic behavior and seizures.
The tumor weighed four pounds and was the size of a football. It was made up of brain cells, bones and hair. Kira is pictured with her now husband, Brock Runner, who was by her size as she was in a coma for one month.
While in a coma, she underwent a major surgery to remove the tumor along with the ovary and Fallopian tube it was attached to. A second surgery was conducted near her head and neck to oxygenate her blood and relieve pressure from her liver.
When she finally woke up from the coma, she said it took about a month to begin talking and recognizing her friends and family. Kira said she declined chemotherapy because ‘my standings were positive and my outlook was good.’
After three months of being hospitalized, doctors released her and she was put on six seizure medications and then slowly weened off.
Kira has suffered one major seizure since the surgery and is only taking one seizure medication.
Now she says her biggest struggle is with her short-term memory loss.
‘I’ll forget what I had to eat the night before or what I ate or drank or who I even spoke to,’ she told Dailymail.com.
But she’s been keeping a log book to remember moments and said, ‘It’s most definitely improved my memory a lot and I’m not as scatter-brained anymore.’
Kira and Brock got married last month and now she says her biggest task now is to get more active and slowly make her way back in the work field.
The couple got married last month and Kira says her biggest task now is to get more active and slowly make her way in the work field