Cataplexy Leaves Woman “Dead” In Morgue

Cadaver on autopsy table, label tied to toe

Imagine being rushed in an ambulance to the emergency room, your body completely paralyzed–but you can still hear and feel everything. Now imagine the doctors finding you so unresponsive that you are pronounced dead–and sent to the morgue.

Terrifying? Absolutely. And it’s happened to one woman three times. Locked in the morgue for days and completely unable to respond or alert the people around her, June Burchell was trapped inside her own body. And she’s not the only one this has happened to.

Around the world, roughly two million people are affected by the mysterious neurological condition called cataplexy, often a symptom of the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Typically characterized by intense muscle weakness and collapse, a cataplexy attack can last from a few seconds to several hours or even days in very severe cases. During an attack, the sufferer has very shallow breathing and blood pressure, sometimes being mistaken for dead–all while remaining completely conscious and able to hear and feel.

Strong or intense feeling and emotions are big triggers for attacks; laughing hard, crying or being frightened are cited as the most frequent causes. For those with cataplexy, attacks can happen multiple times per day with varying degrees of severity, making “normal”, everyday activities a challenge. Watch the video below to see how three different people deal with the debilitating effects of narcolepsy and cataplexy–and what science is doing to try and treat these diseases.

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