Jared Stern’s life-changing bout of rare encephalitis


A common viral infection caused Jared Stern’s encephalitis, but its lasting effects have altered his life drastically. He’s thankful for the cover he took before his diagnosis, which has allowed him to seek treatment.

When Jared Stern contracted encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain caused by a viral infection, he had no inkling that it would remain a headache – a severe, permanent one – three years later.

“It was in January 2016 that I got encephalitis and I was lucky to get very early treatment in hospital,” says Jared, 36. Encephalitis often causes only mild flu-like signs and symptoms like fever or headache, but sometimes has no symptoms at all. However, Jared’s strain meant the headaches wouldn’t go away. “I kept getting high fluid pressure in my head. Over three years, I’ve been in hospital 20 to 30 times for lumbar punctures to have fluid removed,” says Jared.

Doctors have diagnosed Jared with a rare neurological condition, Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, which causes increased intracranial pressure around the brain from cerebrospinal fluid. “ I’m told that one in 100 000 people get this. In my case, it has continued for two years. I now have a lumbar shunt in place, which automatically drains fluid to relieve the pressure on the brain, but the condition has left me with daily headaches,” he says.

Constant headaches make work impossible

“These are pressure headaches and they are debilitating. We tried various medications to keep it under control but it hasn’t helped. We’ve now found a medication that can work in the short term, but it does take three to four months to assess whether it works well and consistently,” Jared explains.

The headaches mean that Jared hasn’t been able to return to work permanently, although he is in rehabilitation and occupational therapy to help him cope with the pain.

“I was a partner in a youth media marketing company, but symptoms, including headaches and fatigue, mean I haven’t worked since I contracted encephalitis in January 2016. The illness has affected everything about my lifestyle. I used to play golf, I saw friends once or twice a week and I enjoyed my work. Now I can manage an hour or two of social time at the most,” Jared says.

Despite the difficulties, he says he is thankful for a great team of doctors who have helped him manage his condition. His treatment means he is slowly getting the physical part of his life back. “I try to go to the gym every day, whether it’s for five minutes or an hour, depending on how I feel,” he says.

Discovery comes to Jared’s aid

“Throughout all of this,  I’ve had support from Discovery. Not being able to work for three years, I haven’t had to worry about finances. I have a life policy with a disability, severe illness and income protection cover. I’ve claimed on all three benefits. I didn’t expect it to be simple, but apart from having to send in my doctor’s notes, it has been easy to claim. I can’t say enough how important it is that I have this cover.”

Jared says apart from the three years of salary that helped him, the emotional support from Discovery has been invaluable. “It takes a lot of the stress that could be added onto a bad situation.”

“But what has been amazing is that when I first tried to get back to work, my doctors said I had to have further surgeries and it was put on hold. When Discovery heard about my procedures, they contacted me to say I wasn’t ready to move back into the workplace – then they pro-rated and retrospectively paid the income protection for the months I had tried to work,” he says.

Healing a brain, and a heart

“My wife, Nicky, and I were lucky to receive free (psychological) counselling when I was diagnosed. We recently lost our baby, twelve days after he was born, and we have had more counselling since then. All I can say is I’m very happy with the support from Discovery throughout my illness, not just when I took out my policy. We have had so many follow-ups, and a great amount of care through this process,” says Jared.

This Endorsement does not constitute financial advice.

Discovery Life Limited. Registration number 1966/003901/06, is a registered long-term insurer, and an authorised financial services and registered credit provider, NCR Reg No. NCRCP3555.


Severe illness can be life-changing. Discovery is here for you

At Discovery, we understand that an illness like cancer affects many aspects of your life. If you're a Discovery Health Medical Scheme member who is diagnosed with cancer, you are covered by a comprehensive Oncology Programme. You'll also have access to a palliative care programme, which offers unlimited cover for approved care at home.

To protect you financially in case of a life-changing event, Discovery Life offers the best severe illness product in the market for cancer cover, as awarded by the Independent Clinical Oncology Network. Our award-winning LifeTime Max 200% Severe Illness Benefit offers coverage across the full spectrum of severities and remission of cancer. Contact us to learn more

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