Jon Bratsch had accepted that he was going to die. Barely conscious, breathing through a ventilator, and paralyzed in the intensive care unit, he could not see a way through the destructive illness that had taken so much from him.
Just three weeks earlier, Jon had felt fine. A happily married father of two grown girls, known throughout his hometown as a hard-working mechanic, Jon spent weekends riding his Harley-Davidson with his wife, Kris, seated behind him. To Kris and their daughters, it seemed impossible that Jon, a powerhouse whose strength was as much a tool of his trade as the equipment in his garage, could have fallen so gravely ill.
“I was taking care of my parents, taking care of this shop and my family, and then all of the sudden I couldn’t take care of myself,” Jon says. “That was kind of a rude awakening, you know?”
What knocked Jon down in late summer 2015 was his own immune system. Testing at Mayo Clinic Laboratories revealed that Jon’s immune cells, triggered by a cause not well understood, laid siege to a particular protein, called myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), found on the surface of oligodendrocytes — a type of brain cell that helps make the myelin coating of nerve cells.
“When those cells get damaged, then the insulation is removed and patients have neurologic symptoms,” explains autoimmune neurologist Eoin Flanagan, M.B., B.Ch., a member of Jon’s care team and a Mayo Clinic Laboratories consultant who specializes in autoimmune neurologic conditions.
In Jon’s case, the damage was acute. “It’s as sick as a neurology patient can get,” says Dr. Flanagan. Dr. Flanagan’s laboratory colleague and mentor, Sean Pittock, M.D., led the development testing at Mayo Clinic Laboratories to detect the antibodies to MOG (Test ID: MOGFS) that confirmed Jon’s illness. “Having that MOG antibody result was really useful, as it helped guide our treatment to dampen down the inflammation and accelerate his recovery. We could now put a name to his illness and could tell the family what the future was likely to hold.”
Read the rest of Jon's story on Mayo Clinic Laboratories Patient Spotlight.