Tulsa Native’s Viral Video Raises Awareness of Narcolepsy

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Sarah Elizabeth via YouTube

Sarah Elizabeth via YouTube

Narcolepsy is poorly understood by the general public, but the mental illness affects approximately 1 out of every 2000 people around the world. Characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and inadvertent daytime lapses into sleep, narcolepsy is a lifetime disease that can is often debilitating.

Local college student Sarah Wheaton lives with narcolepsy and the associated cataplexy, sudden episodes of muscle weakness or near muscle paralysis associated with strong emotions that can cause individuals to suddenly fall over. The Tulsa native has shown signs of narcolepsy since childhood, and recently became an internet celebrity with a video showing what it is like to live with severe narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is regularly treated as a joke, but Wheaton’s video shows just how serious and frightening the experience can be. Filmed by accident while trying to record an instructional dance video, the tape captures several different episodes ranging from complete cataplexy and sleep, to memory struggles and balance problems.

The popularity of the tape has garnered also caught the attention of the Today Show, who interviewed Sarah and her mother recently.

“There have been days where I have been lying in bed just crying my eyes out because I want to go do something so bad, but I can’t stay awake long enough to get out of bed,” Whaton said in the interview.

Most important, Sarah appears to be living a full life despite her condition. She is going to school and has a service dog to help assist her through her day to day life. As she encourages at the end of her viral video, “if you have ever experienced anything like this, especially if you are experiencing a strong emotion when it happens like laughter, anger, surprise, and you think you might have narcolepsy, please don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.”

You can see Sarah’s viral video below, and her Today Show interview here.

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