Girl behind the viral video: Oklahoman talks about her narcolepsy video that went viral
OKLAHOMA – Last year an Oklahoma girl posted a video to YouTube to help raise awareness about narcolepsy.
The video shows what happened to her once while she was dancing.
The video quickly went viral, receiving more than 3,300,000 views.
22-year-old Sarah Wheaton says she suffers from two conditions known as narcolepsy and cataplexy.
Experts say cataplexy, which is a loss of muscle tone, often accompanies narcolepsy.
In the video, Sarah was working on a traditional Japanese dance to send to a choreographer friend.
"I realized I cataplexied in the middle of it. I took a break and went back to finish it," she said. "It looks like I'm doing some melodramatic thing, but I'm really just trying to stay awake and keep going."
Sarah was a theater student who worked behind the scenes and on stage. Her job took a lot of energy.
When she was diagnosed in college, she says she was crushed.
" I was completely dumbfounded, but the one thing I kept holding onto in all this is at least it's not going to kill me," Sarah said.
Although most people aren't diagnosed with narcolepsy until their teen years or early 20s, when Sarah and her mom think back, they realize there were some signs early on.
"We used to laugh and say she had car narcolepsy because she'd get in and start chattering blah blah, then she was out. I probably have way too many photos of her in her high chair asleep," Sarah's mom said.
Sarah said when she first saw her narcoleptic attack on video she was stunned.
"It wasn't until I watched it that I realized, oh wow that is why people get freaked out," she said.
She soon realized this could be an opportunity to raise awareness.
She started posting her videos to social media.
"I had honestly thought maybe a couple of my Facebook friends would see it and have a better understanding of what I'm talking about," Sarah said. "I have gotten feedback from around the world."
About 1 in 2000 people suffer from narcolepsy in the United States.
The cause of Sarah's type narcolepsy is due to a certain type of cell, according to Jonathan Schwartz of the Integris Sleep Disorders Centers.
Schwartz says understanding narcolepsy is a work in progress.
"To cure this disease in terms of replacing orexin cells in those with narcolepsy and catoplexy in this day and age is impossible, but other than that it's very treatable," Schwartz said.
Now Sarah is pushing others to know life doesn't sleep with this diagnosis.
She continues to pursue the arts and even sings with a band.
Breakthroughs in narcolepsy treatment are being made, but Sarah isn't waiting.
She's putting it out there and teaching us all. Perhaps stepping up research as well as inspiring others in her shoes.
"As long as I've helped one person I am perfectly content," Sarah said.