SPOKANE, Wash. - An autopsy on a Spokane woman who died in August revealed she may have suffered from a rare neurological disease.
The Washington State Department of Health said it appears 32-year-old Amanda Wheaton may have died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
Health officials said they've sent a sample of Wheaton's brain tissue to a national lab to determine if she had CJD, and if so, to figure out how she developed it.Rare neurological disease kills Spokane woman
According to Donn Moyer with the Washington State Department of Health, CJD can be hereditary, sporadic or variant. Moyer said the variant strain is also known as Mad Cow disease. Moyer said he doesn't believe it's a case of Mad Cow.
But her family said watching Wheaton develop an illness was hard to take.
"It was devastating, just devastating," said Debbie Christie, Amanda's aunt.
Christie said her seemingly healthy niece began acting unusual a year and a half ago.
"Her memory was just going," said Christie.
Christie said at one point Wheaton couldn't remember how to do her job as a dental hygenist.
At first Christie said doctors attributed Wheaton's memory loss to pregnancy hormones. She and her husband Garik had a baby girl last October.
"She kept going downhill," said Christie.
Christie said Wheaton was in and out of the hospital for months. Wheaton died on August 24, just two days before her 33rd birthday.
"The question I have now is where did she get it? What caused it? And why didn't they do more extensive testing?" said Christie.
There is no cure for CJD and it is always fatal.
The health department said it has received nine reports of CJD in Washington this year. Nationwide there are about 200 cases a year.
Christie hopes the tissue tests will provide much needed answers, not only for their family but for the entire medical community.
"I hope the doctors are more aware of this disease and how to look for it and hopefully someday find a cure or a way to slow it down," she said.