As the powerful and badass Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey's Anatomy, actress Chandra Wilson has tackled many a medical mystery over the show's 13 seasons.
Now, she's opening up about a real-life medical mystery her daughter Sarina McFarlane has been battling for years.
"It presented itself like a real bad case of food poisoning," she told GMA. "And it didn't go away for four or five days so because of that we went to the ER."
She showed the show's host a stack of binders she kept, keeping track of patterns with McFarlane's chronic illness over months of hospital visits. She often has spurts of intense pain in her abdomen, nausea, and vomiting.
After 10 months, Wilson and McFarlane finally got a diagnosis: cyclic vomiting syndrome. It's a neurological disorder characterized by repeated attacks of severe nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion. The attacks can sometimes last for several days, according to the National Institutes of Health.
According to Richards Boles, MD, medical director at Courtagen Life Sciences, who was on also on GMA, this disorder can go undiagnosed for years.
"Serena was lucky because of the care and persistence of her mother," he told GMA.
And having a diagnosis helped Wilson and McFarlane make a treatment plan.
"The name gave us a direction to go in," Wilson told GMA. "And it put us in a community of other people that seriously were going through the exact same thing stage by stage."
Wilson later used her life-experience to raise awareness of the disorder via a Grey's Anatomy episode she directed.
In episode 6 of season 9, a homeless man comes to the hospital because of persistent vomiting. While some of the doctors write him off assuming he's just looking for drugs, Dr. Jo Wilson dug further to find that he also had chronic migraines. The man is later diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome, which resonated with Wilson.
"Being able to be on Grey's Anatomy with all of those people able to watch it and hear it and say, 'Oh my God. That's what that is. I've heard of that. That's my kid. That's my husband. That's my aunt,'" Wilson told GMA. "That means so much because I just remember what it meant to us."