Grey’s Anatomy” star Chandra Wilson plays a doctor on TV, but was helpless when a rare medical disorder suddenly struck her own daughter.

In this week’s People, the actress says her daughter Sarina McFarlane was 16 when a casual outing with friends resulted in repetitive attacks of nausea and vomiting. Both daughter and mother initially wrote it off as food poisoning, but it wouldn’t stop. For Wilson, watching her daughter’s struggle nearly got to the point of unbearable.

“I found myself tracking what foods she was eating, where we were, tracking all this information myself,” says Wilson, 47. “Each hospital visit, I would put the info into a binder. By month eight, I was walking around with this gigantic binder.”

After 10 frustrating months of unanswered questions and endless hospital visits due to dehydration, McFarlane was finally diagnosed with mitochondrial dysfunction (severe depletion of the body’s cellular energy supply) and cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), a rare disorder that presents with random attacks of committing, nausea, and extreme exhaustion, in 2010.

Now, 23, McFarlane admits she was “scared, frustrated and depressed” during the months leading to her diagnosis. “People in high school thought I was throwing up because I was trying to lose weight,” she says.

“The episodes tend to be abrupt, coming at different frequencies,” McFarlane’s physician, Dr. Richard Boles, the medical director for Courtagen Life Sciences, says. Due to the symptoms’ lack of diversity, it’s extremely hard to diagnose.

Though experts have not found a cure, Boles stresses that it can be controlled with the right medication, vitamins and healthy lifestyle.

Now McFarlane, who’s studying screenwriting at Cal State Northridge, and her mom try to remain upbeat.

“I could be sad about it,” says McFarlane, “but it’s going to come back anyway.”

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