Monsters Inside Me
Another write-up, as I understood the programme, after watching an episode of Monsters Inside Me aired by Discovery/Animal Planet.
Monsters Inside Me
A newly married couple are expecting a baby. Five weeks before the baby is due, the woman wakes up in the middle of night. Her water has broken. Concern sets in because the baby is 5 weeks early. The prospective parents head to the hospital. Twelve hours later she gives birth to a baby boy. Shortly after birth, the mother notices something wrong with the baby’s eyes. They appear to be closed very tight.
Eventually the baby opens his eyes but still the mother feels the baby isn’t looking at her, not focusing and appears to be looking into “nothingness". Her husband tells her not to worry but the mother is still concerned. The doctor checks him over and tells the mother that due to his premature birth he may take a little longer to reach his milestones. The mother isn’t convinced.
The baby eventually begins to respond to his parent’s voices and he begins to lift his head. But he still doesn’t appear to be focusing or looking at them. They wave toys in front of him but still no response. The mother’s gut feeling is still that something is very wrong with her baby.
The baby is seen by a Paediatric Specialist. His head is measured. His head appears to be significantly larger in proportion to the rest of his body. The baby is taken to hospital and an MRI is performed on his brain. They find excess water on his brain. He has Hydrocephalus. Excess cerebral fluid floods the brain causing it to swell. In babies it can cause developmental delays, brain damage and even death. The pressure has to be relieved from the baby’s brain or he will die. Surgery is performed.
In the operating room, doctors drill a hole in the baby’s skull in order to drain the excess fluid from his brain. After 2 hours the doctors complete the surgery. The parents visit their baby in intensive care. He is hooked up to all sorts of monitors. The doctors tell the parents the surgery has been a success but that they need to find out what caused the excess water in the brain.
Doctors run a CAT scan. They examine the scan and see calcifications in his brain. Abnormal deposits of calcium can cause muscle spasms, memory loss and dementia. Most cases involve adults over the age of 30 and usually develop due to genetically inherited conditions. However the baby’s case is different. Brain calcifications in a baby suggest exposure to an infection before birth. They suspect this in the baby’s case. This means it could be an infection he contracted from his mother whilst in the womb.
Bloods tests are ordered on both parents. Two days later the results are back. The mother is infected with the parasite Toxoplasma Gondii. It affects the central nervous system. The mother is devasted. Whilst her baby was in her womb, the infection had travelled through via the umbilical chord and infected the baby, leading to the baby’s eye problems and Hydrocephalus.
More than 60 million people in the US may be infected with this parasite but most don’t suffer severe symptoms because the immune system keeps the parasite in check. However, when a pregnant woman becomes infected the parasite can infect the unborn child.
The parasite continues it’s attack on the baby. To kill the parasite the doctors put the baby on powerful antiparasitic drugs. For 10 days, the parents hope and pray that the drugs will take effect. They eventually notice a small breakthrough. It appears that the medication is working and the baby begins to respond.
The baby is sent home to continue his recovery. His parents are overjoyed as the baby appears to be responding to items being put in front of him. They hold a silver spoon in front of him and he grabs hold of it.
Today, the baby is now a boy of 14. He continues to thrive and go from strength to strength. Sadly he is legally blind, has very limited vision due to scarring from the parasite.
Most commonly Toxoplasmi Gondii parasite cycles between rodents and cats. Humans often get contaminated through cat faeces. But uncooked meat - pork, venison or lamb can also lead to infection. The mother remembers a particular moment, during her first trimester in her pregnancy, she ate lamb. She questions this as the cause.
The Toxoplasmi Gondii parasite will always pose a risk to the boy. He will always have this parasite living inside of him. But this doesn’t stop him from living life to the full.
11 Year Old Boy
He complains of headache and looks pale. He lays down on the couch to rest. He is sick and vomits. His mother thinks he has stomach flu. His mother becomes increasingly concerned. Her son is holding his head and is moaning and groaning. She is extremely concerned and takes him to the emergency room.
A new symptom strikes. He begins to be incoherent and is talking gibberish. Nothing he says is making sense. His mother alerts staff to this new symptom. A doctor examines him. During a CAT Scan on his brain he has a seizure. Doctors call a “code blue” and the room is filled with medical staff.
Doctors complete the CAT scan but nothing significant is revealed. The doctors decide to do a spinal tap. Sedatives are given but they have no effect. Whilst all this is going on the boy is still having a seizure. Four doctors try to restrain the young boy. The boy eventually passes out allowing the doctors to extract a sample of his spinal fluid. It is sent for testing.
The sedative he was given should have worn off after 2 hours but the boy doesn’t seem to wake. The doctor’s try to wake him. There is no response. He is now in a coma. Around 4am, the boy begins to wake.
The right side of his brain appears to be working slower than the left side of his brain. They are not sure if there is any brain damage.
He remains under close observation and seems to improve. Three days after his seizure, doctors say he can go home. His mother and father are concerned that he is allowed home.
Whilst at home, the hospital ring and the results of his spinal tap are revealed. The diagnosis is horrific. His parents are told that most people with this infection die! He has Eastern Equine Encephalitis. It is a devastating infection caused by the EEE virus. The boy could die. It is a very serious infection. Inside the boy’s body, the EEE virus is making it’s way through the boy’s blood stream and into his brain. There the virus invades individual blood cells, destroying them thus causing his brain to swell, causing the headaches and altering his mental state and causing his seizures. There is even worse news! They are told there is no cure and that the only way is to treat the symptoms in the hope that he pulls through.
Doctors can only treat his symptoms with anti-inflammatories and aniti-nausea medication and hope that his immune system can counter the infection. As they try to nurse him back to health, they wonder how he contracted the infection in the first place.
The EEE virus typically cycles between birds and mosquitos. This infection can kill even a horse! Human infections are very rare.
With this information, his mother thinks she knows how he perhaps contracted the infection. The boy had gone on a field trip with his class.
For 3 months he remains in intensive home care under the supervision of his parents. It is a waiting game. He is still having trouble with headaches and nausea but continues with the anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea medications. They can only follow-up on his symptoms day by day.
Due to the severity of the boy’s infection, The Florida Department of Health follows his case.
The boy does begin to improve. He begins to feel better and after 3 more months of recovery he returns to school. The sickness, fever, headaches and nausea have all alleviated but the EEE virus still remains in his body and can reoccur but the boy and his family remain hopeful.
18 Year Old Boy
He loves the outdoors. A month after his graduation he returns home to his parent’s farm. His mother notices that her son has a hacking deep cough. (He is an occasional smoker). He is feverish. He goes to bed early. The next morning his mother notices her son looks extremely tired, he has dark circles under his eyes. She takes his temperature and it is elevated. His parents call the doctor whereby they ask him in to get checked out. The doctor sounds his chest. Pneumonia is suspected. Bacteria and viruses can trigger pneumonia as well as smoking. He is prescribed antibiotics. For 2 weeks he takes the medication.
He feels well enough to return to work. It’s not long before a new symptoms appears. His chest feels tight and he is having trouble breathing. He calls his parents for advice. They immediately pick him up from work and take him to the hospital. A scan is performed. It brings troubling news. The doctor tells him his left lung has collapsed. Lungs can collapse when the lining surrounding them fills with fluid, making it difficult to breath. When this happens vital organs can become starved of oxygen. In extreme cases, this can be fatal.
Doctors take drastic action. A big needle is put through his ribs and into his lung, where they drain 2 cups of fluid from his left lung. The fluid is sent for testing. He remains in hospital for 10 days.
An Infectious Disease Specialist takes on his case. He has a theory what is going on. He asks if he has travelled overseas, has he been around animals or birds? He says no. The doctor persists and eventually his line of questioning eventually comes up with the answer. He ate raw crayfish during a camping trip.
A specialist blood test is taken. Paragonimiasis, (lung fluke) is diagnosed. It is worms in the lungs! This infection can cause scarring in the lungs. And in the boy’s case, he had scarring.
He has to have surgery, where 30% of the damaged section of his lung is removed. It is a life saving operation. Doctors manage to save his life. After 8 days, he finally goes home, and he is parasite free. But it takes up to 6 weeks for him to feel better again.
Inside the stomach, the parasites hatch, they then enter the blood stream where they infiltrate the lungs. They feed on lung tissue, laying countless eggs. The immune system is triggered to flood the lungs with fluid, causing the pneumonia. During coughs, eggs are coughed up and swallowed.
In extreme cases, it can lead to infection in the brain and this can be fatal. It can live in the body for as long as 20 years!
Due to the severity of the infection, he is no longer able to do extreme physical work.
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