Monsters Inside Me - Episode 3
Monsters Inside Me
New Series, Episode 3
Another of my write-ups, as I understood it, after watching Monsters Inside Me aired by Discovery/Animal Planet.
2006 - 40 year old male school teacher
Very fit man who loved outdoors with his family. Man was at work after week long holiday in Florida. He was coaching volleyball. He started to feel unwell whilst coaching. He felt warm. He feels hotter and hotter and he begins to feel dizzy. He knows something is wrong. He goes home. He is sweating and is feverish. They thought it was a virus. He begins to feel strange sensation in stomach. Pain in abdomen, pain starts off slowly, like something pushing. He doesn’t make it to bed because he is in so much pain. He crashes on sofa. He just wants pain to go away. Then new symptom appears – his temperature is 104! He is sweating, he has chills. He goes to bed but as day goes on his pain gets worse, like knife being pushed into his stomach. He could barely lift his hands, can’t get out of bed to go to toilet. Another night in bed, he has enough and he seeks help. He goes to ER. He has never experienced a pain like it in his life.
On arrival at hospital he is sent for an abdominal ultrasound. Immediately they see something. It looks like woman examining him is measuring something? Technician doesn’t say what she sees. He has to wait on doctor. Doctor / radiologist comes in and they tell him he has a baseball size mass on his liver. They worry it is cancer. If it is a malignant tumour, he could die. They pray it is not cancer. He is immediately given CAT scan to confirm diagnosis. The results are in and the good news is he does not have cancer. They think it is most likely an abscess. Untreated it can lead to blood poisoning and death. Surgical tubes are entered to drain the fluid. Doctors try to locate source of infection. 48 hours later his condition has not improved. He is still showing signs of active infection. Another CAT scan is done. Each abscess shows it is twice size as they were before, they have doubled in size. In 20 years the doctor hasn’t seen abscess grow so fast. Only thing to do is to cut abscesses out. He has to go for immediate surgery.
He is on the brink of death. Two huge abscesses growing on his liver. He is prepped for operation. Surgeons remove 65% of his diseased liver. Sent for testing, the results were not what they were expecting. He is infected with parasite – entemoeba histolitica. Parasitic amoeba, lives in human gut. Most of time it causes dyssentry.
Physiology – it is an eating machine. It will essentially ingest/eat anything it comes across. It eats cells.
A specialist in this parasite carries out tests.
The amoeba envelops its food. It fills the cells with enzymes where it breaks down into nutrients. When the amoeba turn on cells in the body, it is very destructive. It kills cells. Rare cases, this parasite attacks the intestinal wall. Histolitica – it means tissue destroyer. That’s exactly what this parasite does.
It enters the gut as a cyst. Usually found in tropical regions. Probably picked up by contaminated water. The man thinks he may have picked it up at a water park. Typically, it takes about a week for symptoms to show.
65% of his liver is removed. Will he pull through? Even after this the parasite is still raging through his system. The doctor puts him on anti-parasitic drugs to kill the parasite. Slowly he begins to feel better. But it takes months for his liver to regenerate to its pre-surgery size.
The man makes a full recovery. He has a huge scar from his operation and it is a constant reminder as to how lucky he was to survive.
2007 - Florida - 22 year old female dancer
Her life is dancing. She performs on stage regularly. One evening, backstage, she takes a break and notices she has itchy, red blotches on body, like a rash. Next morning, her mother looks at it. She is allergic to cats, dogs, trees, pollen and wondered if this could be the cause. They assume the rash will clear up on its own. But one week later, alarming discovery – large red welts (hives) covering her upper body. On her arms, legs, shoulders, back of her neck and torso. Her skin is a mess. From something that started as a rash it is now a full outbreak.
She consults physician. He looks at marks, he performs simple test, he takes pen and drags it across forearm. Leaves red mark almost like he wrote across her arm. (Mentioned the name but I didn’t catch it) Doctor says no cure and he basically tells her that she has to live with her condition and to wear loose fitting clothing. She doesn’t really understand but goes with what he says.
She copes for 2 months. But notices new symptom. Her elbows and wrists are extremely painful and stiff. She has never felt anything like this before. Getting dressed, brushing hair, it is all very painful for her. She worries whether she can continue dancing. Her symptoms worsen, it’s like she is almost paralysed. Her mother takes her to hospital.
Doctor looks at her and he is concerned and he suspects that she has meningitis. Very serious. Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround brain and spinal chord. It can cause all of the symptoms that she was experiencing. Doctors take blood test to test for meningitis. The test comes back negative. Doctors have no idea what is causing her symptoms. All they can do is treat with steroids to help with pain and reduce inflammation.
Desperate, she contacts a specialist at Infectious Disease Centre. This doctor starts by looking at her previous blood tests. He notices strange anomaly, he notices her white blood cells is high. (Think they said it was over 1,000 and normal range is 500). He orders more blood tests. One week later, when tests come back his suspicions are confirmed. Trichinella is confirmed. Trichinella spiralis - a nematode worm! They have piercing mouth parts which cut through tissue and burrow through tissue causing inflammation. That’s what has been causing her skin problems and rashes. The doctor puts her on powerful anti-parasitics.
She had no idea a parasite could cause this much pain, stiffness etc. The parasite begins life cycle as cyst in mammal like rodent. When eaten by animal such as pig, it enters into the gut where larvae are produced. If human eats infected animal, the trichinella worm will continue its lifecycle. It is contracted through contaminated meat. It was thought she had eaten contaminated pork sandwiches.
She is put on medication to kill the worms. Over period of time her pains and stiffness get better. Not quite 100% by time she finished medication but she continues to improve. Few months later she is back on stage and makes a complete recovery.
It said Trichinella is very rare in US. It can wreak havoc in body if contracted.
2005 - Retired Male
He feels an itch on back of neck. Irritating itch and it gets worse. It is very small, pin-point size. Red itch. Itch driving him crazy. He tries to ignore the itch but can’t stop scratching. Next morning, the itch is still there. He begins to feel additional itches on body, not just neck. His wife tries lotion and creams etc., but nothing helps. Two days later, after getting out of the shower, he notices he has welts over his body. Size of a quarter and very red. They are very itchy and it is driving him crazy.
His torso is covered in these welts. They seem to be multiplying so he goes to hospital. Doctor examines him. Doctor asks if he is on meds. He tells doctor he is on meds for knee surgery. Doctor tells him to stop taking the meds as he thinks this is the cause. He tells him to stop scratching in order to heal. Doctor prescribes anti-histamines. Following night the itching has not stopped. In fact, it is much worse. He doesn’t sleep and finds himself itching constantly. He has around 20-25 spots on his body, and those are the ones he can see. His wife sees many more on his back. He is covered.
The rash does not get better nor does the itch. He decides it’s time to consult a specialist. He sees a dermatologist. Widespread rash is everywhere apart from his face. They take a skin biopsy to see if they can find clues. The skin sample is analysed. Test comes back positive for SCABIES!
The scabies parasite literally eats your skin. It leaves secretions and waste and it’s this that causes the inflammation and rash on skin. The female lays eggs, these eggs hatch and become adults and mate and the cycle is complete.
Avoid close contact with infected people, skin to skin contact, thoroughly wash clothing, bedding etc.,
Doctor prescribes anti-parasitic cream to kill the mites and an anti-inflammatory to help the itch. Severe infection can cause blood poisoning. It takes 8 months for his skin to heal. Almost a year after the first sign of symptoms, the man is fully recovered. He finally has his life back. Quite remarkably, his wife had not contracted the parasite.
It is fairly common, over 1 million cases in US.
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