Monsters Inside Me - Episode 9
Monsters Inside Me
New Series, Episode 9
Another of my write-ups, as I understood it, after watching Monsters Inside Me aired by Discovery/Animal Planet.
2009 – 55 year old man
Symptoms: begins to feel unwell. Fever is the main symptom. (Five years previously he had beaten a cancer by the name of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.)
He phones his doctor and describes his symptoms. He is prescribed an antibiotic. But one week later, he is feverish again. Overnight his condition rapidly deteriorates. He is sweating, he is cold, he is shivering. Next morning his girlfriend calls for an ambulance and he is rushed to hospital. She said he looked gray and had beads of sweat all over his forehead.
They take his temperature. It is 40°C (equal to 104°F)! Because of his history of illness they run tests. What is causing his high fever? Laboratory results show that he is suffering from a microscopic parasite. It was attacking his blood cells. It was killing him from the inside out. His blood cells showed up Babesiosis. It is a tiny protozoan parasite. It is a cold blooded killer. It is like malaria. It destroys red blood cells. They enter the blood stream. They invade and feed on red blood cells. Eventually the cells burst releasing these parasites into the blood.
Because of his previous illness, the man didn’t have a spleen and this is very dangerous. The spleen is very important. It filters out toxins, harmful invaders etc (of the blood).
How did he get the parasite in the first place? The doctors question him. Camping, picnic outdoors, outdoors activities? The man told the doctor he walked barefoot a lot.
Babesia lifecycle – 2 hosts – rodent/mouse or tick.
He is near death. For two days the man’s body is flooded with antibiotics. The doctors didn’t know how far the parasite had got into his body. After two days they realise the meds aren’t working. He is losing red blood cells fast. He is given a full body blood transfusion in order to save his life. It was his only chance.
For the next 48 hours, nurses replace his infected blood. They can only wait and hope. Finally, after three days his fever breaks, the transfusion is working. For the next week his blood count is monitored. Finally they conclude he is parasite free.
He makes a complete recovery. He feels he is back to his old self. He is doing everything prior to his parasite infection but the experience has left some lasting effects. He no longer walks outside without shoes.
Living in areas where the parasite is at large, cover up. It uses a tick to get from host to host.
2007 – Female
Symptoms: Struck by painful, intense stomach cramps. Nothing she had experienced before. She also has diarrhoea. One hour later, her condition deteriorates. For 4-5 hours that day she is constantly on the toilet. She feels drained and tired.
A few days later she is back to normal and is exercising at home. Suddenly, a new symptom appears, whilst running on a treadmill. She feels light-headed and her vision becomes distorted. She feels dizzy.
She makes an appointment to go see her optician. Her eyes are checked. They seem fine. There is no obvious reason for her vision problems. Her eye symptoms, they think could be due to menopausal symptoms.
Days later she is hit with a terrible fever. She is dizzy, everything is spinning around her. Her heart is pounding and she is having palpitations. She thought she was having a heart attack. The pounding in her chest gets worse. Within 15 minutes it passes and her palpitations stop.
The next day she goes to see her doctor. She doesn’t believe this is stress-related or menopausal. The doctors order tests. She receives a call from her doctor and the tests show that her white cells blood count is extremely high. White blood cells fight off infection. A high white blood cell count indicates a serious infection of some kind.
She is sent to an Infectious Disease Specialist. After 2 weeks of agonising waiting, she receives a call from the doctor. She has Toxicara. A deadly roundworm. It feeds on human tissue. They enter the intestines, can get to the bowel wall and even to the liver, lungs, eyes and even the brain. The immune system creates an inflammatory response. It can have serious consequences.
They are concerned the parasite has invaded her eyes due to her eye symptoms. They are very concerned for her eyesight. She has an Ophthalmology Specialist look at her eyes to determine whether they are in her eyes.
Toxicara is an extremely successful parasite. It begins as an egg in the soil. Mammals ingest the eggs. Puppies and kittens are carriers. They question their own family dog. The dog is sent for testing. The dog is negative. Without a clear culprit the doctors aren’t sure they know where she has contracted the parasite.
She is put on a strong anti-parasitic drug. Later her blood is re-tested. Her blood count is back to normal. The parasite wasn’t in her eye.
She makes a full recovery. It has affected her considerably and she counts herself very lucky.
To avoid becoming infected, de-worm pets regularly and maintain good hygiene, especially around pets.
2008 – 56 year old woman
She is hit by a terrifying coughing attack and breathing problems. She had asthma problems before. She takes medication for relief. Her meds aren’t helping. She is taken to the doctors. The doctor order a chest x-ray. Why is her breathing so bad? They diagnose pneumonia. In addition to antibiotics she is given steroids. The steroids help her breathing. Although she feels better she still doesn’t feel back to her normal self. She feels nauseas. She stops eating. They think it could be because of the pneumonia medication.
She eventually eats but she develops excruciating stomach pains and vomits. She vomits all day. She can’t keep anything down. She has stomach spasms which increase in intensity.
She is taken to hospital. She is seen by a Gastroenterologist. Immediately the doctor confirms that she has a blockage in her bowel. An endoscope is inserted. Her stomach was very inflamed. A biopsy is taken of the inflamed tissue. Results show that she is infected by one of the deadliest parasites on the planet. She has a Strongyloid parasite. It begins its life cycle in the soil. Dogs can be carriers.
It is a tiny thread-like roundworm (2mm in length). They can lie dormant inside a host for years. When active, they can wreak havoc inside the body. They reproduce rapidly too. The larvae burrow through the intestines, eating the body’s tissue and severe inflammation can follow. It can be suppressed if the immune system is healthy but with a suppressed immune system it can cause serious problems and even death.
They think the meds she had taken for her asthma had affected her immune system. She is prescribed anti-parasitics to kill the parasites. Have the meds worked?
Doctors believe she may have picked up the parasite in her garden. Through the soil she had been working in and walking around barefoot.
In time it becomes apparent that the worms have done more damage than they had initially thought. She has internal bleeding. She requires urgent surgery. It is touch and go. Her life hangs in the balance. They cut out a large portion of her small intestine. The parasite has caused so much damage. She is in intensive care. The next 24-48 hours are critical. They are not sure if she will pull through. For two weeks she remains in a critical condition.
After a few weeks she starts to really improve and is able to return home. She requires to learn basic motor skills. She isn’t able to hold her own weight, she requires assistance to stand.
She does makes a full recovery.
The parasite has changed her. She no longer walks barefoot anymore, she is very cautious outdoors.
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