Heather Kormacher is the proud mother of an amazing little boy; a vibrant, full of life, introverted, book-loving good student. A mother’s pride and joy. Year after year he’s been that healthy kid, with the occasional sniffles and infection most experience from birth through ten years old. Nothing of any concern at all, medically, socially, or emotionally. Just your normal kid!
Heather wakes up one morning no doubt saying, “Where did my son Hans go, and who the heck is this? I must be dreaming.” You wake up from the typical dream, right? However, she realizes that this is not a dream, but a reality which has now turned into a living nightmare. Can you even imagine?
This precious little boy was on a downhill spiral. He awakened that day gnawing at his tongue, agitated, in a frenzy. Within five months Hans was full of extreme rage; destruction occurred daily. These experiences impacted his life is such a horrific way that his parents found him frequently having suicidal thoughts, feeling as if ending his life was the only way to find relief.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder (PANDAS), discovered by Susan Swede, a developmental pediatrician.
This combination is believed to have been Hans’ experience, a rare form of OCD associated with streptococcal infections. Hans had four times the typical levels of immune molecules that the body produces in response to a strep infection. This was in spite of the fact that he had not actually had strep.
It is difficult to prove a correlation between PANDAS and strep. Many questions as well as skepticism remain causing families to desperately search for answers.
Is this a genetic predisposition?
Is PANDAS really a separate disorder from OCD?
Is PANDAS truly triggered by strep?
Which brain cells are harmed?
Why do you countless children even get strep in the first place and so few develop PANDAS symptoms?
What is the biology underlying PANDAS?
How does strep actually affect the brain?
There is no definite lab test for PANDAS; however, it is possible that as many as one out of 400 children in the United States have the condition. Others argue that a patient with suspected PANDAS likely has traditional OCD or Tourette’s syndrome.
So, whatever happened to the little boy Hans? After seven months of antibiotics, which did little to improve his condition, he received IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin). This infusion of antibiotics is stripped from the blood of thousands of healthy donors. Nearly 2 years after his initial symptoms, IVIG results were noticed within about two weeks. One morning, Hans was sitting peacefully at the dining room table eating breakfast as his mother said a passing “I love you” to her son, who responded with “I love you too,” which is something she had not heard in over a year! Hans gradually improved over the next six months and is now 15 years old and fully recovered. The nightmare is over!
*NOTE: IVIG was costly, requiring an estimated $17,000 out-of-pocket cost. His mother was able to work with the insurance company to cover the remaining procedure costs.
**It is important to speak with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in anxiety and OCD and is in collaboration with a medical doctor who is familiar with PANDAS if you think you or your child may be affected.
This article is a summary of an article in Science News Magazine: When Strep Plays Mind Games by Rachel Zamzow