Excerpt from the blog, Hidden Illness: Our Story of Recovery from PANS/PANDAS/LYME.
STRENGTH HOPE LOVE
Over the years we got a lot of well-meaning, really bad advice. In the beginning, one organization told me it wasn't Sensory Processing Disorder if it didn’t last all day. Our pediatrician said the UTI symptoms of frequency, accidents, and obsessive wiping, might be due to constipation even though I assured them she was perfectly regular. The sudden separation anxiety was a phase. The emotional outbursts that I could not console were typical developmental behaviors. No one knew what to make of it so when the symptoms subsided after a few weeks, we simply moved on.
Melatonin didn’t help. Reward charts brought her crushing disappointment when she couldn’t achieve her goals; dangling a carrot just out of reach is cruel. A psychologist, who couldn't get my daughter to look at him never mind talk to him, decided it was purely behavioral. I was instructed to tell her that these outbursts were "simply not allowed". He told me to take away something of great importance every time she didn't comply. "She will learn" he said, and me, desperate to bring her some relief, tried it. Desperate times. It only took me a few days to come to my senses and realize she could not help herself, but the mama guilt from a few of those nights is raw in my heart when I remember.
This child didn't need to learn these things; she had already learned all of it. She had hit every one of her developmental milestones on time but had somehow lost these abilities that had once come so naturally to her. This child, tortured from the inside, could not simply comply; she was sick and no one knew. I had always parented with a gentle guiding hand, setting boundaries and letting natural consequences aid our children in making better choices. Now I found myself reaching for straws, tough love, rewards, strong consequences, and some ABA therapy techniques. Nothing helped.
When the dark of night quieted my mind, my heart silently screamed out, "HOW could this have happened? Why? What happened to my child?" There had been no major life changes, no trauma. Nothing to warrant such a change in my child. She had been fine. I could remember her being a sensitive but pretty typical child in the not so distant past. What could have gone wrong?
I hope sharing my story can bring awareness to PANS/PANDAS and inspire people to keep going because one day, it will get better.
Hi! My name is Lily, I’m 23 years old and I have PANS. I’ve been hospitalized so many times I can't even count, seen doctors of practically every specialty recognized in the US, and had nearly every type of medical test run on me. I’ve spent 20 years fighting this, with only 5 years since official diagnosis, but today I’m in remission and this is my story.
I wasn’t actually diagnosed until I was 17, but my parents suspect I’ve had PANS since I first had a flare at 13 months. In the 1990s and early 2000s, PANDAS was only beginning to be researched, so my parents dragged me to doctor after doctor with no answers. The most prominent symptom was a head twitch that occurred after any acute bacterial infection, coupled with severe separation anxiety, episodes of rage and significant OCD tendencies. With no seizure activity and the behavioral symptoms chalked up to personality or growing-up, my symptoms faded in and out with each frequent infection.
After having chronic bronchitis for a year and getting the last of my Gardasil vaccines, I started shaking all over my body. It was the perfect storm. I was a senior in high school and the doctors were at a loss. They gave me Valium to put me to sleep each time I started shaking but offered no solution to the endless tics. I missed more than 45 days of school and desperate for answers, my mom started researching online. Once she found PANDAS, everything fell into place. The diagnosis fit me like a glove and we headed out to my family doctor to confirm and start treatment.
If only it was that easy. The primary care physician was convinced PANDAS, which had just started making the news, was a hoax and instead insisted I was faking it and needed to be sent to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He scolded my mom for “trusting Dr. Google” over his expertise and only agreed to an ASO titer blood test after 30 minutes of begging.
Thank you to a special NEPANS family for creating these wonderful bracelets, handouts with a short version of their story, information on My Kid Is Not Crazy and NEPANS information sheets! They have dropped them off at the following locations:
- The hospital that treated their daughter
- Primary care office
- Local walk in clinic where they get swabs at
- Children's schools with a reminder to try to schedule NEPANS to visit
- Mailed to most family and friends.
- Local Library
- Local CVS Pharmacy Staff
How fantastic is this! Below is the text printed on the handouts. Everyone can create a version of these handouts for themselves to hand out. You don't have to have the bracelets.
Thank you so much for helping spread PANS PANDAS Awareness and Understanding!
I wonder, do you remember her?
Her name is Justine. She has PANDAS
Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep.
Justine, a now 6-year-old girl, had a very normal life before all of this. She did have 8 cases of strep the year prior so I scheduled an appointment to get her tonsils and adenoids out in April 2016. No one was pushing it, I just thought enough was enough; I scheduled and pushed for it. Much to our surprise at the ENT visit 20 days prior to her surgery, she tested positive for strep. We were given the normal 10-day course of antibiotics and thought nothing of it. She was pretty healthy, had a very high tolerance for pain and did great for the surgery and recovery. Life went on...until 7 months later.
It came on suddenly in November 2016; it changed our daughter, it changed our lives. She was 5 at the time of her onset. We had just returned from a family vacation cruise and a trip to Disney. This is part of her story.
Justine started gradually having frequent urination and some anxiety. I brought her to be tested for an UTI, which was negative. She then changed overnight on November 22, 2016 in Kindergarten. It all started with very OCD and frequent urination with the need to go to the bathroom every few minutes at school. She went 54 times by noon. We had her tested for UTI's a few times in a matter of days. We were told it was behavioral, nothing medical, maybe vaginitis due to a lot of swimming on vacation.
They were wrong. We knew this day we lost our daughter. This was no tantrum; she had a fit of anger, this was a major event-out of character for our daughter at school.
Our daughter changed, you could see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice and actions. She was gone from us. Justine showed signs of separation anxiety and had asked to be driven to school for 2-3 days leading up to this. She had a very difficult time separating from me. Absolutely terrifying. As parents we were not buying that our daughter was starting to act out behaviorally for no reason at age 5. She was a fully functioning happy, energetic, polite, great listener and smart girl. What in the world was going on? Who took her? What took her? What did we do for this to happen? There has to be something medically wrong!
On September 30, 2015, our 4-year-old son woke up a completely different person. He was speaking differently; he had uncontrollable anger and rage. All of his clothes felt itchy, he said. Then he started counting numbers, repetitively; it was non-stop number counting for hours on end. Then he started chewing the inside of his lips raw. We thought it was just an off day, but we knew something was terribly wrong the next day. He woke up the next day with all of the same behaviors as the day before, but this time something else happened. We were eating dinner at the dinner table when all of a sudden, our 4-year-old looked at us and said "Mommy, I just peed my pants on the chair. I didn't even know I had to pee." I knew at that moment something was so terribly wrong with our son, as he had NEVER had an accident since he was 2.5 years old. He wet the bed twice that night, and then woke up telling us that his brain was saying awful things to him and making him feel angry. He also developed a severe separation anxiety and anxiety about everything in general.
Before September 30th, our son was your average 4-year-old, kind, sweet, and outgoing. He loved making friends and going to school. His teachers once told us at parent teacher conferences that he was at the top of his class, morally and academically. He was vibrant and smart and so enjoyable to be around.
I immediately called his pediatrician and she got us right in. She took notes of the behaviors, did some of her own tests, then she called two other doctors in. Each doctor took turns examining our son. After they talked outside of the room, they came in and said we would be immediately admitted to a children's hospital for observation. Something was wrong with his brain, they said. It could be a stroke or a tumor, and he needed to be evaluated immediately by a neurologist.
I remember the first day that I really knew something was wrong with Catherine.
Prior to that, she was a difficult baby. She had difficulty hitting her milestones, was constantly constipated where she would be up all night screaming. No amount of miralax or pear juice seemed to cure it. It was truly hell on earth.
In November of 2015, when Catherine was 1.5 years old, she started with the ear infections. They were constant, and after only a few months, we were referred for tubes. Upon meeting with the ENT, I brought up her speech difficulties, as she was only saying four words, which all sounded the same. She also had a chronic runny nose that would not go away. He suggested Zyrtec and made an appointment for tubes.
Once Catherine had her tubes in, we thought her speech would take off, but the ear infections persisted and she seemed to get worse.
The day I realized there was something wrong with Catherine, she was pushing her baby doll in her baby stroller. Up and down the sidewalk, she would walk her baby. Occasionally, the stroller would get caught up on an uneven part of the sidewalk and Catherine would throw an all-out temper tantrum because she couldn’t get the stroller to move. I would calmly move the stroller for her, and she would be on her way again. But the fact that she did this, at the age of 2, for more than an hour, was alarming to me. Combined with the fact that she would throw these temper tantrums over something as simple as getting caught up in a part of uneven sidewalk alarmed me even more.
You guys, I've got some things to say about anxiety so listen up.
We have had the hardest time getting people to believe that Dallas has severe, debilitating anxiety. He smiles A LOT so he MUST be happy. Like, all of the time...right?
Despite his therapist confirming it, despite his neurodevelopmental pedi & psychologist writing 15+ page reports (each!) detailing his anxiety and it's triggers...even going so far as to note that Dallas uses smiling as a coping mechanism for his anxiety to keep the people around him happy...and noting that his outer expression of emotion/mood rarely matches what's going on inside his head.
Despite all of that...we still constantly hear "But he always looks so happy," "But all of the pictures you post of him on social media look so happy," "But he's so well behaved in (insert whatever situation setting here)," but, but, but.....
Dallas is wonderful, spunky, outwardly happy little boy most days. Especially in a school setting and most social situations.
And the reason that Dallas is outwardly happy is because he's terrified of upsetting people. Of feeling like he's in trouble. Of people not liking him. That's something he deals with every waking moment of his life. And that is A LOT of stress for a 7 year old little boy to have to deal with.
And behind closed doors, when he feels "safe" at home, that stress and anxiety explode out of him. For hours and hours he'll become inconsolable...sometimes appearing to be in actual physical pain from it. And let me tell you, it is heartbreaking to watch.
So why don't you see him upset in the pictures I post? Because I would NEVER betray the trust and safety that he feels with us at home by posting those bad moments for the world to see.
Yes, I have videos. I take them to share with his doctors so that they can see what happens at home.
But unless you are one of his doctors or therapists, you will never see one of those videos.
And if you're still wondering why you don't see him upset in most public settings, well, please go back and read everything I just wrote.
By acknowledging that Dallas feels extremely anxious most of the time, (no matter how his outward expression of emotion may appear), we can all better accommodate him and help him feel more at ease in situations where he may feel especially anxious.
By acknowledging his anxiety, we validate his feelings and can then help him to better work through them.
Now does all of this mean that Dallas never feels happy?
There are certain situations where Dallas can really let go of his stress and just feel happy. Most of the time those situations include art, animals, music, and RUNNING. Dude loves to run! So we try to include as many of these types of activities as we can into his day to help him feel more regulated.
I'll stop ranting now and just leave you with this...Just because you can't see a person's inner struggle does mean that it does not exist. Period.
If you are on Social Media at all, then you have seen the multitudes of posts about PANS PANDAS Awareness Day today. Some posts have just the facts. Some posts are personal. NEPANS is made up of both professionals working and those who are parents to with children with PANS and so we try to cover both points of view. I myself am a Mom who wants to support families and help provide resources to professionals so little kids like my own are helped quickly and thoroughly. Below is a short view into what it was like when our son first had PANS symptoms. It is not the full story. But a glimpse into our life with PANS. After you are done, please share at least one of the resources on this website. Awareness really does spread one person at a time. It was one person that told me to look into PANDAS. You never know who you can help by sharing what you know. And last but not least, tomorrow might not officially be PANS Awareness Day but the sharing should not stop. Thank you for help. Thank you for reading.
Gabriella True, NEPANS Board President
My Story - PANS Project
The month of August has always been a month of celebrations, trips, parties, and friends. August 2009 was no different – A trip to Camden Yards, a visit with the Orioles in their clubhouse, a meet and greet on the field with Red Sox, a game of wiffle ball with Orioles mascot on field in front of fans, a camping trip with friends, a deep sea fishing trip, an amazing party with friends, family, and new neighbors. I always had friends laughing and hanging without any anxiety. I was excited for school, alert, outgoing, and absolutely no behavior issues or anxiety.
September 2009 - I missed the first week of school because I had strep throat and an ear infection.
October 2009 – I had H1N1 and was quarantined – it was very scary.
November 2009 – I was required to get the H1N1 vaccine to return to school.
December 2009 – Symptoms started to appear. Gazed look, large pupils, blank stare, no expression, pale coloring, puffiness, sleepiness, anxiety.
February 2010 – After my first Grand Mal Seizure - The beginning of tests. EEG, CAT Scans, MRI, Spinal Tap.
NEPANS Board Members & Special Guests
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