NEPANS is so thrilled that our friend, The Dreaming Panda, has written a guest blog for us. This is our first story written not by the parent but by the person with PANS herself. We of course will continue to share PANS from parents too!
A few years ago, I was poking around twitter looking up PANS/PANDAS posts and came across The Dreaming PANDA. I read one blog entry then went back and read several more. It was the first time I had read something by someone with PANS. I had talked to many kids about their experiences but seeing her struggles and triumphs dealing with PANS while attending college, all written down really inspired me to keep working for people with PANS. Since then she and I have emailed and kept in touch. She is truly an inspiration for everyone. She has had some dark dark day but always keeps fighting, keeps hoping and keeps encouraging others to keep going, to keep Reaching Recovery. Please read her story and share with others. There is hope. And as she says, "Take courage! You’re not alone; you’re stronger than you know, and there’s hope for life after PANS. This disease is not the end of our stories." Thank you for sharing your story with us. It is an honor to have you guest blog for us. - Gabriella True
After eight years of mental illness and symptoms that over a dozen doctors failed to explain, in 2014, I was diagnosed with PANS. My symptoms had come and gone since I developed the disease at age eleven, so I’d successfully completed my first year of college a couple of months before my diagnosis. At nineteen, I’d been sure that my future was full of possibilities, but after what seemed like a mild case of mono, instead, I lost my mind that summer. My whole world shattered.
Out of nowhere one afternoon, I went from being filled with dreams to becoming inexplicably suicidal and terrified at the thought of simply continuing to exist. My entire body was suddenly consumed with wild involuntary movements, and I couldn’t walk. I was delusional and convinced I was going to die, but the indescribable psychiatric torture that had overtaken me was so intense that the delusion was the only thing that gave me peace.
My PANS was so severe that my specialist gave me high-dose IVIG right away, and she said it would start to help in six weeks. I naively assumed that after a few months, I would have my life back, and things would be how they were before. But more than three years later, I’m still fighting.
There are so many things that no one told me about what it takes to beat PANS—far more than I could possibly fit into one post—but for anyone out there beginning the healing process, there are three key pieces of wisdom that I’ve discovered along the way.
It might be a long road, it won't be easy, but you WILL get there.
1) It might be a long road.
My doctor warned that it could be several months for the full effects of my first IVIG to kick in. Indeed, a year and-a-half passed before I truly went into remission, and recovery was so slow that I often felt like I wasn’t making any progress. Nevertheless, after two high-dose IVIG infusions, months of antibiotics and steroids, a tonsillectomy, and some therapy to eliminate what was left of my OCD, I did finally get better in 2015.
I wish I could say that was the end of my journey, but a few months later, I contracted Lyme disease in 2016 and relapsed. My progress has been just as slow this time around, but the long road to healing is more endurable and less discouraging now that I know what to expect.
Recovery isn’t a straight line—there are lots of ups and downs and twists and turns, but if you keep fighting, the road ends in a beautiful return to health
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.
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!
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.
During the summer of 2009, after divorcing my husband, my son and I moved into our new home. Shortly thereafter we experienced many losses, including his 19-year-old babysitter and “big brother” to a car accident and his 21-year-old cousin to cancer. My son was already in therapy to help get thru the divorce and move. According to his therapist he was engaged and accepted the losses.
The Day it all Started
Suddenly in February 2010, during school vacation, life significantly changed. TJ was attending zoo camp as he had several times previously. When I picked him up on Thursday, the counselor who had known TJ since he was two, pulled me aside and said he acted very strangely in camp today. He was withdrawn, hid under the table, wouldn’t eat, and wasn’t his usual happy go lucky kid; she was very concerned. I explained that he was going through a lot and maybe it finally caught up with him. His grandmother watched him that night while I worked. At 8:00, she called me very concerned and asked me to come home right away, “Something was wrong with TJ”. TJ had cornered himself in a fetal position, soiled himself and was violently jerking. It was very scary. Friday, my good friend agreed to watch TJ while I had some appointments. He told me that he thought TJ maybe having seizures; he jerked all morning and wouldn’t eat or get off the couch.
My Son Bradley was born in 1998 with Down Syndrome. He was and still is everyone's special boy. He has made amazing strides in life and continues to amaze us today. He verbal skills are very limited so he could never tell me when he was sick. It was very difficult figure him out sometimes.
Sudden Onset OCD and TICS
Back In 2007, when he was nine years old, things changed suddenly. He developed behavioral issues, OCD and Tic disorder. Because of his disability, the psychiatrist would blame his Down Syndrome instead of looking further to find the root cause. As a parent you are desperate to help your child with these issues. We decided to try anti-psychotic medications. However, things got worse over time so in 2011 we decided to change doctors because I was tired of all the horrible medications and side effects. We started seeing a pediatric neurologist when he was 13 years old. He was still going to school but we were noticing more sporadic meltdowns and aggression, more panic and tics, The Neurologist diagnosed him with ADHD, OCD, ODD, IED, with possible Tourette Syndrome, GAD, and Panic Disorder. One thing we pointed out to the Neurologist was he had been treated with numerous antibiotics for different surgeries and infections mainly in his sinuses and ears and after those rounds of antibiotics he had wonderful behavior so much so it was like he was a different child. She looked at me like I had two heads and I was the crazy one.
When our son was born we had no idea the fight he had ahead of him; his complicated journey nor the determination that this little person possessed to fight and beat the odds each and every time.
Fighter at the Start
He was born at 38weeks in what I call a Grey’s Anatomy scene. He was born with a mass larger than his head growing from his neck weighing 1pound, 8 ounces. It was a Cervical Teratoma. Within days of life, our little boy was whisked away into a 7 hour surgery in hopes of removing this mass impeding on his airways and esophagus. We were told to expect the worst; that he would never eat on his own, requiring a g-tube to feed nor would he breath on his own, thus requiring a respirator. That was IF he were to survive the surgery at all. At 1 year of age he was given a clean bill of health; he was developing and reaching all his milestones. He did it, he beat the odds, and he was our miracle boy!!
Gregory continued to thrive as the years passed. Life was wonderful and Greg continued to prove that his almost near death experience was behind us: straight A student, competitive athlete, great social life, helpful, kind, compassionate and loving with his baby sister. We have always been very careful in terms of health, giving proper nutrients, probiotics, and good multivitamins. We thought this kid was untouchable.
Until, Gregory’s world was yet again turned upside down. I picked him up from school one day last year and noticed he was repeatedly turning his head, “Greg, what are you looking at”, “nothing mom, why?” He had no idea what he was doing. When we arrived home I continued to monitor his motor movements, it continued and as the minutes passed, they continued to increase in severity. My heart was sinking, what was happening? All of a sudden, his eyes were rolling continuously and his whole body began to flinch. I rushed him to the hospital, they ran an MRI, blood work, everything was checking out fine. “So, what was happening to my child?” Numerous appointments, tests, etc. Still, no answers. I began my research, while still racing to any specialist who would see us. Finally, after 6 weeks a pediatrician gave him a diagnosis of Tourette’s, OCD and ADD.
For those who know Gregory know that he is a pretty quiet soul. Respectful, hardworking, athletic and very focused in every task he chose to take on. This made no sense. How does one change so drastically in just a few months? He kept spiralling more and more out of control. The tics increased, he would throw his head back, his entire body would go crazy at times, and it looked as though he was getting struck by lightning. I refused to accept this was happening and he would live his life like this. Something was going on inside of his body. I was convinced now more than ever.
This portion of my family’s PANS Story focuses on Mold as a trigger for PANS. Before this we had done many treatments for our son's PANS.
After 4 ½ yrs, we had gains but not lasting health. Our LLMD told us that “when patients have been with me for a year and a half and haven’t gotten well, I tell them to look for mold.”
I made my husband help me make 8 trips to the town dump on the hottest day of the year, tossing out junk and damp cardboard from the basement, replacing rugs, getting rid of house plants, testing for mold in every room and his stopping me just before I took a sledgehammer to the sheetrock to look for mold behind the walls. We had disposed of a lot of damp moldy material but saw no improvements so stopped thinking about mold.
Then my son started fifth grade in a different wing of his school building and got markedly better. All PANS symptoms went away. His standardized tests showed that his estimated IQ in 3rd grade had been 93 but was now in 5th grade were 116. His Muscle pain went away; his eyesight improved and is convergence insufficiency corrected itself. He was able to stop antibiotics. At that point we did not realize there was a connection to mold.
NEPANS Board Members & Special Guests
Many Blog entries are long enough to go onto a 2nd page. Please click Read More in the bottom right of some blog entries!