The beauty of my practice is that I get to know entire families: Children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents — even extended family and friends.
I feel so honored to have the opportunity. (And trust me — it makes healing people much easier when you have a wealth of information at your disposal from the loved ones who know my patients best.)
So, in today’s Reality Health Check, I want to turn it over to one of those patients — someone I’ve known since he was a child. His name is Jacob Bassil.
The other day, he sent me this beautiful story out-of-the-blue, and I wanted to share it with you. Please enjoy!
I was a nine-year-old boy playing basketball on a beautiful, sunny August day in the backyard of my house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — a small neighborhood located in the Southwest corner of the New York City Borough of Brooklyn.
I was a friendly, active, outgoing child who loved sports, playing with other children, putting together LEGO Bionicles, and reading books with my mother.
I had just recovered from strep throat, a mild infection common in children ages 5 to 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And I was finally allowed back outside after finishing my full dose of antibiotics.
But as my common infection seemingly disappeared, so did the boy my mother thought she once knew.
That day, in my backyard, I had a strange feeling come over me; it was as if a giant centipede was attacking me. My behavior suddenly changed, and instantaneously, I became a completely different person.
I turned angry, combative, and was ready to detonate with rage in the spur of a moment. Disagreements turned into violent, physical altercations, screaming became habitual, and for my parents, hope for their son ultimately seemed to vanish.
Before long, I started wreaking havoc in school and was unable to focus. I soon developed a neck, mouth, and eye twitch, and became the laughing stock of both classmates and teachers.
In 2010, I was suspended from the 6th grade for bad behavior, and after my suspension, I was unable to keep my grades up to a proper standard. Teachers were very concerned and, to put it mildly, they did not think well of my abilities.
This led to academic testing, which didn’t produce any answers, except for a possible case of ADHD. Upon my return to school, I was forced to see a therapist three days a week.
My family followed up with many visits to numerous doctors. Misdiagnoses ranged from OCD to Turrets, along with the suspicion that I was just an angry, misbehaved child. No doctor had any concrete answers.
After a while, we came across Dr. Fred Pescatore: one of the most highly sought-after natural physicians in the country. I walked into his office and everything changed. Sitting across from him at his desk, I said in a stern voice, “Dr. Pescatore, this visit is pointless!” He laughed, and picked up his phone, called the nurse, and said, “Deb, get this boy a shot of penicillin.”
After this, he explained what I had, and the questions and doubts that inevitably clouded my parents’ mind had finally started to fade.
Dr. Pescatore diagnosed me with PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections). This serious disorder causes life changing symptoms such as OCD, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline in academic and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, restrictive eating, and more.
According to the Cognitive Behavioral Psychology of NY, in the case of PANDAS, the strep infection causes antibodies to be created, but instead of only attacking the strep, the antibodies also cross the blood-brain barrier and attack the basal ganglia (which is responsible for control of voluntary motor movements, procedural learning, habit learning, eye movements, cognition, and emotion).
This causes swelling to certain areas of the brain, resulting in PANDAS symptoms. In PANDAS, different pathogens can trigger the immune system, also activates parts of the brain that cause psychiatric symptoms.
Although this disorder isn’t commonly known, PANDAS is real. And the effect it has on children, family, and the people around them is tremendous. I’m beyond fortunate to say that I have had my very own guardian angel, Dr. Fred Pescatore, not only take care of me, but also just about cure me from PANDAS. And with more awareness about this ugly disorder, the many others who are inevitably suffering can, and will, find their own guardian angel as well.
I am now 20 years old, and since I’ve been cured from PANDAS, I have become an NCAA recruited, and nationally ranked athlete in two sports (Baseball and Squash) and I will be attending one of the best institutions in the country in the Fall of 2018.
As Jacob mentioned in his story, PANDAS isn’t a common condition. But it is very real.
If your child or grandchild has experienced any unexplained personality changes, it’s worth discussing the possibility with your pediatrician. And if he or she dismisses the idea, get a second opinion.
There’s no reason children — and their families — should suffer through the devastation of PANDAS. As Jacob’s case shows, recovery IS possible, with time, patience, and medical care from a professional who is willing to explore all the options.
That’s the sort of care I give to all of my patients. It’s what they deserve — and what you deserve too. And not just in terms of serious disorders like PANDAS — but for common, everyday health concerns as well. So if you’re not getting it, please, take the time to find a doctor who will really get to know you.
If you’re not sure where to start in your search, the American College for Advancement in Medicine is a good place to start. You can check out their physician directory for a doctor near you by visiting their website, www.acam.org.