Boy’s throat infection triggers ‘Exorcist syndrome’ causing him to attack his mum – leaving her with bites, bruises and broken bones

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WHEN Isaac Harvey got a strep infection seven years ago it started off just like any other sore throat.

But the common bug triggered a neurological disorder that causes Isaac to fly into a psychotic rage.

 Isaac, with his mum Claire, suffers from psychotic rages caused by his PANDAS

Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media
Isaac, with his mum Claire, suffers from psychotic rages caused by his PANDAS

Isaac, now 20, was struck with the common throat infection when he was 13.

It later caused a rare condition called Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disease Associated with Strep (PANDAS).

The devastating condition is caused when a strep infection triggers a response in the brain that causes inflammation.

This can cause sudden and severe changes in a child’s mood and mental state.

 His rages can become so severe he launches out of his wheelchair and attacks anyone around him

Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media
His rages can become so severe he launches out of his wheelchair and attacks anyone around him

In Isaac’s case the PANDAS, also known as Exorcist syndrome, flares-up each time he has an infection causing him to enter a rage.

He has no control over his rages and has no idea they have happened when he later calms down.

His devastated mum, Claire Harvey, explained on her blog Our PANDAS Journey, how Isaac’s rages last for hours and only end when he becomes tired.

“He can launch himself out of his wheelchair in a matter of seconds putting himself and others at serious risk of harm,” Claire, 48, said.

“Over the past seven years when Isaac has had an episode he would scream and shout for hours, throw anything and everything at other people, break his wheelchair into pieces and use these pieces to attack us.

“The injuries we have sustained have been horrendous, ranging from bruises and bites, hair been ripped out, scratching, black eyes to broken bones and much more.

“There is no calming Isaac down or being able to stop an episode from occurring.

 Claire is desperately crowdfunding to pay for new treatment for Isaac in the hope it will stop his rages from happening

Hull Daily Mail / MEN Media
Claire is desperately crowdfunding to pay for new treatment for Isaac in the hope it will stop his rages from happening

“With no ability to talk to him and bring the level of violence down until Isaac becomes tired and gets into the crying stage, this can last a further couple of hours.

“He will also scream and cry for help, which is heartbreaking as we are trying to help him.”

But it is not just rages that plague Isaac’s life.

On a day to day basis he deals with a range symptoms including obsessive compulsive disorder, difficulty learning, confusion, memory loss, paranoia, anxiety, trouble sleeping, sensitivity to light, Tourette’s and a decline in his motor functions.

A flare-up is the term we use when Isaac has or has just had an infection and his symptoms intensify until he has a full blown rage, similar to a psychotic episode.

Claire Harvey, 48

His paranoia can stop him doing day to day things that other people his age can do.

Claire explained that when he started at a new college last year he became paranoid about the bus driver, which led to him trying to attack him.

He even went through a stage where he couldn’t tolerate being around his own sister.

And for Claire, it is heartbreaking to watch.

“Isaac will also threaten to kill himself and ourselves,” she said.

A NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION TRIGGERED BY A SORE THROAT

Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disease Associated with Strep, PANDAS, is a autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the brain.

It is triggered by a common strep infection and can cause severe and sudden behaviour changes.

Children with PANDAS can change almost overnight.

Your child may become:

  • irritable and aggressive
  • develop tics like seen in Tourette’s or obsessive compulsive disorder
  • fearful of things they were OK with before
  • anxious
  • paranoid
  • experience problems with their hearing, touch and sight
  • hyperactive or fatigued
  • depressed

Treatment

The best treatment for episodes of PANDAS is to treat the strep infection causing the symptoms with antibiotics.

Children with PANDAS-related obsessive-compulsive symptoms can benefit from standard medications and behavioural therapy.

Obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms can be treated with cognitive behavioural therapy and an SSRI medication.

Plasma exchange or immunoglobulin may be a consideration for acutely and severely affected children with PANDAS.

Research suggests that both active treatments can improve global functioning, depression, emotional ups and downs, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

Where can you get help if you think your child has PANDAS?

Speak to your GP first as they may be able to refer you to a specialist for treatment.

If you feel that your GP is unable to help, you can find a doctor at the PANDAS Network UK website.

“He will bang his head against walls or beds, bend his ears until bruised, twist himself up and will also stop himself from breathing by holding his breath.

“Isaac is now on medication to help him with reducing the violence and aggression however this does not help the symptoms of the condition or treat the underlying immune problems.

“The medication comes with awful side effects which makes Isaac very distressed.”

Even more worryingly, PANDAS damages his brain every time it is triggered and his family, who have been told he cannot have treatment on the NHS, are crowdfunding to pay for his treatment.

“A flare-up is the term we use when Isaac has or has just had an infection and his symptoms intensify until he has a full blown rage, similar to a psychotic episode.

The injuries we have sustained have been horrendous, ranging from bruises and bites, hair been ripped out, scratching, black eyes to broken bones and much more.

Claire Harvey, 48

“Isaac had severe neurological changes when he has any infection or virus.

“This is one of the most important reasons we need treatment for Isaac, which we have been told he cannot have on the NHS as its ‘too late’.

“The damage is irreversible and his brain is too badly damaged.”

The treatment they are crowdfunding for, including long term antibiotics and intravenous immunoglobulin (antibodies), would help his immune system fight infections, which would minimise the symptoms of his PANDAS.

Claire hopes that over time it would reduce the intensity of his episodes and even stop them from happening.

POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL

Parents’ reveal their terror of living with teen with bizarre exorcist syndrome

‘I HAD NO MEMORY OF MY BABY’

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‘I FELT LIKE I WAS DROWNING’

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‘I THOUGHT I WAS GOD’

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