When things go terribly wrong: Human Body Edition.

Lately I've been hearing about physical disorders that people unfortunately suffer, and it's pretty fascinating reading up on them. Granted, the reading is courtesy of Wikipedia, and I know that it's not the most reliable source, but then again, I'm not getting paid.

Today it was Kleine-Levin syndrome, dubbed "sleeping beauty syndrome." Read the wiki article here. Sufferers experience episodes anywhere from every couple of years to every couple of weeks. They will simply sleep the days away, some for as long as two weeks, only waking to eat, use the bathroom, and maybe shower. When they are awake for that precious hour or so, they appear spaced-out, childlike, and obviously sluggish. Some will exhibit a voracious appetite. Some will exhibit a voracious sexual appetite. All in all, it's a fascinating disease, one that usually appears spontaneously in the second decade of life and cures itself before old age. Doctors don't know why it happens - which always bugs me - but I want to learn more about this. I think we can actually learn a lot from it, from the behaviors exhibited when sufferers are in their waking mode.

A few weeks ago I heard that the son of a friend of a friend (sorry) had passed away due to complications from Prader-Willi syndrome. This disease usually claims the sufferers before they are twenty-one years of age. They have mild mental retardation, small hands and feet, are chronic overeaters and are, logically, oftentimes obese from a young age. Interestingly they don't actually die from the overeating, it's just a major symptom. Anyway, it's very sad that they must die so young.

(According to the Wiki article, the defect that causes Prader-Willi is similar to that which causes Angelman syndrome. When I read up on that, it was interesting to see that Angelman's is essentially a form of mental retardation--general happiness, a grasp of only the most basic skills, very late potty-training, a vocabulary of maybe five words, tops. It was interesting that the article never said it was mental retardation.)

You may have heard of Desiree Jennings, the "beautiful cheerleader" (they have to mention she's beautiful or, I guess, we won't feel sorry for her) who got the H1N1 vaccination and, ten days later, fell victim to dystonia. If you google her name you'll find videos. She suffers from chronic, manic muscle spasms that make it impossible for her move, let alone walk or perform the most basic daily functions. The only time she is able to move normally is when she is walking backward, or running. (Argh--think how much more we could learn about the human body just by studying why that is!) It even affected her speech. Now, I just saw a video today of her giving an update, and she was able to speak normally again (although she sounded very, very weary), and apparently she is being helped somewhat with treatment. It's not something that will ever go away, but she's not the only sufferer and there are things patients can try to get it under control.

Lastly, there are people who are actually born with no eyes. Specifically, no eye tissue. It's a condition called anophthalmia and while, in the video I saw, you can see this tiny, tubelike [pupil? retina?] just poking through the slit in the eyelids, essentially there is no eye there.

Sometimes I am just blown away by how intricate and fragile the human body is; how inconceivable that it all just came together on its own. (No complex machine/organism ever can) It makes it easier to understand just how quickly or early something can go wrong, though it doesn't take away the great sadness at knowing so many people in the world have to suffer.


Don said...

Grave illness/disease/suffering tends to put things in perspective, eh?

I love Wiki-pedia. And I make no apologies for using it. It's sooooo much better than word-of-mouth, or a co-worker's opinion.

I thought you had a sore in your eye, but that would have been "Eye Sickees." Maybe next time.


JP said...

MSNBC has a blog called "The Body Odd" which details oddities of the human body... http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/

Like say for example, Uncombable Hair Syndrome - http://tinyurl.com/ybzkjg6

or polymorphic light eruption, people who are allergic to sunlight - http://tinyurl.com/yza2hc8

or Foreign Accent Syndrome, people who after suffering a brain injury start speaking in a foreign accent - http://tinyurl.com/63n7q2

I think one of the oddest (at least to me) is persisent sexual arousal syndrome, when a woman experiences constant sexual arousal without any stimuli - http://tinyurl.com/23o6qq