Conversion Disorder Mystery: Holly Longford
Conversion disorder, a bizarre and extremely rare condition, strikes down otherwise healthy young people, leaving them unable to walk or talk.
It has doctors baffled because physically the patients have nothing wrong with them. Doctors say there shouldn’t be anything wrong with Adelaide teenager Holly Longford. Yet sixteen-year-old Holly has been living a nightmare existence for over a year.
Her world was turned upside down fourteen months ago after a collision while playing netball. “I first got sick because I got punched in the back playing netball one night. I came off the court crying because my back was in so much pain. The days progressed and I just got worse,” Holly said. She saw chiropractors, physios and doctors, but none could help.
“I got admitted to another doctor and he put me on fluoxetine. I had a reaction to it so it sent my boxy off to spasming seizures. That’s when I was admitted into hospital, shaking uncontrollably, not being able to stop. I couldn’t walk at all,” Holly said.
She spent two weeks in hospital learning how to walk again, but despite countless tests and scans doctors couldn’t find anything physically wrong. For her mum Wendy the unknown was frightening. “You just see your little girl deteriorate and they can’t find anything. That’s a hard thing as a parent – you don’t want it to be a psychological thing because you can’t fix that,” Wendy said.
Holly thought she’d recovered, but it was not for long. The spasming in the legs returned and she was readmitted to hospital. And that’s when she was diagnosed with the rare and mysterious Conversion Disorder. While it seems unbelievable, Dr Andrew Court from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne says it’s very real, and illustrates the power of the mind over the body.
“Conversion disorder is a disorder where patients present with signs and symptoms of a neurological illness as having a stroke or seizure of some description. But there’s no actual underlying physical illness – instead it’s the body’s response to some kind of stress,” Dr Court said.
Polkinghorne, Lucy. “Conversion Disorder Mystery.” Today Tonight, 2013, http://au.news.yahoo.com/today-tonight/health/article/-/15757652/conversion-disorder-mystery/ (August 2013)