"PRIMETIME: MEDICAL MYSTERIES" EXAMINES RARE CONDITIONS AND MEDICAL CASES, SEPTEMBER 19 ON ABC
On Wednesday, "Primetime: Medical Mysteries" reports on some of the strangest cases known to medicine, including a syndrome named after a fairy tale where people see objects distorted in space and time. The hour will also feature reports on two men who undergo radical brain surgery in hopes of curing Tourette's syndrome and a man who manages to juggle a career and romance despite his uncanny resemblance to a werewolf. John Qui�ones reports on "Primetime: Medical Mysteries," WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Sometimes 19-year-old Katie O'Brien has the sensation that she's living in a world shrunk to the proportions of a doll house. At other times everyday objects seem strangely large. John Qui�ones reports on a rare condition called Alice in Wonderland syndrome, named after Lewis Carroll's famous childhood fairy tale. Just as Alice describes growing so large she can no longer see her feet, Mayo Clinic's Dr. David Dotick says this is "rather typical of the patients who describe this sort of distortion of body image." Dotick is an expert in migraines and their accompanying auras -- those strange alterations in perception or physical sensations that can erupt just before a migraine strikes. Alice in Wonderland syndrome is connected to those devastating headaches that affect 28 million Americans. Experts speculate that Lewis Carroll may have suffered from migraine auras when he wrote "Alice." Dotick acknowledges that "there's controversy" over the theory that the book was the result of migraine auras. It was another 150 years before science would begin to unravel the mystery of why they occur. The report takes viewers to Seattle, where researchers are attempting to capture, for the first time, a brain scan of a syndrome sufferer when an attack occurs -- in the brain of 12-year-old Ana Ryseff. And like Alice in Wonderland, Ana's adventures may just have a happy ending.
Plus: Imagine having a disorder so severe and debilitating that you ask doctors to conduct a surgical experiment on your brain. "Primetime" reports on two men who undergo a radical procedure in hopes of a life-changing improvement from Tourette's syndrome, an inherited brain disorder that doctors still don't completely understand. Viewers meet Jeff Matovic, aged 34, who has suffered from the uncontrollable, repetitive tics of Tourette's since age three and has been at war with his own body ever since. "There were times when my bargain with God was, 'you know what, you let me down again. There's no reason to live,'" he tells ABC. Matovic underwent a procedure called deep brain stimulation - or DBS - used to treat Parkinson's disease and others with debilitating tremors. This procedure has never been tried on a Tourette's patient in the United States. "Primetime" reports on Matovic's experience with DBS at the University Hospitals at Cleveland, including why he needed to stay awake during the procedure, and the remarkable impact it has had on his life today. When James Michael Veazey, who also suffers from Tourette's, and his family saw a report of Matovic's incredible story, he too wanted to try it. The report follows the Veazey's journey and whether DBS will be a cure for him as well.
Also: John Qui�ones reports on 23-year-old Danny Ramos Gomez of Mexico who, since birth, has excessive hair all over his body due to a condition called hypertrichosis. As children, Danny and his brother -- who also suffers from the same condition -- were exhibited in cages and gawked at. Despite his suffering and humiliation, Danny has learned to live with his unique appearance and tells Qui�ones he would never cut his hair. Today he has a girlfriend and a steady job. According to Dr. Luis
Figuera, hypertrichosis results from "a gene which was functioning a long time ago in the evolution of man, when primates were becoming men. As humans evolved, certain genes that were unnecessary... were turned off." Besides his brother, the report features other members of Danny's extended family who also suffer from the condition. Unexpectedly, women and children seem particularly captivated by Danny and the gentle personality that emerges from such a shocking presence. This report originally aired in August 2006.
Throughout the episode there will be clues to a new patient's medical mystery -- designed to let the viewer find a diagnosis. The interactive segments, entitled "You Be the Doctor," will allow viewers to assess clues and vote online for a diagnosis that initially stumped the doctors. At the end of the episode, the audience will learn if they chose the right answer.
Ann Reynolds and Terry Wrong are the senior producers of "Primetime: Medical Mysteries." Rudy Bednar is the executive producer.