Johnathan is an 11 year old boy, small for his age, with a quiet voice, fair skin and freckles. He has a chief complaint of nerve spasms, which have been happening on and off for a few years but recently worsened. Over the past six weeks, the spasms have intensified to the point where he can no longer attend school, nor get a full night’s sleep. Johnathan has a sweet disposition, was quite eloquent and able to describe his situation without his parents help. Unfortunately, he was obviously on edge and extremely nervous during the interview. He did not appear to be shy or upset by the meeting, it was more of a constant state of agitation. The phone rang during the interview and he (literally) jumped out of his chair.
Johnathan describes his spasms as follows: It begins with breathing fast, then he starts to stutter and make a “duh duh” sound with his mouth. His body tenses up, starting in his hands and ankles. If he is standing he usually falls down at this point. He can also get cramps in his chest. He will then struggle and squirm. During a spasm his entire body can be clenched up and sweating. He tries to breathe slowly and deeply but it is difficult to breathe at all. The spasms can last from a few seconds to three minutes. After the spasm stops he is exhausted. During and after the spasms his muscles ‘burn’ because they are so tight. Internally his feels burning, so cold water helps afterwards. The spasms always happen when he wakes up, which makes him fearful of going to sleep. He has trouble sleeping because he is afraid of it happening. He can wake up seven times a night with a spasm. He now sleeps with his parents because of his fears and spasms. His parents say he can have up to 14 spasms per 24 hour period. He hasn’t been to school in over 5 weeks.
The spasms began a few years ago after a dog attack at his aunt’s house. His parents were away and his Aunt was babysitting, although she was inside and he was alone in the backyard. While he was outside on the patio two large dogs belonging to a neighbor ran into the yard and began chasing him around. Johnathan was not seriously injured but very emotionally unsettled after the incident. He was still shaking two hours later when his parents came to get him. The spasms began a few weeks later, but happened only occasionally. Recently the spasms have worsened. His father thinks it was due to a roughhousing experience with another dog that brought on the same feelings. The spasms have been ongoing and unchanged for the past several weeks and nothing the family has tried has helped.
Johnathan enjoys art and music (pop and ‘fun’ music) as well as reading. His taste in books runs to fantasy and magic and he is a huge Harry Potter fan. He enjoys jumping on the trampoline and playing tetherball, but otherwise he hates sports, and finds them “repulsive”. Johnathan is a fearful boy. His father is worried about his fears which seem out of proportion to the situation. He is afraid of the dark, terrified of spiders, of all bugs, of snakes, but otherwise he loves animals. He has a strong fear of heights and does not like being alone. He has scary dreams, but can’t remember the actual dreams. He also has been diagnosed with OCD /Obsessive Compulsive Disorder . If anything in a room is uneven, it bothers him. He doesn’t care if it’s clean, as long as things are straight. His parents describe him as sensitive and empathetic. While Johnathan appears reserved, he is not shy and tends to try to include everyone in his conversations. He says “it is my job to make everyone happy” a unique thought for a young boy. He says he is confident, which is interesting with his anxieties. His parents describe him as a caring, gentle and sweet boy. Johnathan is also clairvoyant and according to his parents he is able to see and communicate with relatives that have passed on. He is a picky eater, with a strong preference for comfort foods such as sweets, bread and cheese.
The family is against taking any seizure medication, although they do have a family doctor who is following him as well as a neurologist at a local children’s hospital. There is a family history of high blood pressure and heart disease. Johnathan tends to respiratory infections, has had concussions, Lymes and has sensitive digestion.
Rubrics used covered the etiology of fright, his current mental state and fears, the nerve spasms, being easily startled and worse on waking. The history of respiratory problems, clairvoyance and worse on waking were also used to summarize the case. The top remedy in the repertorization is clearly Phosphorus. Young Phosphorus children can be fair and delicate, with a history of pneumonia and diarrhea that recurs, which is evident in the case history. Physically, there is no history of nosebleeds, or any significant bleeding in this case (which you would expect to see in Phos) but there is a history of diarrhea, so much so that the Mother mentioned it without me asking. There is also a description by the Mother that he takes on the sufferings of others and internalizes other people feelings. There is a strong boundary problem with Johnathan – he appears to merge his feelings with those of others in the room. He feels a need to make others happy in order to feel content. This is unusual for a child and the anxiety for others fits a person needing phosphorus. The difficulty sleeping alone and strong phosphorous fears: of the dark, of being alone in the dark and of insects, especially spiders, fit the case very well.
Other remedies considered were Aconite, Silicia and Calcarea carbonica. While Aconite is a terrific remedy for ailments from fear there is no redness, heat, or intolerance to noise, music and touch. Johnathan clearly prefers to be held after a spasm. It likely would have been a tremendous help immediately following the dog incident but was never given. Silicia does repertorize strongly but there is no anticipatory anxiety, fear of failure or worries about what others think of him in this case. Finally, Calcarea carbonica covers Johnathan’s fear but he has no issues about protection, staying home, and no tantrums or history of obstinacy that one would expect to see in a Calcarea case. The remedy selected was Phosphorus 9c, one pellet dissolved in 4 ounces of water. One teaspoon to be taken each day for a week and then report results.
Johnathan’s mother called me from the Hospital in early December a few days after receiving the remedy recommendation. He had taken his first dose of Phosphorus 9c the day before. It appeared to help him as he had fewer spasms than normal that day. His parents were optimistic. The following day he took another dose around 1pm, then went for a walk with his parents. On the walk he had three spasms right after each other, and during the spasms his eyes rolled back in his head – a completely new symptom according to his parents. They were understandably worried and took him to a children’s hospital and called me from there. I suggested they stop the remedy, although I suspect it had already been thrown out! No additional remedy was given.
The doctors at the hospital saw no difference in the spasms that Jonathan was having now and the ones he had been having previously. He had been seen there multiple times for the condition. His neurologist said Johnathan was able to understand directions and remember words from when he was having the spasm. He stayed overnight at the hospital and came home still on no medication.
A phone call to Johnathan’s Mother a few days later confirmed that he came home from the hospital and exhibited slow but very solid improvement. The number and severity of the spasms decreased steadily. He is now having about 4 to 6 spasms per day, only one or two at night – compared to 14 in a 24 hour period previously. Outside of the spasms, Johnathan was doing well and sleeping better. He is still staying home from school as his physical condition improves but the family is now planning for his return to school. His Mother is feeling more comfortable leaving him alone for short periods so that she can run errands. No other approaches were being tried at the current time.
By February of the following year Johnathan was having no more spasms and sleeping much better. He is able to sleep in his own room no longer having to sleep with his parents every night. The entire family is getting more rest and feeling better. The family is still very protective but overall they are returning to life in a normal fashion. Johnathan is back in school and has apparently caught up on all the work he has missed. He seems to be functioning normally. His parents were very happy with the results. No more remedy was given.