All about Tourette syndrome
By Michael Schwartz
OK, sometimes, you can’t breathe out of your nose, and sometimes you can get a bloody nose because you snort so much. It really hurts to snort, and sometimes you just can’t get it out, and it sounds like an oink. My friend Cameron says I’m like a snorting pig. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. That’s what everyone says, but I don’t care. Oh, I just thought of something else. Sometimes I make a cat screech, but that doesn’t happen very often. I move a lot, and I can’t really do anything about that either…. Your turn, Mom.
And off he goes with a snort and a skip.
To be honest, I was oblivious to most of Michael’s little tics. I thought he was just being a typical little boy bouncing, snapping, and clapping. And snorting.
He seemed to always have postnasal drip. About 3 years ago when Michael was 5 years old, his physician started prescribing allergy medication—lots of allergy medication. But no matter what we tried, he just kept on snorting. The physicians were baffled, and eventually they sent us home with an assortment of samples to try, one by one. But none stopped that hideous snort.
From tic to Tourette syndrome
Back to the medical center we went, but this time we saw a nurse practitioner. She took out her equipment, looked in his nose, stared at him, scrunched her face, and said, “I don’t think he has allergies. I think it’s a tic.” Instantly, I thought, “She’s right.”
When I got home, I headed for the computer. I typed in tic, and Tourette syndrome came up. “No,” I said, “that’s not right.” I typed in snorting tics, and again, Tourette syndrome came up. I thought, “My son does not have Tourette syndrome!”
The only thing I knew about Tourette syndrome was what I’d seen on television, and, of course, television only shows you the best of the worst. My husband came in and joined in the search. We found a checklist written by mothers who have children with Tourette syndrome. One by one, we put checks in the boxes.
A few more hours of searching, and I reluctantly said, “I think he just might have it. Everything we’ve seen fits him to a T.”
This was not a good moment. My husband, still in denial, said, “You don’t know everything. He has an allergy, that’s all.” “But what if he does have Tourette syndrome?” I replied. We were actually arguing over the possibility that our son had Tourette syndrome.
Our visit to a pediatric neurologist
Many times when you take a child to see a physician, the child is suddenly better when you arrive. Not Michael. He had 20 blinks, 30 snorts, and 15 neck stretches per minute. I just wanted to cry.
The neurologist asked a lot of questions, talked with Michael, and wanted to know who sent us. I actually thought to myself, “He must think that nurse is crazy.” On the contrary, he thought the woman was brilliant.
Searching for a cure
The first week Michael was on medication, he actually got worse. The second week, his tics decreased somewhat, but the side effects were terrible. We switched medications, but to no avail. Michael became depressed. My once bubbly child was now quiet—and in tears. Enough with the meds. We decided they weren’t going to work.
With the support of my husband and Michael’s neurologist, we tried herbs, energy work, acupressure, and a visit to a physician specializing in Chinese medicine. I even consulted a psychic medium. No, I’m not crazy. I’m just a mother who will stop at nothing to help her child.
The apple doesn’t fall far…
As I learned more about Tourette syndrome, the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. My dad was a funny guy. He always had comical faces and would complement them with sound and a robot walk. All those years, I thought he was funny. Now, I think he had Tourette syndrome.
When I was a child, I coughed all the time. I went through a variety of inhalers and even had my tonsils out. All I was missing was a motor tic or two, and thanks to some family pictures, we have proof of those, too.
I thought I had it figured out. When I told our family physician, he said that Tourette syndrome is extremely rare. As I was leaving his office, I said, “If Tourette syndrome is so rare, then you don’t believe Michael has it.” He pretended he had Tourette syndrome by twitching his neck and uttering something weird. Then he asked, “What do you think?”
I didn’t answer, but here’s what I thought: I’m a mother in constant denial, trying to accept the obvious, but looking for an answer. I have to accept the fact that all arrows point to Tourette syndrome.
We have a new family physician now. In our first 10 minutes, she commented on my big eyes and was curious to know how long I’d had that cough. When I told Michael’s neurologist about the family connections I’d made, he said, “I knew you’d figure it out.”
During one visit, the neurologist asked me about my other child. Of course, I was adamant that my daughter didn’t have any symptoms. But at Michael’s Christmas play, she jumped up out of her chair and meowed. For the next 2 weeks, she chewed her clothes and kicked.
But as quickly as the symptoms came, they left. So far, I don’t think she has Tourette syndrome, but if she does, that’s OK, too. Now, it all fits.
KidsHealth. Tourette syndrome. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/tourette.html. Accessed October 3, 2006.
Roddy SM. Bad habit, simple tic, or Tourette syndrome? Available at: http://web4.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/414/509/65497875w4/purl=rc1_ITOF_0_A9011312&dyn=12!xrn_284_0_A9011312?sw_aep=uphoenix.
Tourette syndrome. Available at: http://http://www.medicinenet.com/tourette_syndrome_symptoms/views.htmarticle.htm. Accessed October 3, 2006.
Tourette Syndrome Association. Questions and answers about Tourette syndrome [brochure]. 2004.
Melissa R. Schwartz, MSN, RNC, is a Clinical Instructor at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.