Mum recalls terrifying moment daughter acted 'possessed' in Asda because of rare 'exorcist syndrome'12th Mar 18 | Family
Amelia had a bout of tonsillitis - and then she started to act very strangely.
A mum has recalled the terrifying moment when her daughter started thrashing about in Asda, like a child ‘possessed,’ leading to a rare diagnosis of ‘exorcist syndrome’- triggered by severe tonsillitis.
One minute Nikki Ashcroft’s daughter, Amelia, now nine, was a normal, happy little girl, the next she started continually smacking her lips – culminating in her outburst in the food aisles.
Single mum, Nikki, 33, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, who also has an older son, Brooke, 11, explained: "The day before Bonfire night in 2016, we were in Asda and Amelia just started randomly screaming and shouting.
“I had to restrain her and hold her arms at the side of her. I was mortified and just thought, ‘What has got into her?’"
Constantly struck down by childhood illnesses, Amelia suffered with recurring tonsillitis.
Nikki added: “She was always at the doctor’s and, in November 2016, just before her outburst, she was really, really bad with tonsillitis.
“Her temperature soared to 40C and she was hallucinating. We got her on antibiotics, but there was one day I noticed she was continually smacking her lips. It went on for a few days.”
After the incident in Asda, her character completely changed, prompting Nikki to take drastic action.
She continued: “Amelia was never easy. She had lots of attitude and liked to have her own way, but these outbursts were out of character and I had no idea what had happened. I was so shocked she was behaving like this.
"Desperate for help, I videoed her during an outburst and posted it on Facebook, in a disability forum.
“A lady messaged me some information about Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection (PANDAs). I had never heard of it, but started googling and realised Amelia had a lot of the symptoms."
PANDAs – also known as ‘exorcist syndrome’ – is a rare condition, caused when a streptococcal infection, like tonsillitis, triggers a misdirected immune response, resulting in inflammation on a child’s brain.
This causes life changing symptoms like anxiety, tics, alterations in personality and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Spurred on by the Facebook reaction, Nikki took the video footage of Amelia to their GP, who agreed to look into PANDAS, despite not having heard of it and referred them to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
Over the next 10 weeks, Amelia's tics and mood changes continued, but in January 2017, her behaviour started to improve.
Full-time mum Nikki added: "We had a couple of weeks where it was ok. Then she got mild tonsillitis again and her tics came back again.
“That lasted again for about 10 weeks. Then, in May, she got it really badly and was off school for a few days.”
Amelia’s behaviour reached fever pitch at a meeting of her mum’s local slimming club.
Nikki recalled: "She came to my Slimming World class with me.
“All of a sudden she leapt up onto the chair and hugged her knees and laughed hysterically. I didn’t really know how to react. I tried to talk to her and clam her down but she was sort of in a daze.
“We went out for dinner same day and she sat in the corner and laughed hysterically there, too. I was so shocked and again I just tried to calm her down. It was very very odd."
In a bid to control Amelia’s response to infection, she had her tonsils removed in September 2017 and was officially diagnosed with PANDAs in November, by doctors at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan, after continually presenting with very high strep levels.
But even after surgery, she continued to develop infections, causing new tics, including licking her lips so much the skin came off, causing her to be hospitalised for a day in December.
Since then, Amelia has been stuck in a vicious cycle, with her response to infections triggering increasingly worrying tics.
Nikki continued: "There have been times when she’s been curled up in the corner of the room, lashing out, or throwing something across the room, if you speak to her.
“I have worried about her lashing out at me or Brooke. I know she doesn't mean any harm, but her behaviour can be really uncontrolled.
"It's really stressful for me, because the tics are changing all the time and now her tonsils have been removed, we don't always know what is causing the infection.
"In the last few weeks, Amelia has started to settle down and she hasn't had as many tics, but we are always aware that they could change at any point.
“When everything settles down, it's great. because I get my little girl back, but I know she could go at any point and act as if she’s possessed."
© Press Association 2018