"Swamp Boy" tells the true story of a medical mystery

Check out this terrific story by science writer Kris Newby, with fantastic illustrations by Mado Peña. It's published by Now This News in a really cool format—as you scroll through the piece terrific graphics appear. It's reminiscent of reading a graphic novel. The story is called "Swamp Boy," and tells the true story of a boy named Michael who was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, and recounts the journey he and his parents when on to try to find answers to what was really going on. Epic Magazine describes the story:

In 2015, the day before Halloween, a mild-mannered teenage boy suddenly became delusional. He informed his parents that a demonic voice had begun speaking to him. Over the next weeks, his psychosis deepened: He believed he had transformed into his favorite comic book character, the Swamp Thing. And he was convinced that a family cat was possessed and was telepathically instructing him to murder his own brother.

The family panicked. What the hell happened to their sweet boy? Doctors pronounced that the teen had sudden-onset schizophrenia and he was repeatedly sent to a psychiatric ward. "Schizophrenia from one day to the next?" his parents wondered, dumbfounded. The specialists had few answers, so the parents began an 18-month journey to solve the mystery on their own. 

This harrowing medical mystery was published in collaboration with NowThis and illustrated by comic artist Mado Peña, who brought the teenage boy's hallucinations to life.

Here's an excerpt from the story, from Now This News:

What we do know is that Michael was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, multiple times—and that he fell through the cracks because what seemed like the obvious answer wasn't the right one. With the discovery of antibiotics in 1928, a medical hubris set in, a firmly held belief that the war on bacteria was won and done. If Michael's case proves anything, it's how far that is from the truth. Breitschwerdt often tells classrooms full of young veterinarians and physicians, "It's estimated that fewer than five percent of known bacterial organisms have been isolated using contemporary bacteriologic methods." How many of those microbial predators might be to blame for the countless medical mysteries we still face today? Only time, and more research, can tell. 

In the end, the mystery is solved, and the culprit was the bacterium Bartonella henselae, which causes cat scratch disease and disseminated bartonellosis, which can often mimic schizophrenia. "Swamp Boy" has been shared by Lyme Disease.org, an organization that provides education and resources about Lyme Disease and other related illnesses. They describe the piece:

This story provides readers with a window into the suffering, stigma, and barriers that this family faced in looking for reasons behind their son's sudden-onset mental illness. It also illuminates the fault lines in our current medical system, especially the ease with which doctors prescribe symptom-masking drugs over the difficult process of exploring possible infectious causes behind a mystery illness.

Read the rest of the piece here.