Tics and Toxins: Mystery Illness Strikes Third Pitcher at Same New York State High School
By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
A third softball pitcher at Corinth High School in Upstate New York was stricken last week with the same strange illness -- including seizures and tics -- that felled two other pitchers at the school.
Like the first two, Corinth 9th grader Abby Matuszak collapsed unconscious. And like them, she's being told by medical experts that it's all in her head. That's the same diagnosis officials gave earlier this year to about 20 girls, many of them athletes, at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in the western part of the state.
But the new case in Corinth strengthens the possibility that something environmental or infectious -- or a combination of both -- may be at work. While two softball pitchers (out of four) at the same school might be dismissed as a coincidence, albeit an unlikely one, three is an alarm bell. And several local sources told us the total number of students affected over the past two school years in Corinth is now six, including a sixth-grader active in cheerleading.
Abby's mother, Shannon Matuszak, says that after her daughter was taken by ambulance to a hospital last week, doctors dismissed her symptoms as psychological. She is now at home, missing classes she enjoys, games with her varsity field hockey team, Spirit Week activities and Homecoming -- all much-anticipated events for a ninth grader. She is currently suffering "only" three to four seizures a day, according to her mother, a psychiatric nurse.
“I told them, don’t you think it’s odd that six girls in the same school in a tiny small town are all going through the same thing and they walk through these doors and you tell them the exact same thing?" Shannon said. "Do you think that maybe they correlate with each other -- that three were pitchers? Maybe it’s nothing, but to me it’s a Big Maybe.”
The family found a doctor in Westchester County who has started Abby on antibiotics with a presumptive diagnosis of Lyme disease. They're hopeful her symptoms will continue clearing up and she'll be back in school soon.
Corinth Central School District Superintendent Daniel R. Starr did not respond to a request for comment.
Abby’s saga began last Wednesday, just two days after we reported on the cases of Alycia Nicholson and Lori Brownell, who began suffering similar symptoms last year when they were the junior varsity and varsity pitchers. Abby is the pitcher for the ninth-grade team playing on the same fields, and her mother said no one in her family was aware of our article.
Like Lori and Alycia, Abby experienced some symptoms in the weeks before the severe attack. Her legs cramped and her joints hurt. Her mother told her to eat bananas to replenish potassium depleted by exertion. Last Tuesday, Abby got a nasal flu vaccine.
On Wednesday, “What happened was she was in lunch, and she started having her peripheral vision going,” her mother said. “And she had a headache, and her hearing was off.” Her friends wanted her to go to the nurse, but, typically, she insisted on attending her next class, in math.
“Her friends in the class said she was staring off and very spacey, and then all of a sudden her desk was shaking from where she was writing, and then she just toppled over, she fell right out of her seat.”
During a 45-minute wait for an ambulance, she had eight more seizures, and continued to have them at the hospital in Glens Falls and after being transferred to Albany Medical Center. They ranged from 10 seconds to three minutes in length. “It took them a long time to rouse her when she got to the hospital. It took half an hour to wake her up. It wasn’t until probably an hour later that she was able to even speak.”
But tests found nothing unusual – no fever, nothing in her system, no abnormalities on the CAT scan or X-rays. (An MRI is pending.) Doctors at Albany said there was nothing medically wrong. “They said they’re pseudo-seizures, they’re not real and it’s not an electric current through her brain, it’s coming from some other part of the body. And they chalked it up as having an emotional breakdown.
“Knowing my daughter, and knowing her situation, there’s no way in the world I was going to accept that,” she said.
After being released, Abby has had “little vocal tics, a little hand movement.” Tics were the defining symptoms in the other two Corinth cases as well as about 18 students in the cluster at LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in Western New York, near Rochester.
In LeRoy, neurologists diagnosed conversion disorder, in which emotional trauma is supposedly “converted” subconsciously into physical symptoms; a cluster is called mass hysteria or a mass psychogenic event. In Corinth, as we reported last week, Lori Brownell was also treated as a psychiatric case at Albany Medical Center, with one psychiatrist suggesting that her vocal tics sounded like “Hit me,” raising the possibility of abuse.
Shannon said Lori and her mother, Tosha Brownell, warned her about that approach. “Tosha told me exactly what we were going through, exactly what they told her about Lori. They said it was psychiatric, they wouldn’t even look into anything else.
"Tosha and Lori both contacted us while in the hospital and they were very helpfull to Abby and I . They gave me many leads to follow, and I think that it helped me bypass several obsticles to help get us a jump start on Abby's recovery. The Nicholson family also reached out to give us more ideas to try. I hope the other families that are going through this in Corinth and just taking conversion disorder for the doctor's word, would reach out to these families. It was very helpful to our family."
The doctors were a different story.
“I said there are different kinds of seizures that don’t show up on an EEG, and they’re like no, that’s not it. So they’re totally dismissing anything that it could be medically, to the point where I just left and said, OK, you’re not going to do anything for her and meanwhile this poor kid is still having episodes.”
Shannon said her daughter is not the kind to look for attention or skip school by feigning illness or succumbing to psychological issues. “To give you a little background about Abby, she is very strong in sports. Right now she’s in varsity field hockey, she plays basketball, and she’s a softball player. She is secretary of her class, she’s been on the dean’s list the last two years, she’s on the all-county choir, she’s in the special chorus.
“She’s just an all-around social kid.”
Alycia, as we reported, played on the boys’ JV wresting team and the varsity soccer team as well as being a standout pitcher. Lori has been a softball standout and field hockey player whose teammates called her The Beast for her relentless drive. Lori collapsed at a concert in August 2011, Alycia on the pitcher's mound during the first inning of a home game in May 2o11.
In our article last week we noted the odd fact that Lori and Alicia were both softball pitchers, who touch the ball -- which touches the ground -- on every play, and stand in the middle of the dirt infield; pitchers sometimes rub their hands in the dirt and lick their fingers to get a better grip on the ball. We described the pesticides that the outside landscaper told us are "spot-sprayed" on the softball infields to control weeds (the boys' baseball infield is grass). Safety data sheets for those pesticides describe symptoms similar to those the three pitchers have exhibited.
Pesticides were banned on school grounds in New York state as of May 2011, barring emergencies, but documents we obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law show the Corinth district appears to continue to use them as in the past. We first asked Corinth Superintendent Starr to discuss the district's pesticide use five months ago, but we received no response.
We also described aerial pesticide spraying in LeRoy, on a field adjacent to the school, captured on video last September by a concerned neighbor. A $70,000 report commissioned by the school found no environmental hazards on school grounds, but it did not test for the kind of pesticides used in the aerial spraying.
As for "conversion disorder," we consider it a hangover from the 19th century heyday of Sigmund Freud's hysteria theories. The idea that seizures would be considered a sign of conversion disorder just because their cause cannot be identified seems, to us, preposterous.
Alycia is about 85 percent recovered, according to her family. Lori, while somewhat improved, is still unable to attend school or social events.
“How medically can you say there’s nothing wrong?” Shannon says of the stricken students. “Meanwhile you look at Lori and she can’t even leave the house.”
Dan Olmsted is Editor and Mark Blaxill Editor at Large of Age of Autism. They are co-authors of "The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic." Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TLC is showing a movie/documentary in May called "The Town That Caught Tourette's?" Premiered May 22nd.
Posted by: Jenny | May 29, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Sewage sludge 'biosolids' are often used on playing fields, school yards and public parks. Names are WeCare, N-Viro, biosolids compost, to name a few.
There is a long history of concern relating sewage sludge exposure to neurological deficits. It is a complex mixture of toxins and can contain toxic metals, pathogens, volatile organic toxins, PCBs and other problematic compounds.
There is an N-Viro plant in Leroy. I think there is a sludge processing facility in Corinth, too.
Posted by: Lynda | November 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM
For those doing investigative work on the Corinth children's illnesses, look at the application of fertilizers (and/or soil amendments) on the playing fields. If sewage sludge was used (also called "biosolids"), likely as a "compost" product, then you can be sure toxins were applied to the field.
Posted by: Laura | October 17, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Most of the girls at LeRoy ended up with PANDAS - could be the same....
Posted by: Diane | October 15, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Could this be an adverse reaction to the nasal flue vaccine?
1. the nasal flu vaccine contains monosodium glutamate-which is a chemical messenger,that can trigger the nerve cells to fire;
2.MSG inhaled with the live weakened viruses (3 strains present)will travel to the lungs and to the circulation;
3. After having so many vaccines,most kids will have a weaker blood brain barrier- so there is an increased risk for neuronal damage.
4.What happens to the excess MSG? Some kids could be sensitive to this ingredient already as it had been widely used in food products.
5.The flu mist also contains animal gelatin,arganine,sucrose,dibasic potassium phosphate, monobasic potassium phosphate and gentamycin(an antibiotic).
There is no such a thing as conversion disorder! Everytime they do not have the answer and they do not want to find an
answer they hide behind psychiatric diagnosis-es. Are we returning to the middle ages???!!! I would like to see some
positive changes,these kids need SOME REAL HELP.
Posted by: oneVoice | October 12, 2012 at 01:10 AM
As for "conversion disorder," we consider it a hangover from the 19th century heyday of Sigmund Freud's hysteria theories....
Sigh. How much longer do we have to put up with these preposterous *answers* (as I fan myself...struggling to keep from fainting)
Posted by: Kelli Ann Davis | October 11, 2012 at 08:24 PM
The response by "officials" and "science experts" in LeRoy and Corinth does not come as a surprise to anyone who has read "DOUBT IS THEIR PRODUCT" .. a very worthwhile book .. the cover reading:
"To keep the public confused about the hazards posed by global warming, secondhand smoke, asbestos, lead, plastics, and many other toxic materials, industry executives have hired unscrupulous scientists and lobbyists to dispute the scientific evidence that would alert the public to these dangers. Their goal is to "manufacture doubt".
While that statement does not mention other industries, such as, chemicals, fracking, vaccines, agriculture, pesticides, etc .. we can rest assured those industries also have "mercenary scientists" on their payroll.
We can also reason that "elected officials" .. both city and high level school officials .. find great comfort when those "mercenary scientists" manufacture the doubt that will allow them to deny any responsibility for young girls inexplicably suffering seizures while on the school grounds THEY are responsible for maintaining.
The cynic in me believes "psychiatrists diagnosing conversion disorders" deserve the highest salaries paid "mercenary scientists".
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | October 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM
My son had what these girls have starting when he was four and he DID get a flu shot for the first time that year. I will have to see if he got it before the vocal tics started, but they did start during the school year so I assume he just received it. He had never had the flu shot before. Of course the DPT can cause tics as well.
Since you talked about the possibility of the girls consuming toxins by mouth I thought back to my son's situation in pre-school and how he consumed play-dough. I always wondered about the ingredient alum. Do they use alum in chalk too?
It does not surprise me that the one girl suffered an attack while at lunch. I am curious what she ate. My son developed a reaction to milk. I think his condition has to do with some kind of malfunction in his body concerning the Vitamin D (hormone). Two years into his tic disorder I noticed they increased when drinking milk and when I took milk out of his diet his tics stopped.
There are signs of the injury shown on his MRI, but I consider the signs on his brain as collateral damage. His main issues are bio-chemical malfunctions that cause the damage.
One of his injuries to his brain is considered as not causing symptoms so I learned that to find out all the information you must get a copy of those MRI's from the doctor. They don't inform you of these type injuries although they can cause absence seizures or the staring seizures.
I don't often hear about visual disturbances. When I was pregnant I was given a flu shot and recall an episode where my vision was gone where I focused (central) and my peripheral vision was intact (just the opposite of the experience in this article). In other words I could not read. After a big cup of water and a nap, I recovered.
With detox and supplements etc...our health has recovered.
My heart goes out to these girls and I am happy to hear they are finding recovery solutions without having to wait to get through years of barriers.
Posted by: Patrick | October 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Posted by: katie wright | October 11, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Last Tuesday, Abby got a nasal flu vaccine.
My stomach dropped when I read that.
Has the dirt on the softball field been analyzed by a group who would know what to look for and their findings could be trusted?
What happened to Erin Brokovich in this story?
Posted by: Andrea | October 11, 2012 at 08:39 AM
What are the appropriate biomed tests for these particular compounds?
Porphyrins? Liver enzymes? What do they metabolize into? How close to exposure would tests need to be done? What type of testing was done prior to licensing and do those results provide any clues as to how best to test?
Posted by: Garbo | October 11, 2012 at 07:19 AM
Wondering when her last Gardasil shot was....but also wondering when her last dental appointment was, and if "Vanish" fluoride varnish by 3M was used.
One of my kids had a reaction to it. He didn't have seizures, but he did pass out, have short-term memory loss, intestinal problems, tingling hands and feet, was dropping things, brain fog, facial pain, and was too exhausted to go to school for a full week. He, too, is very active, and he HATED missing school and activities.
Had he lived in Leroy, I'm sure we would have been told it was psychological.
PLEASE look up the material safety data sheet http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/mediawebserver?mwsId=SSSSSuUn_zu8l00xM82G58_B4v70k17zHvu9lxtD7SSSSSS--
Look at ALL the symptoms listed on the first two pages, particularly the ones caused by inhaling or swallowing the product (umm, hello, it's IN THEIR MOUTHS, of course they're going to inhale and swallow).
Notice, also, that on page 3, it says, "Contains a chemical or chemicals that may cause cancer." And they're painting it on our children's TEETH?!
I'm wondering if we're seeing is vaccine + pesticides + new fluoride varnish =
"the Leroy reaction."
We refuse vaccines, hoping to avoid having our children poisoned by injection, only to find out that they are poisoning them with "fluoride varnish."
How many battles will we have to fight to keep our children from being poisoned any further/
Posted by: Taximom | October 10, 2012 at 11:28 PM
in addition to the vaccines they may have received in prior weeks/months, and the field chemicals/ considering the age of the young people, and such,
is it possible they all had similar birth control prescriptions, and there are
a) some bad batches
b) some types of birth control, when combined with some vaccines , when combined with some chemicals, cause serious trouble?
Posted by: L | October 10, 2012 at 10:41 PM
It's clear that no matter what unexplained symptoms appear in children in New York, authorities will not take it seriously. Meanwhile this report just came out linking DOZENS OF STUDIES OF PESTICIDES TO CHRONIC ILLNESSES---especially in children. TOXINS are everywhere. Our food is laced with deadly chemicals, our vaccines contain some of the deadliest neurotoxins on earth, and even the materials we build our homes out of and our cleaning products. Why is it any wonder that young people are collapsing at a softball game? It's amazing they are even healthy enough to play ball!
Pesticides blamed by report for illnesses http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Pesticides-blamed-by-report-for-illnesses-3933168.php
"Pesticides pervade the environment, from the air we breathe to the food we eat, and they are making children sicker than they were a generation ago, a new report warns.
"More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides used annually nationwide have contributed to an array of health problems in youth, including autism, cancer, birth defects, early puberty, obesity, diabetes and asthma, the Pesticide Action Network North America, an environmental group in Oakland, said in a report released Tuesday.
"The authors' conclusions were based on dozens of recent scientific studies that have tied chemicals to children's health, and their report sought to bring collective meaning to those findings."
(Reuters) "Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study"
Anne Dachel, Media
Posted by: Anne McElroy Dachel | October 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM
How anyone could possibly believe that uber-self-conscious teen girls would deliberately act so uncool, en masse, for months, is beyond me.... The medical community should leave no stone unturned -- and no chemical uninvestigated -- to find the substance(s) that set off these neurological disorders.
Posted by: nhokkanen | October 10, 2012 at 10:26 PM
A nasal flu vaccine. What a shock.
Posted by: Sue Morgan | October 10, 2012 at 10:06 PM
The psychiatrist probably did get paid handsomely!
If only Dr Leo Kanner did not take that one step further to look into "environmental factors."
Where would our affected/injured children be today?
Posted by: AussieMum | October 10, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I don't know if Grace Ziem still practices, but as a doctor who has devoted her life to environmental illness ,she is the best. She helped my family considerably,a godsend. These kids need her or someone like her. Years ago, John Stossle, like Brian Deer, tried to take her down, so this Wakefieldistic approach is not new, but she survived and remained an important part of recognizing and developing treatments for the chemically damaged. These idiots are likely paid to keep their mouths shut about what is really going on with these kids.
Posted by: barbara j | October 10, 2012 at 07:12 PM
What a testament to the blatant deceit of public health!
Posted by: John Stone | October 10, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Thank you for investigating the Corinth and Leroy outbreaks and giving the Matuszak family more of a voice!
To the best of my knowledge, no one I went to high school with suffered from tics or seizures, though my daughter witnessed one seizure during class a couple of years back. I know at the time, the instructor's attempts to get the class to relax, explanations of the girl's condition, that what was happening was not too serious, so there was no need to be concerned and let the event disrupt classwork, only made my daughter more upset and angry.
I can't believe that the tendency seen in many us of the current care-giving generations to marginalize the evidence that we are poisoning our children is something entirely natural. Are we collectively too sick and/or distracted and/or chemically or energetically detached from human impulses? Sometimes I'm afraid the societal frog is past the point of being able to jump out of the toxic pot.
Posted by: Jeannette Bishop | October 10, 2012 at 05:07 PM
"one psychiatrist suggesting that her vocal tics sounded like “Hit me,” raising the possibility of abuse."
I hope the parents were swiftly incarcerated and the psychiatrist was paid handsomely for this keen observation.
There's no such thing, medically speaking, as a "breakdown." Hard to believe someone with a medical degree can proclaim a grand mal seizure was caused by emotional problems, just because nothing showed up on a scan. Hit me if I ever walk into a psychiatrist's office again - or let a family member anywhere near one.
Posted by: Madvocate | October 10, 2012 at 04:43 PM
My niece's daughter and son both had seizures after the nasal flu vaccine when they were toddlers. Could there be a connection? I believe that I read something about that.
Posted by: CT teacher | October 10, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Dan and Mark, thank you for covering this story. The problem widens and the response by docs/school board is to seemingly hush it up. Interesting. Erin Brockovitch may need to get back, too.
Posted by: jen | October 10, 2012 at 03:59 PM
How about checking what shots they have received in the prior two months. I can bet that Gardasil in there.
Posted by: Jamie | October 10, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Could also be something toxic sprayed on the softball teams uniforms. Here are two recent separate reports of toxic chemicals sprayed on uniforms that made people sick.
Toxic uniforms sicken 1 in 10 Alaska Airlines flight attendants
Report claims Nike, Adidas Euro jerseys contain 'worrying levels' of chemicals
Euro jerseys toxic!
Posted by: Sarah | October 10, 2012 at 03:42 PM
What a cover up they should be ashamed of themselves all involved in not admitting the coincidence of the kids all playing ball ina playing ground that is contaminated to the hilt with pesticides.
A bit like our local water supply when we got it privately tested and officially tested..the official report came up with no cyanide in the water (because cyanide shouldn't be in our drinking water soooo they don't test for it..doh!!)
The independent test came back with cyanide in the water the same cyanide they used to use in sheep dip ,and still the same paste they put along the backs of sheep which in turn runs of into the burns and into the drinking water supply....They do know about cyanide in the drinking water why? even although they deny it because the antidote for cyanide is chlorine and our drinking water reeks, of chlorine...no cover up,no coincidence just pure bloody bull/sheep shit..
Posted by: Angus Files | October 10, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Poor girls. Wonder if there is anyway they can get an appointment with a toxicologist and have their blood tested?
Posted by: Sarah | October 10, 2012 at 02:55 PM