By Julia Prodis Sulek |
Posted 4/26/2014

BURLINGAME -- Nearly 200 parents of children with a complicated, mysterious brain illness called PANS gathered over the weekend to seek advice and support from each other as they navigate the disease, which triggers psychotic and compulsive behaviors. 

The sold-out symposium came a week after this newspaper profiled the nightmarish ordeal of 16-year-old Tessa Gallo, of San Jose, who in 2011 was misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder. She spent nearly a year in and out of psych wards and group homes before doctors at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital diagnosed her with PANS -- pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome -- and began aggressive treatment that improved her health dramatically.

"I have my daughter back again," Tessa's mother, Teresa Gallo, told the crowd Saturday at the Embassy Suites in Burlingame. "My passion is to bring awareness to this disease."

I have my daughter back again. My passion is to bring awareness to this disease.




PANS is believed to be caused by an infection or other trigger that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the brain and swell it, resulting in extreme obsessive-compulsive disorder, cognitive regression, sleeplessness and other disabling behaviors.

Tessa's was a severe case. She didn't speak for nine months, drank water nonstop, became catatonic at times and often tried to escape from her house and hide in neighbors' bushes or leap out of the family car. She also went through a hitting streak, even pummeling her doctors.

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Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409.