Health Matters: Long-Sought Diagnosis Gives Arkansas Man His Life Back

BENTON, Ark. - A local hospital is providing a treatment regimen for a young man whose illness took years to correctly diagnose.

Cameron Puckett suffers from PANS/PANDAS. The acronyms stand for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infections.

He first got sick five years ago and doctors call it a miracle to see him get his life back.

PANS/PANDAS is a disease with devastating consequences.

Every week, Cameron goes to Saline Memorial Hospital to get vitamins and supplements his body needs.

Throughout his childhood, Cameron would break out with a debilitating viral infection.

"His eyes would go blank and he would have this blank stare and he would kind of get a little withdrawn," says Cathy Puckett, Cameron's mother.

Cameron's health took a turn for the worse at age 15. His mom says he became depressed to the point of not eating, had vocal tics and became housebound.

"Cameron was so bad that they were trying to diagnose him with different things, whether it would be a schizoeffective disorder, bipolar disorder," she adds.

That diagnosis didn't convince her. It wasn't until she learned about PANS/PANDAS online, two types of autoimmune responses triggered by a virus or bacterial infection.

Cathy says her son showed all the same symptoms and a test was done that confirmed it.

"Nobody knew anything about PANS/PANDAS," she continues.

It's a disorder they're still learning about, including doctors at Saline Memorial.

"It's often misdiagnosed and overlooked. I think that these infections and the auto-antibodies are the underlying cause of why the child has obsessive compulsive disorder," says Dr. Jana Jennings, Pediatrician.

Dr. Jennings says Cameron was diagnosed with PANS/PANDAS last year and immediately started getting treatment which consists of antibiotics, steroids or an infusion.

Now, at the age of 20, Cameron is starting to see remarkable improvement.

"It's like a miracle," says Dr. Jennings.

Faith is what Cameron fully leans on to cope with PANS/PANDAS.

"It's the only thing that keeps me going. You know, just believing that there's something greater than me out there that I have to live for," he explains.

He's living each day fighting a disease without a cure, but remains optimistic.

"Just the simple things that you take for granted, just going outside, shooting a basketball or playing golf," he says.

Cameron plans to attend college at UCA. He will also continue to bring awareness to PANS/PANDAS and the need for more resources in Arkansas. We're told just four doctors in the state can treat the disease.

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