22 year old Kiera Echols went to the doctor with flu-like symptoms, soon to be followed by fainting. After spending almost a week in the hospital (diagnosed with meningitis) she returned home. Then came the hallucinations, which included:
- Complaining about children in her bedroom who weren’t there
- Insisting she was in labor
- Asking for a priest and an exorcism
- Lunging at people and having psychotic episodes
Doctors suspected that Kiera had encephalitis. They soon found out the cause – a teratoma growing on her left ovary.
Teratomas are tumors with tissue or organ components resembling normal derivatives of all three germ layers. According to Wikipedia,
Teratomas have been reported to contain hair, teeth, bone and very rarely more complex organs such as eye, torso, and hands, feet, or other limbs.
The article continues:
Echols’ body recognized the tumor as an invader, and developed antibodies against it, just like it would develop antibodies against a cold virus or a form of pollen she might be allergic to. Those antibodies attacked certain neurochemicals in the brain, triggering the encephalitis and the hallucinations. Doctors gave Echols steroids to bring down the swelling in her brain, and performed surgery to remove the tumor.
The form of encephalitis that Kiera had was called “anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis”, which is probably been around for awhile even though they only identified it a few years ago. As one doctor asks – how many women in the mid 20th century were committed because they had this problem? And we at HFZ ask: how many of those women were subjected to lobotomies or ECT? Thankfully, Kiera is ok today. But the thought of teratomas that might contain body parts, which could then cause insanity, is pretty creepy.
Some Rather Gross Examples of Teratomas:
(click for larger)
Fetus in fetu
You may recall Stephen King’s novel The Dark Half, which involved a writer (Thad Beaumont) trying to kill his pseudonym, George Stark, who had become an actual physical entity. It was later revealed that Beaumont had a parasitic twin, which was absorbed into him in utero and later removed from his skull when he was a child. Inside Beaumont’s head was part of a nostril, fingernails, teeth, and a human eye.
Sometimes a parasitic twin is called “Fetus in fetu” – a rare form of mature teratoma that may contain complete organ systems, even major body parts such as torso or limbs. Fetus in fetu has often been interpreted as a fetus growing within its twin.
Fetus in fetu is not what Kiera Echols had, but there are cases of it in history – for example, the case of Alamjan Nematilaev, who in 2003, at 7 years of age, was found to have been carrying his parasitic twin brother. The fetus was highly developed – with hair, arms, fingers, nails, legs, toes, genitals, a head, and even evidence of a face.