Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nightmare Death Syndrome

***Note:  This post originally appeared in my blog in August of 2007.  Since I took content private before this year offline, I have still been getting numerous hits on my blog referring to many pages that has been removed from public view.  This is obviously an important topic to some as I've gotten a ton of hits on this page so I've decided to re-post that entry for the sake of sharing information.  Also if you are interested in my older archived posts from the past (Since 2005), I will be taking invitation requests for access as its now a private blog  and open to viewers by invitation only. *****

Nightmare Death Syndrome

A Thai worker died recently in Taiwan. Like in the scariest horror movie, he was perfectly healthy and in his prime when suddenly he screamed out in his sleep during a nightmare and died. Nightmare Death syndrome is one of the leading causes of sudden death of young men in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Japan. The largest number of these events occur in Thailand's Northeast (Issan), and is the second leading cause of death after road accidents. The syndrome occurs so often that it has been studied by the CDC. Since 1977 more than 100 have died from this disorder in the US alone (mostly Hmong immigrants).

This syndrome usually only afflicts men, average median age of 33, in good health, and all having the same kind of death...screaming during their sleep and then dying. In Thailand, many believe that these men are the victims of "widow ghosts" that come and claim young men to ease their loneliness. In the Philippine culture, this syndrome is called "Bangungut", which is also the word for nightmare.

First investigated by Dr Gonzalo Aponte of the US Naval Hospital in Guam in 1960 after the death of some Filipino sailors, he found that sudden night deaths were well known in the Filipino community. In fact they were recorded across the entire Far East. According to folklore, the sleeper is attacked by a nocturnal demon that squats on his chest and suffocates him. Witness reports bear this out, describing “choking, gasping, groaning, gurgling, frothing at the mouth, labored breathing without wheezing or strider, screaming, and other signs of terror.”

While the exact cause of this syndrome is still being debated, there has been some headway in this area. For example, take this extract from Fourteantimes:

The breakthrough finally came from this side of the Atlantic. In 1986, Spanish-born Dr Pedro Brugada came across an unusual pattern on an electrocardiogram, which shows the electrical activity in the heart. The patient suffered from an irregularity in his heartbeat, and he had an ECG trace that looked like a shark’s fin.

The same unusual pattern turned up in two further patients, both men in their forties who had suffered from sudden collapses. Dr Brugada collected several more cases and by 1992 he was certain. The shark-fin ECG pattern, now known as the Brugada Sign, represents an irregularity in the rhythm of the heart. This irregularity can cause fibrillation, when the chambers of the heart pump out of sequence. The circulation of the blood ceases, and if the heart is not stimulated with an electric shock or similar treatment, the results are fatal. This condition – “sudden death with structurally normal heart” – became known as Brugada Syndrome.

Brugada deaths are different from those caused by other cardiac conditions because they are associated with periods of slow heartbeat. Deaths generally occur at night, or when the victim is sitting peacefully, not during strenuous exercise. “The typical patient is 40 years old, in the best moment of his life, very active, very productive, with no previous history of anything, and all of a sudden one night he never wakes up,” says Dr Brugada. SUDS patients showed the same telltale ECG pattern and it was confirmed that SUDS and Brugada Syndrome are essentially the same condition.

Many believe this syndrome is related to sudden infant death/Sudden Unexplained death syndrome and may be generic in nature. It has all the signs...males, Asian, and mostly from a specific region in the country. The surprising thing about this problem is how little effort is being applied to finding a cure for it. If it is indeed such a large cause of death among young men in northeast of Thailand, then a larger portion of the Thai research dollars should be allocated to identifying those at risk and finding ways to help the problem. But in many countries, young Asian males, especially from poor regions are considered 'expendable' commodities and thus not given priority in the political or medical system. There is no media interest, no political gain, and most likely considered a racial disease (i.e. Sickle Cell Armenia) that cannot cross over and affect others. I don't want to sound like a negative racist, but I can't help but wonder what would have been the reaction if this syndrome affected only middle class Caucasian women, in prime health, in their 30's?

Anyway, before you go to bed tonight don't forget to say your night prayers. You never know if that widow demon will visit and take you away. She must be one horny ghost...thank god I'm too old for her...

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