Strange Love: Emotions Cause Temporary Paralysis in Oregon Man

They economize on the positive emotions, avoiding what Frerking calls the "warm and fuzzy" feelings, as if he had an emotional beaker that overflows almost as soon as it starts to fill.

"A lot of effort goes into keeping the fluid level in that beaker sufficiently low that even ... those moments when things get a little more full, there's some place for it to go," said Frerking, before he can't help but pass out.

Suddenly a New Normal

The disease has not always intruded on the couple's life. Four years ago, it came on in an instant, and the two have been dealing with a new normal ever since.

Intimacy, for the most part, is off-limits.

"Holding hands in public is something that we can do for a few seconds at most, and that's about it," said Frerking. "Putting my arm around her is something that I don't do unless we're sitting down, and I know that it won't matter that much if I just flop over."

"It's tough,'' said his wife. "I miss touching him. ... I want to be touching him. ... I miss making out."

"Making out is hard to do," her husband agrees.

And it isn't only romantic love that causes the attacks.

Recently, at his stepgranddaughter's recent soccer game, just the sight of 3-year-olds in their uniforms caused him to have a massive attack before the game had even started.

"It's just too adorable for words, and he had to go sit down,'' explained his wife. "He was out for the entire soccer game and then some. He couldn't move, and so I'm thinking, yeah, Matt didn't really enjoy this very much 'cause he didn't get to enjoy any of it."

Movie trailers, because of the intensity of emotions they often convey in a short amount of time, also send Frerking into attacks, which means the couple rarely goes to the movies anymore.

Help in Medication, but Cure Elusive

Frerking's cataplexy used to be much worse. The attacks were more immediate before he began taking a potent cocktail of stimulants and sedatives twice daily, a regime he began two years ago and will likely have to keep for the rest of his life.

The medication slows the onset of Frerking's attacks, giving him a chance to find a resting spot before his muscle function shuts down.

Frerking rarely finds relief from his condition, though driving helps him stay focused and awake. And work is, for the most part, a refuge.

Ironically, Frerking is a neuroscientist who runs his own laboratory at Oregon Health Sciences University.

"My work is a very emotionally neutral kind of intellectually driven activity, so I'll spend a little time pondering over some problem that's bugging me at work,'' he said.

During an interview with ABCNews, Frerking made himself think about complex work problems to ward off an oncoming attack.

Frerking is also about to begin studying himself, to learn more about his baffling disease.

"So time will tell if anything comes of it," he said. "It would be pretty nice to contribute something."

But soon his wife called.

Anniversary Wishes

"Happy Anniversary honey," he said, as he answered a call on his cell phone from his wife, who wanted to thank him for the flowers he'd sent.

While on the phone he immediately slowed down and needed to support himself against a cabinet. "I need to stop thinking about it,'' he said.

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