A Thirsty Swimmer: Medical Mystery Solved

ByABC News
August 2, 2006, 7:56 PM

Aug. 3, 2006 — -- Sharon Callahan was the subject of this week's Primetime: Medical Mystery. In 1985, she was a competitive college diver and pre-med student at a college in Virginia. She complained to her mother, Ginger Callahan, that she was exhausted and had been having hallucinations. Ginger contacted Dr. Fred Miller, a professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine and Executive Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine, and asked him to see Sharon and try to diagnose her condition.

Below is a transcript of the story:

GINGER: "She was hallucinating when she would wake up in the middle of the night. [She] didn't recognize any of her roommates. It was very scary what she was telling me."

SHARON: "I went to the infirmary many times. They had told me it was stress that I was trying to take too much on. We want to a concert that was about an hour away from our dorm. On the way home, I had run out of water. I started having seizures. My hands would shake uncontrollably. I couldn't breathe. I was dizzy. I thought I was going to pass out. I got back and drank maybe a gallon of water right then and there, and the pain started going away. The pins and needles started lightening up. I started to breathe and relax again. At that point I realized there's something seriously wrong, and I called my mother."

GINGER: "Once she came to me, I knew she was scared or she would have taken care of it herself if she could. But his was beyond her."

SHARON: "It was at the point where I realized--I'm not gonna survive with this unless I get help for it or find out what is causing it."

DR. FRED MILLER: "When Sharon first came into my office. She was waking up in the middle of the night at least three or four times, maybe more. Sharon's sleep deprivation symptoms were profound."

SHARON: "The first thing that Dr. Miller said is he wanted to do a CAT scan to rule out the possibility of a brain tumor."

GINGER: "This diagnosis could be the end of everything. The end of her life, the end of my life, if anything happened to her. We were so stressed."

SHARON: "Based on all of my symptoms, I thought for sure that my life was over. When the results of the CAT scan came back it did show there was no brain tumor. In one sense I was relieved, on the other sense I was very depressed. It's been so many years that I was having these symptoms and no one was being able to figure it out. I was thinking at that point I was probably back to square one."