Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

In the darkness

with one comment

I watched a channel 4 documentary on the Elizabeth Fritzl case a couple of days ago. In case you have been living in a hole yourself, this is the case of the poor woman who was imprisoned and abused by her father for more than twenty years in a dark, airless cellar in Austria.

The only picture I could find of Elisabeth (which I have now lost again) is that of a woman with a blanket thrown over her head, being accompanied by police officers. Her legs are bare and have the lilac quality of skin that has absolutely no pigmentation.

Elisabeth’s freedom only came about when Kerstin Fritzl, Elisabeth’s oldest child, was bought to hospital unconscious by Josef Fritzl, with a note from her mother. She later suffered seizures and was found to be suffering from multiple organ failure.

Doctors had no idea what was wrong with her and a media appeal was launched asking her mother to come forward as she may be able to provide answers as to the cause of Kerstin’s illness. Police suspected severe neglect and abuse.

Days later Elisabeth appeared with her father at the hospital where Kerstin was being treated. At first Elisabeth evaded police questions, but then promised to tell the truth if the police promised she would never have to see her father again.

With the revelation that Kerstin had spent 18 years locked in an underground cellar with her mother and two siblings, it must have become obvious to the doctors that she was suffering from dramatic vitamin D deficiency. This information is largely absent from internet news accounts of the case, but it was revealed by the channel 4 documentary to be the cause of Kerstin’s illness. Kerstin currently remains in an induced coma – presumably to manage status epilepticus or unbearable pain – though reports are promising that her health is recovering. Apparently her kidneys have started working again.

What is amazing to me is that her mother, Elisabeth (42), and siblings, Stefan (19), and Felix (5), did not end up in the same state. Elisabeth has survived for twenty four years without any sunlight whatsoever. There have been a number of reports in the British press that suggest the Fritzl family’s teeth are badly decayed and that they “speak in animal noises” and walk strangely (ricketts?), but this has been denied by police officers and doctors close to the case, though all are said to be deficient in vitamin D, anaemic, and have poor posture and poor immune systems. Why did Kerstin get so sick above and beyond her peers? Perhaps her genetics make her more vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency. Perhaps she did not eat something protective that her family members ate – like dairy products, mushrooms, or blood sausage (blood is a very rich source of vitamin D). Perhaps she contracted an infection, perhaps a kidney infection (vitamin D is largely regulated and recycled by the kidneys), that led to her crisis.

Natascha Kampusch, fellow Austrian, who was imprisoned at the age of ten for over eight years in a cellar under similar circumstances appears not to have suffered from any bone structure abnormalities. In fact she has a remarkably attractive face with a well-formed, broad jaw line. As does her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil.

Far from speaking in animal noises, the Fritzl children are said to be eloquent, polite, well-behaved and very intelligent, a testament to their mother’s care. Stefan is said to be a delight to talk to. The plot thickens somewhat when we learn that Josef Fritzl was abusiness man who dealt in property, and an engineer who built a warren of underground rooms under his house. He put his meticulous planning skills to a repugnant use in the imprisonment of his daughter, carefully crafting her living space prior to her kidnap, and even luring her into the cellar under the pretext of helping him carry a heavy reinforced steel door that was to seal her dungeon.

Indeed, Austrian police suggest that Josef Fritzl was so well organised he was able to take long holidays abroad without fear of his prisoners starving to death, and he even claims that if he was gone for too long, the electronic locking mechanism on the cellar door would automatically unlock. Fritzl’s business associates describe him as a man who was unusually reliable – if he said he would return a tool he would borrowed in two days time, he would return it in two days time. Fritzl’s neighbours describe the family as “keeping themselves to themselves”, growing a huge hedge around their garden, and never visiting local garden parties. And what of Priklopil? He too fits the same personality type. When he died he was working as a communications technician for Siemens.

From the asperger’s syndrome blogs I read there has been silence on this issue, just as there was silence over the Virginia Tech University massacre when the decidedly strange Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage. Seung-Hui Cho suffered from selective mutism, social anxiety and depression. His family thought he might be mentally ill. According to his grandfather, Cho never made eye contact with him, called him grandfather, or tried to hug him. He was teased for his shyness and strange speech patterns. He appears to have looked down on and hated his peers – as happens commonly when an intelligent individual is bullied and hounded for being different.

I don’t believe that other aspie bloggers haven’t noticed these personality traits. The people whose blogs I read have finely tuned aspie radars and spot patterns quickly. I believe that, like me, they simply don’t know what to say.


Written by alienrobotgirl

25 May, 2008 at 10:36 am

Posted in Asperger's Syndrome

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  1. Generally I live in a hole, but this one filtered down even to me. I think that all you can really say is that human monsters are pretty common, males being significantly over represented. The normal Golgafrinchan monster may well rape his daughter for years with no more restraint that the threat of even greater physical abuse and the absolute placement of ALL blame for the occurrence on the daughter. Obviously this does not sell newscopy. The coincidental combination of a routine monster with the organisational traits of aspergers syndrome might well produce the bizarre circumstances which have the ability to make “news”. I’d be willing to bet that a number of girls taking A levels this year will have been suffering at the hands of their father for years without the locked cellar.

    Plenty of Golafrinchan monsters around. Not trying to justify male behaviour, just monsters come in all sorts. If 1% of the general population is aspie, why shouldn’t 1% of the sub set who are monsters be aspie?


    PS Interesting in terms of how much vitamin D we really need.


    27 May, 2008 at 9:43 am

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