Editor’s Note: This case was submitted by the author as a case of psychic healing by a healer in San Francisco who has ministered to a number of well-known people. The case presents an unusual clinical situation that requires careful reading and perhaps library investigation to understand. The editors present it as an exercise in critical clinical thinking. The editor’s analysis and opinion may differ from that of the author, and will be presented in a future issue along with the best of the analyses submitted by our readers.
ABSTRACT: This case is of a 3-month-old infant with glioblastoma multiforme with a 7-year survival, whose parents refused standard radiation and chemotherapy. To date, at age 7, the child is alive and well and functioning at an optimal level. A review of the original frozen section by a pathologist not connected with the case confirmed the original diagnosis and ruled out other more favorable lesions. A computer search of the literature did not unearth survival periods longer than a year or two for this specific tumor. Unusual aspects of the case include intervention by a Russian “psychic healer” when the patient was almost 2 years of age and near terminal after 3 craniotomies.
IN AUGUST 1993, A 3-M0NTH-0LD FEMALE INFANT presented at the University of Iowa Hospital with neurological changes. A right frontal lobe mass was excised on August 23, 1993, and diagnosed as a glioblastoma multiforme, without other (mixed) histological elements. One month later, she was admitted for postoperative complications (meningitis) and treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics.
On January 17, 1994, severe pressure symptoms due to tumor recurrence necessitated a second craniotomy, which yielded a large tumor mass and typical findings of high mitotic activity and extensive necrosis. Postoperative course was benign and she was discharged for outpatient follow-up.
In the 7-month interim following the second craniotomy, the patient developed a left hemiparesis and increasing irritability. A right frontal cyst was found, and on August 17, 1994, 7 months after the second debulking, the patient underwent a third right frontal craniotomy for cyst evacuation. Tumor and necrotic tissue were removed as well. A reservoir was placed and catheter inserted into the cystic bed. She was discharged 2 days later and scheduled for outpatient follow-up.
The patient did well until October 1994, when she developed a severe illness of high fever and lethargy. Patient was then given a I-month course of an experimental (non-FDA-approved) agent, “chondriana,” supplied by the parents and said to contain mitochondria. Some clinical improvement was noted for about 4 months; the treatment was withdrawn after about a month because of the patient’s growing systemic intolerance to it. A CT scan on February 16, 1995, reported a 50% increase in tumor size, which elicited the neurosurgeon’s comment, “Surprisingly, this highly malignant tumor has not exhibited rapid growth over the past 4 or 5 months.” The following month (March 1995) the parents took the child to a Russian “energy” healer.
Two months later (May 1995), 9 months post third craniotomy, the patient was seen in clinic after the parents noted a slight swelling in the right frontal region. The region was aspirated with a #25 gauge needle and yielded whitish-creamy material, containing many WBCs but no bacteria. The material was thought to be either an infection or the egress of necrotic tumor debris, since it was similar in appearance to material encountered in her prior debulking. It was found to be pathologically consistent with necrotic tumor debris. In situ exploration of the previous craniotomy site was recommended.
On June 25, 1995, the patient underwent a fourth craniotomy, which yielded a fibrotic mass adherent to tumor; 5 or more cysts filled with xanthochromic fluid; absence of necrotic tissue; “curiously a thick fibrotic wall around the tumor islands;” and a 240 cc fluid cavity.
A follow-up CT 2 months later showed a fluid-filled cystic tumor bed without evidence of tumor growth. The cyst fluid gave the same signal as ventricular fluid. A recommendation for radiation or chemotherapy was offered, which the parents refused.
Another brain CT on October 19, 1995, showed no significant change and “no evidence of tumor growth into tumor cavity.” The patient was reported as doing very well-alert and happy, and playing with other children.
CT scans of January and June of 1996 and February of 1997 showed no tumor recurrence. From March 1997 through February 1998 there were episodes of shunt malfunction, followed by replacement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt in May 1998. A CT on January 28, 1999, showed no tumor growth.
The lay practitioner’s initial ministrations consisted of in-person sessions of a few minutes’ duration, with the healer moving his hands around or near the child, but never actually touching her. The patient at the time had a reaction of massive vomiting and diarrhea. The practitioner reassured the parents that this was a positive response and would subside. After 2 months the reaction ceased and the patient began to thrive.
To date, the sessions continue and consist of thrice-weekly (or less) telephone contacts between the mother and practitioner, usually when the patient is asleep. Upon awakening, the child is said to report that she has seen the practitioner “and his rainbow” (interpreted as the energy field she sees around him). The distant healing (DH) is supplemented by weeklong visits to San Francisco once or twice a year for daily in-person sessions of a few minutes’ duration.
The patient is now a class leader in her school, is popular with her peers, and tests in the superior intellectual range. Her movements are speedy and agile despite a left hemiparesis with a left-leg limp. Her left arm is held still, in a position of flexion, though a gradual return of movement and function has been noted.
Chronology of Events
First craniotomy, August 1993
Second craniotomy, June 1993-5 months later Third craniotomy, August 1994-7 months later Psychic healer starts, March 1995
Fourth craniotomy, June 1995-3 months after practitioner begins work; 10 months after previous craniotomy
CT scan, August 1995-no regrowth
Subsequent periodic scans, most recently January 1999, show no tumor recurrence.
To date, computer searches have been unable to uncover any long-range survivors of a pure glioblastoma, other than the patient described. Also striking are the relatively modest neurological deficits and superior intelligence in a survivor with a history of 4 craniotomies.
The patient was not quite 2 years old when the practitioner began ministrations in March, 1995. At that time, she had already undergone 3 craniotomies and a course of a non-FDA-approved substance, chondroma, which at first seemed to produce some clinical improvement, but had to be withdrawn after about a month because of the patient’s growing systemic intolerance to it. In that interim, according to a CT scan of February 1995, the tumor size actually increased by 50%, to the surprise of the neurosurgeon who had expected a higher growth rate.
The “healer’s” intervention preceded the fourth craniotomy by 3 months. intraoperative findings included a fluid-filled cystic tumor bed and no tumor mass—despite the 50% size increase reported in the CT scan of February 1995-four and one-half months before this fourth (and final) craniotomy.
Koopman: Psychic Healing of a Case of Glioblastoma Multiforme in a Three-Month-old Infant
The question then arises: What occurred during the interim of 3 months from March 1995, when the practitioner entered the scene, through June 1995, when the last craniotomy was done-particularly since the patient never received radiation or chemotherapy?
Also, the question arises-why has the patient remained totally free of a lesion whose natural longitudinal history consists of repeated recurrences and early demise?
The only intervention since the fourth and final de-bulking (other than some revision of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt) has been the work of the psychic healer, mostly through distant healing. Personal contact was brief with yearly meetings consisting of a few minutes a day over a period of 5 days.