By: Kristen Hegel
Would it kill you to brush your hair? For 13-year-old Megan Stewart, diagnosed with hair brushing syndrome, it could. The rare condition where static electricity produced from brushing hair can cause the brain to shut off is known as hair brushing syndrome. Not only is brushing her hair dangerous, but Stewart has to steer clear of balloons at parties, and even wearing polyester clothing. “She can’t rub balloons on her head at parties and she can’t wear any shiny clothing,” Megan’s mother, Sharon Stewart, said.
The simple task of brushing her hair is now a careful process. “When we comb her hair, we have to lay her down and cover her head with water to stop any static building up,” Sharon said. The first sign of the condition appeared one morning in 2008 as Sharon was brushing Megan’s hair for the first day of school. “I was brushing her hair in the living room when she flopped over and her lips turned blue. I thought she was having a fit, which she’d never had before, so we called the paramedics. It was really scary,” Sharon said.
With only one other known case of hair brushing syndrome, little is known about it. “This is a very rare condition I have never come across. But I have heard of reflex anoxic seizures, where kids can faint, or even have symptoms like epilepsy, which is triggered by pain or fear or even loud noises,” General Practitioner Doctor Craig Lennox, said. “It is plausible that static electricity could be another form of trigger.”
Doctors believe the condition is a result of Megan’s birth complications. Three months before Sharon gave birth; she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, meaning she had problems with her placenta. In order to save her baby, she had to undergo an early caesarian section. “I didn’t really know what it was but I knew I could die from it, so I was absolutely terrified. I was put on a lot of drugs and from then on I can’t remember anything, apparently I nearly died,” Sharon stated.
Megan was only 2 pounds, 5 ounces when she was born. “She was so, so tiny. When I got home from the hospital I got a phone call saying I needed to go straight back,” Megan’s father, Ian Stewart, said. Back at the hospital, doctors had discovered that her stomach had fallen through a hole in her diaphragm and as a result, she only had room for one lung to grow. Megan spent the first year and a half of her life in the hospital having birth related surgeries. She was also later diagnosed with asthma and dorsal stream dysfunction, meaning she can’t see fast moving objects.
Although she faces many daily struggles, Megan remains positive. According to her family, there are more surgeries to come, but she’s living life to the fullest. “She’s a very happy and lively young girl. When she was in the hospital, there were so many children dying and very ill, so we are just glad she is healthy and able to live her life. She really did defy all odds. She’s a little miracle,” Sharon said.