PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A medical miracle has transformed into a medical mystery for Main Line resident Alexandria Edmund, whose revolutionary heart treatment has led to some baffling side effects.
Edmund, 37, of Bryn Mawr, received genetic therapy from Jefferson University Hospital on March 16. The treatment, which is still in the testing phases, involves using a patient's own cellular material to produce a targeted medicine to reverse heart disease.
Since her treatment, Edmund has become almost entirely nocturnal. She reportedly has trouble keeping her eyes open as long as the sun is up. Just recently, Edmund lost her job as a middle-school teacher when she was repeatedly found taking a nap in a patch of sun on her desk.
Until the procedure she was a strict vegetarian, but now Edmund can stomach nothing but meat, especially fish and canned tuna.
A colleague, Lainey Downington, 53, Ardmore, was among the first to notice the change. "We were attending the local school board meeting in order to represent the teachers' union, when I noticed that Alex was fixated on the board president's laser pen. As the president was making his budget presentation, Alex kept jumping up from her seat and waving her arms. At first I thought that she was objecting to the pathetic increase in teacher salaries, but after a while it began to dawn on me that she was actually batting at the little red dot."
Even more troubling to the former reading specialist, Edmund's form of speech has entirely changed. Once a stickler for grammar, she now breaks nearly every rule on a regular basis. Edmund's former fiancée, Gerald Firetruck, described the troublesome change: "Instead of asking me where I'd like to go to dinner, she would say, 'Can haz dinner nao?' After a while, I just couldn't take it."
Firetruck said the last straw was when he caught her hissing at his pug, Buster. "Poor little guy couldn't understand what was happening. He tried to kiss her on the nose, which used to make her giggle, but she arched her back, reached out her hand, and smacked his backside. He ran yelping into the kitchen with his fat little legs skidding on the floor behind him." A viral video matching the events of this alleged incident has just been posted by a Mrpugface on YouTube. Firetruck denies any involvement.
A source who asked to remain anonymous said that Edmund has been humiliated by the changes that she says she can't control. "I mean, the other day I was showing her my baby, and she leaned into the carrier and licked him like she was grooming a little kitten. I won't be able to let her babysit anymore."
This same source also had a theory about the reason for the change. "Our parents -- I mean, her parents were out of town for a big trip to Hawaii to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Alex was watching their cat, Bubbles, while they were gone. She was normally a very neat person, but I noticed a few stray cat hairs on her cardigan as I accompanied her to her procedure. I keep wondering if it's possible those hairs could've ended up in the sample that the doctors took, and if the medicine they developed was altered as a result."
The medical world is full of stories about changes that have taken place to transplant patients' personalities and behavior following an operation. Usually, these are assumed to derive from the preferences of the donor patient, although the true mechanism of transmission is unknown. However, no such cases have ever been noted so far in this new treatment.
While the doctors who performed the procedure refuse to speak about the case, citing legal and privacy concerns, Stig Branson, an adjunct professor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, poured cold water on the cat-hair theory. "The rigorous conditions required for the drawing of the sample would make it extremely unlikely that any foreign matter would be included," Branson said. He suggested that perhaps Edmund's personality change is a psychological condition that would benefit from counseling.
Regardless of the cause of her transformation, Edmund today has become reclusive. According to sources close to Edmund, she has made a full recovery from her heart disease, despite the troubling side effects.
The anonymous source summed it up: "My sister –- I mean Alex -- has turned into a completely different person. She has more in common now with Bubbles than she does with the rest of the family." After a pause the source continued, "I'm afraid at 37 my sister has become a cat lady."
Those interested in the studies regarding gene therapy for cardiovascular disease at Jefferson can find more at their web site.
For a medical perspective on the phenomenon of transplant patients encountering personality changes, read "Can An Organ Transplant Change A Recipient's Personality? Cell Memory Theory Affirms 'Yes'"