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Crazy Sickness
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Gallery 2-Page 2

Mystery Disease Of Nicaragua

By James Donahue

They call it Grisi Siknis which means “crazy sickness” in the language of the Nicaraguan people.

Modern medical doctors are mystified by the affliction, which sends its victims into a frenzied state before they fall into a long period of unconsciousness. Some natives along Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean coast may think of it as witchcraft, or perhaps a voodoo hex.

The odd thing about Grisi Siknis is that it only appears to affect the Miskito people who live in that one area of Nicaragua, and it hits mostly teenagers. It has been recorded there since about 1850.

One victim, a 16-year-old in Puerto Cabezaz, said she became sick at school. She said she suddenly “felt giddy and found it difficult to breathe. Then I saw something coming towards me – a kind of black man or a dragon that entered me and possessed me.”

Sometimes it is as if mass hysteria strikes and several teens in a single classroom go into hysteric frenzy at the same time, school officials say. Once the disease strikes, victims may remain in a crazed or coma state for months.

One woman said she was so busy protecting her affected daughter from harm that she was unable to sleep or eat for days. “My daughter was just running around like a maniac. She tore off all her clothes. One time she fell into the well. Other times, she’d run into the bush or into the river and people would try to catch her when they could.”

The victims also appear to have super-human strength. “You have to have five or six people to hold down one girl,” one person said.

Professor Pablo McDavis, who works at Uraccan University at Puerto Cabezas, said the Indigenous Diseases Department has been studying Grisi Siknis for years and cannot determine the cause of this strange affliction.

“We have taken samples of blood from patients and we can’t detect anything,” McDavis said. He said drugs have been tried but they only appear to cause the patient’s aggressiveness to get worse.

Fortunately, a local healer, Dona Porcela, claims to have found a cure. She makes a concoction of herbs and other secret ingredients that she says will bring patients out of their sickness within three or four days.

She said the potion, which she carries around in bottles, can be either swallowed or simply poured over the body to be effective. She travels to private homes when needed. And when treating the patients, Porcela also performs a cleansing ceremony which some say is like an exorcism.

Porcela says she heals an estimated 50 to 60 patients a year.

If all of the information above is correct, we must suspect that something akin to black magic is afoot in that region of Nicaragua. Voodoo works only when people believe in it. And in the case of the healer, the potent Porcela uses also works because people believe that it also will work.

The story is one more example of the power of the human mind.