Grandmother says car accident turned her into the Incredible Hulk

Contributed by
Jan 14, 2013, 1:38 PM EST

Suddenly pumping up to super strength like the Hulk might sound incredible in theory, but the closest thing to a real-life equivalent, Stiff-Person Syndrome, is absolutely devastating. Helen Stephens suffers from the disease, and she wants everyone to know just how serious this condition is.

"I look enormous and I even call myself the Hulk, Arnie or Rambo. I'm like a bodybuilder," says Stephens. Her condition began some 14 years ago after a car accident. Triggered by anything that can make one tense up in stress or fear, Stiff-Person Syndrome causes spasms and seizure and makes muscle tissue tear and turn rock-hard.

What we're talking about is, quite literally, a one-in-a-million disease. The condition is so rare, in fact, that Stephens was branded a hypochondriac and misdiagnosed for years before finally getting a proper diagnosis. Even though she has a name for the disease, she still suffers.

In addition to the illness being terminal, it's very difficult to treat because it has to be dealt with almost immediately when Stephens has a flare-up. The drug she needs, a shot of diazepam, must be administered within minutes. If it isn't, her muscles will become so hard that the needle will be unable to reach a vein.

You might think that such an illness would be taken seriously, but Stephens says she is treated with very little respect or understanding when she goes in for emergency care. Despite having a letter explaining her condition, Stephens says, "I was left on a bed screaming in agony as everything in my body was ripping apart."

To give you an idea of just how severe the changes are, after an attack earlier in the month Stephens gained about 70 pounds and her neck swelled a whopping four inches.

That's why she's speaking out now, because of how important she feels it is for people to know that this is a real disease and how it should be treated. It might seem silly or even inappropriate to compare the condition with Bruce Banner's brutal alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk, but hopefully associating the disease with something everyone knows will help in the fight to raise awareness.

(via the Daily Mail)

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker