Jack Conner is quite the character – highly intelligent, loving and caring as well as sarcastic and funny. He tells it like he sees it, because he believes honesty is always the best policy. Jack describes himself as a person who welcomes things with open arms and has a zest for life.
“Jack always has a positive attitude when it comes to his illnesses as well as everything in life,” said Brooke Conner, Jack’s mother. “He fights every day to keep moving and enjoys being a kid.”
Jack developed symptoms around age two and a half, starting with signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and tics, such as eye blinking, throat clearing and other symptoms that looked like Tourette’s syndrome. He also developed an eating disorder with a fluid aversion. His symptoms included ADHD-type symptoms, separation anxiety, mood changes, sleep disturbance and both fine and gross motor skill changes that prevented him from being able to tie his shoes and ride a bicycle.
After many years of not knowing the cause to all of Jack’s issues, he finally received a diagnosis from the Blank Children’s Diagnostic Clinic in the spring of 2015. Jack was diagnosed with PANDAS, which stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. He was also diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a disorder that deals with the connective tissue.
Throughout this journey, Dr. Stephen Elliott, Dr. Nate Noble and Child Life specialist Lori Brinkmeyer have all stood beside Jack. They, along with others who know Jack, recognize he's wise beyond his years.
“Jack has really grown up quickly due to his illnesses,” Brooke said. “He has fought very hard to fit in at school. He has always tried to set a good example to others despite his struggles with PANDAS and the mental illness that accompanies it. He always thinks of others before himself. He loves to be a good role model for other children and wants to be helpful.”
Jack has lab work at Blank Children’s Hospital every three to four months where they draw his blood to check his ASO titer or “strep levels.” He is currently on medication daily for treatment of PANDAS and to fight the eating disorder, tics, mood swings and sleep disturbances. He also sees a psychiatrist to help manage the symptoms.
“Watching your child go through this is the hardest thing in the world. Jack is so strong, he is a believer in hope and he has always been positive,” Brooke said. “Our family laughs, we cry, we know that tomorrow is always a new day and we hold on to that on this journey. We are so grateful that he has improved so much over the last year with the help of the medical staff, school and his medication.”