Heartland Health featured on "Monsters Inside Me"

Updated 06/01/2022 11:55 AM
Heartland Health featured on "Monsters Inside Me"

Monsters Inside Me, a television show airing on the Animal Planet network, retells the real-life harrowing stories of people infected by deadly parasites as doctors and scientists unravel their cases to seek a cure.

The above YouTube clip tells the story of Wade Latham, son of Heartland Health caregiver Chris Latham, and his journey along with the investigative work of Scott Folk, MD, medical director of adult infectious disease for Heartland Regional Medical Center.

Below are further comments from Scott Folk, MD, regarding his Monsters Inside Me experience:

In June of 2010, Wade (then 18 years-old) traveled with 20 friends to southern Missouri for a high school graduation river float trip. Wade harvested three crayfish from the Jacks Fork River, placed them in a tin can, "boiled" them and then ate them.

In July, 2010, Wade was hospitalized at Heartland Regional Medical Center for three days for small bilateral pneumothoraces (a pneumothorax is an abnormal collection of air in the pleural space, due to leakage from the lung). In September, 2010, Wade was hospitalized at Heartland for six days for a fever of 102 degrees, chills, cough and shortness of breath. He had an abnormally elevated percentage of eosinophils in his blood and pleural fluid (eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that increase in numbers due to allergies, cancers or parasitic infections).

I first met Wade when he was hospitalized in September, 2010. I diagnosed him as having a parasite known as Paragonimus kellicotti (lung worm), which is a type of fluke or flatworm. I treated him with praziquantel three times per day for two consecutive days

I had never diagnosed a case of paragonimiasis prior to Wade's case in my 20 years practicing infectious diseases. An important facet in recognizing what Wade had was my reviews that I have given at Missouri Western State University. David Ashley, PHD (professor of Biology) teaches a course at Missouri Western known as "Human Parasitology" on a biannual basis.  Since 2002, I have provided a review of the subject for his students, just prior to their exams. It has been my hope that the reviews help students master the subject. The lectures force me to think about topics in parasitology that I may have otherwise forgotten. When I encountered Wade, it was a matter of "connecting the dots" -- raw crayfish, fever, cough and eosinophils.

After sitting down with Wade at his bedside, listening to his story (and additional important details from his father) and examining him, I suspected the diagnosis when I left his room. The question in my mind was how to prove the diagnosis. Stool examinations are relatively insensitive for diagnosing paragonimiasis. I made some phone calls and forwarded a sample of Wade's blood to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. Within a few days, the tests returned as positive.

It was fascinating to meet the producers of Animal Planet's Monsters Inside Me and get a glimpse of how the show is produced. They called me last summer, unsolicited, and asked if I would reach out to one of the five patients I had seen with paragonimiasis. They wanted to come to St. Joseph to do a story and I was happy to be a part of it.

Further, what has been the most fulfilling for me in all of this has been the coming together of Missouri Western (my teaching opportunity helping me not to forget about paragonimiasis), the CDC (diagnostic testing) and Heartland (analyzing blood and helping to exclude other infections). Little did I know in 2010, this collaboration would help pave the way for the discovery of the Heartland Virus in 2012.

Scott Folk, MD
Medical Director
Adult Infectious Disease
Heartland Regional Medical Center