top of page

Brugada Syndrome: A Medical Mystery That Inspired 'Nightmare On Elm Street'

The American horror franchise 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' consists of nine slasher films, a television series, novels, and comic books created by Wes Craven. The story revolves around a creature with razors for hands that hides in children's nightmares and cuts them apart while they sleep is actually based on a true story.

Wes Craven, the director, says he got the idea from reading a series of articles in the LA Times about healthy young Southeast Asian refugees who had landed in the United States. Then, seemingly out of nowhere and with no visible health issues, they appear

"Cried out in their sleep. And then they died"

During the 1980s, the number of people from Southeast Asia who died in this manner was frighteningly high, with at least 117 cases reported in the decade after US officials began recording it in 1981. This is now one of the top five causes of death among the Laotian Hmong in the United States.

It was first named "Asian Death Syndrome" and then "Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome [SUNDS]" by medical authorities, while it was named a variety of other titles in popular culture.

“In the Philippines, it’s called 'bangungot', in Japan 'pokkuri' in Thailand 'lai tai', but it all roughly translates as the same thing: Nightmare Death." said by Dr Robert Kirschner.

''I know what they didn't die of,'' Dr. Michael McGee, assistant medical examiner for Ramsey County, Minnesota, told the New York Times following four such deaths. ''They didn't die of getting shot in the head, stabbed in the heart; they didn't fall off the roof; they didn't get poisoned; because we did an autopsy in each case, and we got a big zero.''

"We didn't think anything mysterious was afoot until the third and fourth deaths happened very quickly,'' he added, ''but then we began to wonder."

Autopsies revealed that all 18 of the victims' hearts were enlarged, and 17 of them had problems in their conduction systems, which begin and coordinate cardiac muscle movements. The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Friedrich Eckner of the University of Illinois College of Medicine.– dramatically told the Los Angeles Times it was as if “their hearts just shorted out.”

In 1987, the American Journal of Public Health released a more comprehensive examination of the deaths. The study looked at mortality in the United States and refugee camps in Thailand, finding that such deaths were much more common in Thailand than in the United States. The study only looked at deaths that occurred while the patients were sleeping, and it used case histories from the patients' relatives, acquaintances, and fellow refugees in Thailand.

Previous sleep difficulties were discovered in many of the cases. One family discovered their daughter unresponsive and breathing erratically. They sought to wake her, fearful that this was similar to accounts they'd heard from others, but she only regained consciousness minutes later. After experiencing similar breathing difficulties, she died in front of her parents 33 months later. A 25-year-old man awoke with numb and weak legs after experiencing strange breathing. However, a medical evaluation revealed that everything was fine: "he died suddenly during a nap at 2:00 pm the same day."

There were higher instances of this type of death within the families of those already affected, as well as higher instances of epilepsy in those who died, according to the findings – though they admitted part of it could be related to bias favoring recollection of previous deaths in families affected by SUNDS. This shows that the illness has a hereditary component.

"Southeast Asian victims of sudden death in the US tend to be more recent immigrants, compared to controls, indicating that newly arrived refugees in the US may have a greater risk of sudden death than longer-term residents of the same group," they found, in a pattern consistent with the idea that stress was a factor in these deaths.

Shelley Adler, a lecturer at the University of California, went so far as to argue that the Hmong people's belief in nightmare spirits contributed to their deaths - despite the fact that the ailment is most likely a cardiac condition caused by the added stress.

Long after Wes Craven had turned the mystery into Nightmare on Elm Street, the likely perpetrator of the deaths was discovered. Brugada syndrome is a condition that causes a disruption of the heart's normal rhythm. Specifically, this disorder can lead to irregular heartbeats in the heart's lower chambers (ventricles), which is an abnormality called ventricular arrhythmia. Some cases of sudden infant death syndrome, as well as SUNDS, are thought to be caused by a hereditary disease.

Source: iflscience

Maina Zaina, Writer and a Virtual Assistant at AVCreativity Studio. She enjoys media entertainment and is an avid fan of "K-Wave". She loves her job because she is exposed to different types of entertainment. She also believes in the saying "If you want to be successful, don't seek success - seek competence, empowerment; do nothing short of the best that you can do" by Jaggi Vasudev

108 views0 comments
bottom of page