The nightmares and sleep paralysis began when he was 9.
Finally, at age 17, Max Murray was diagnosed with narcolepsy.
“When I was a kid, I thought I was crazy, so I didn’t open up about it,” Max says. “I was so confused about what was going on. I was 100 percent terrified.”
Nightmares, sleep paralysis and nighttime hallucinations are all symptoms of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. Max would wake up, unable to move, seeing shadow figures and hearing things that weren’t there. He was always tired during the day, and often sick, and he describes his old self as an “angry kid.”
Episodes of cataplexy began in high school
Cataplexy, often referred to as a “sleep attack,” is a sudden loss of muscle tone when you’re awake — often triggered by strong emotions. When an episode hit, Max would collapse with sudden weakness. Because of this frightening new symptom, Max’s parents brought him to Geisinger, where pediatric neurologist Anne Marie Morse, DO, was the first of the many doctors they’d seen over the years to test Max for narcolepsy.
“Narcolepsy is a rare condition, impacting one of 2,000 people,” Dr. Morse explains. “Typically, there is a time lapse of eight to 10 years between symptom onset and diagnosis.”
She ordered a sleep study.
A diagnosis at last: narcolepsy
“Over the years, I’d seen a lot of doctors and been misdiagnosed, which is actually fairly common with narcolepsy,” Max explains. “At one point, they even tested me for leukemia.”
Dr. Morse prescribed medications to help Max manage his condition. He’s feeling much better now and looks forward to being on the Mifflinburg High School wrestling team his senior year — and hopes to be on a college wrestling team after that.
“Dr. Morse is a superhero in my eyes. I’m so grateful for her,” Max says. “Without her, I’d still be stuck in a state where I’m lost, confused and angry. Narcolepsy no longer runs my life. I look at it like I’m in the driver’s seat now.”