JOHOR BARU, July 5 — The debilitating tremors afflicting Irfan Wafiy Idham Wazir, 12, have finally been given a name — myokymia.
The Standard Six boy is among hundreds of students in Pasir Gudang who fell victim to health issues from breathing in the chemical fumes polluting Sungai Kim Kim in the Johor industrial district last March and was recently diagnosed by specialists at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) to be suffering from the movement disorder, national news agency Bernama reported.
Myokymia is described as involuntary tremors or muscle spasms that can break out in any part of the body with diverse causes ranging from lack of sleep, stress, overwork, dehydration, overanxiety, use of certain drugs or alcohol, and magnesium deficiency. It is more a symptom than an actual disease as it is also exhibited in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Irfan, the fourth of five siblings, was admitted to the Hospital Sultan Ismail Hospital (HIS) here after he had breathing difficulties, believed from inhaling poisonous gases at school.
Unlike other friends, the pupil of Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Bukit Dahlia, Pasir Gudang was warded for 10 days with his health worsening daily, his mother, Norlela Abu Hashim, 45, told Bernama.
“His leg started to tremble on the second night he was in the hospital. When he was asleep, his heart was beating fast. The doctor slapped his face several times but he did not wake up, as if he was in a very deep sleep. The medical team then decided to call the neurologist.
“’The neurologist told him to walk but he could not do so. I had to hold him. At one time, I took him to the toilet and he fell because I forgot that he could not walk normally,” she was quoted as saying.
Norlela said the specialists at HIS performed numerous procedures, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to find out why Irfan was suffering from the spontaneous shakes before referring the boy to HKL, where specialists tested him for myokymia and results returned positive.
According to the housewife, Irfan’s tremors started after inhaling poisonous gases which caused his lungs to fail.
Due to Irfan’s frequent hospital checks, his father Idham Wazir, 49, has stopped working to help care for the boy.
The tremors have taken a toll on the boy, who according to Norlela, was once active and loved running and swimming.
“I have stored all his toys and sports equipment. At times, Irfan Wafiy will punch his calf hoping that it will no longer tremble. As a mother, I am sad at what had happened,” she related.
On March 7, a total of 105 students and residents near Sungai Kim Kim fell sick and were admitted to the hospital. After preliminary investigations, the authorities identified the cause was due to chemicals dumped into the river.
On March 11, a second wave of poisonous gas reactions from the chemical discharges in Sungai Kim Kim started.
A total of 106 new victims were warded with the number touching 1,000 several days later, including eight in the intensive care unit.
This was because the gases can be absorbed into the human body through the skin and respiration channels.
Several poisonous gases were produced after the chemicals reacted with water and air. These included acrylonitrile, xylene, methane and toluene gases which could cause headaches, nausea, unconsciousness and breathing difficulties.