A 5-year-old boy has a rare brain condition that could cause him to be literally scared to death, according to news reports. Reed Havlik, who lives in Iowa, has a condition called vanishing white matter disease, a disorder that’s been reported in only about 200 people worldwide, according to South West News Service (SWNS). Vanishing white matter disease is a genetic condition that mainly affects the brain and spinal cord, and causes deterioration of nerve fibers known as “white matter,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Reference (GHR).
People with the condition are particularly vulnerable to stresses, including infections, head trauma or even “extreme fright,” GHR says. These stresses could worsen symptoms, and lead to coma or even death. That means that Reed and his family need to be particularly vigilant around Halloween.
“We have got to be really careful what we expose him to because he could be frightened to death,” Reed’s mother, Erika Havlik, told SWNS. “The stress of it all can speed it [the disease] up. We do celebrate Halloween but only on a really small scale.”