A 14-year-old boy suddenly experiences inexplicable psychotic episodes: He tells his father he’s the son of the devil. He claims his tabby cat is possessed by demons. He says he’s no longer human. The teen’s psychosis spirals out of control, and he’s diagnosed with schizophrenia multiple times. But his parents, and father in particular, refuse to believe it and do all they can to uncover the real cause. Nearly two years and $400,000 later, they find answers.

Late at night, he’d open the scans of Michael’s brain on his computer. The right and left hemispheres glowed like the phosphorescent wings of a Luna moth. He would flip through the images one by one, exploring the mysterious topology of the brain. He was searching for anomalies, for answers. He was looking for his lost son.

But Scott stood his ground. He knew his son couldn’t wait for a clinical trial that might take five years and tens of millions of dollars. He embraced the PANS roadmap, believing that Michael’s physicians were ignoring clear evidence that there could be an infectious trigger to his illness. Whether or not it was ultimately the correct diagnosis, it seemed obvious to him that the doctors weren’t exploring every possibility in treating his son. This was yet another avenue they hadn’t explored—one that seemed like a promising fit. He couldn’t rest until he’d seen it through.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.