|Squirrels, like Bob McWhiskers from Canton, OH, may to blame for cases of sudden unexplained infant combustion|
"He's on fire! The baby is on fire," babysitter and LSU junior Myrtle Plantation recalls screaming into her Apple 6 smartphone. "It's the last thing I expected to happen."
Expected or not, sweet little Calcasieu had erupted into a nine pound ball of flames and liquefied fat without warning. The Parish family was left with a tiny pile of ashes and one very large question. Why?
Calcasieu had never burst into flames before. He didn't have an untreated fever leading up to the event. The adoption agency had provided documentation stating that there was no family history of smoke coming out of people's ears when they get angry, let alone suddenly catching fire for no apparent reason.
Unfortunately, pediatric experts like Mort Fishman, MD don't have many answers when it comes to the spontaneous combustion of human infants. "Most of our data comes from mouse and primate studies. It's difficult to know how much we can apply to a human child like precious little Calcasieu."
Historically, Spontaneous Unexplained Infant Combustion (SUIC) has been lumped together with cases of Spontaneous Human Combusion (SHC). SHC is considerably more popular and better studied, with recent advances in screening and prevention having changed the prognosis from certain horrible death to a chronic disease with expectations of a normal life expectancy, much like AIBS, Advanced Irritable Bowel Syndrome. But Fishman believes that SUIC and SHC may be distinctly different conditions.
The origin of SHC as a human disease is now widely accepted to have occurred when Spontaneous Simian Combustion was transferred from non-human primates to humans that time when Pete and Wendy Jenkins took that trip to Africa. Experts aren't so certain when it comes to SUIC. Quantum linkage analysis of mitochondrions recovered from the remains of patients reveal squirrel DNA. Complicating things is the fact that, like SHC, there has never been a witnessed case. This has allowed a number of competing etiological hypotheses to emerge, like formula fracking and squirrel suicide bombers.
The Parish family has had to deal with a lot of uncertainty since that tragic day. But they haven't given up hope that science will shine a light on the mysterious condition that took their son. For now, researchers like Mort Fishman MD remain baffled.