Main Participant Profiles
Renee Harvey: Aged 25, from Nelson
Renee, a single parent of a 5-year-old boy, has one of the most severe cases of Tourette’s in NZ. She swears and spits constantly. She struggles to get through the most basic household chores, and lives in constant pain from uncontrollably hitting herself. Renee is also witty, intelligent, and charismatic. An accomplished singer, she longs to record her own music, and desperately wants to get her driver’s licence so she can take her son out without relying on others. The main highlight of her year is going to Camp Twitch.
Letisha Tan: Aged 32, from Auckland
Letisha was born and raised in Malaysia – where she began having strange body twisting movements from an early age. No-one knew what it was, including her doctors, and it was not until she was at university in New Zealand that she finally discovered that she had Tourette’s. Now a qualified accountant and financial adviser, Letisha still struggles with loneliness and a sense of a “lost childhood.” Yet Letisha is also an outgoing, intelligent young woman, who has learned to cope with her Tourette’s through the intense, highly physical sport of roller derby. She is looking forward to mentoring young kids with Tourette’s at Camp Twitch and would dearly love to reconnect with her family.
William Edwards: Aged 14, from Auckland
William Edwards is an intelligent, friendly young man who has faced some very difficult times over the last two years. First he was diagnosed with Autism, then a year later suddenly developed severe Tourette’s. He often can’t stop hitting himself and anything around him – and frequently finds it hard to stop shrieking and yelling. His father Peter, a single parent, has had to give up work to look after William full time. Yet William is highly intelligent and caring with others. He has never met anyone else with Tourette’s, and is excited about the prospect of Camp Twitch, among many others just like himself for the first time.
Analise Twemlow: Aged 14, from Christchurch
Analise started having symptoms of Tourette’s at the age of three – which have ramped up as she has become an adolescent. She swears frequently and often hits herself without meaning to. While she struggled with bullying and schooling when younger, she has now become more confident and assertive about letting people know what she has. She dreams of becoming an actress and singer - she is enrolled in acting classes and is building up to her first public performance.
When told that Analise had Tourette’s, her mother Robyn Twemlow found there was little support or information about the syndrome in New Zealand and was inspired to set up the Tourette’s Association, and eventually the annual event of Camp Twitch.
Jessica Heritage: Aged 19, from Whakatane
Until a year ago, Jessica was a promising young artist with a love of horror movies, and dreams of making a career in the Auckland film industry. She had just gained a contract as a make-up and prosthetic artist on the third season of TV series Ash Vs Evil Dead when her tics, which are characteristics of Tourette’s, ramped up over the space of a week. It was so severe she had to be hospitalised. She was forced to give up her dream and return home to Whakatane. Jessica still tics constantly, often swearing and twitching at the most inappropriate times, and has struggled to find work and make friends. She is hopeful that at Camp Twitch, she will meet others just like herself, who will help her to make peace with her new, very ticky self. We follow Jessica as she undergoes a series of medical tests in the hope that she will be able to use Sativex (medicinal cannabis) to relieve her symptoms and regain her life.
Adam Belcher: Aged 30, from Tauranga
Adam lives with his brother in Tauranga, and at first glance may appear just like many other 30-year-old guys. Yet Adam has suffered from Tourette’s since his early teens, and finds it impossible to do anything without severe, debilitating ticking. Even putting his shoes on takes 10 minutes. Getting a glass of water can take an hour. His physical tics are so strong that his bedroom walls are full of holes he has accidently punched. Adam can’t find any work, and is often isolated and alone at home. He is the first person in NZ approved to use medicinal cannabis spray to relieve his symptoms. The Sativex has improved his life, but Adam still faces almost insurmountable obstacles to becoming independent and happy. While he loves gong to Camp Twitch, where he can be himself, he also finds it exhausting. Like many others at camp, being around others with Tourette’s sparks ticks that are much more severe than usual.