Throughout the years the Clinic has helped many people deal with their sensitivities. We offer this area of the site for those stories. If you have a healing story to share, write your story and email it to us. We want to share your story with others. When we share our story it helps other people.
May 8, 2004
Maryann Spurgin’s excellent and informative opinion piece on chronic fatigue syndrome that appeared in the May 8 edition of The Times prompts me to write about my experience with environmental illness – chronic fatigue syndrome being a symptom of that illness.
Ten years ago I was a vibrant, energetic woman with a thriving psychotherapy practice. I was optimistic, enthusiastic, and took great pleasure and pride in my work. However, seven years earlier I had cosmetic surgery that included a silicone chin implant and immediately developed rashes and allergies. I became very sensitive to cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, perfume, and most household chemicals. But I was functional. I never made the association between the silicone chin implant and these symptoms since the surgeon assured me the implant was perfectly safe. Although many people who have silicone implants experience no negative side effects, some become seriously chronically ill.
Then in November of 1993, while remodeling my house, I became ill with flu-like symptoms (joint pain, muscle weakness, malaise, a sore throat, cough). I also developed burning skin, rashes, irritability, mental confusion, memory impairment, and depression. I never got well.
From 1993 to 1999 I went to 22 different physicians, desperately seeking a cure. I had many different diagnoses and treatment plans, took countless medications, but became progressively sicker. Fatigue was so great that there were days on end when it took all my effort to bathe. Then I’d have to rest for a few hours before I could brush my teeth. I didn’t have the strength to lift a glass so we used plastic glasses and only half filled the glass.
I was so cognitively impaired toward the end of my practice, which I closed in October of 1998, that I had a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to schedule an appointment.
I felt lost, isolated, misunderstood, and worst of all, no physician seemed to be able to help me. In my desperation, I became suicidal. My devoted husband understood my desire to end my life, but urged me to see just one more doctor. Fortunately, I found William J. Rea, M. D. at the Environmental Health Center – Dallas. Dr. Rea is a world-renowned authority on environmental illness and chemical sensitivity. He also has environmental illness and 30 years ago began research on treating the illness. He has written four major medical texts and over 100 articles on this illness. Patients come to Dallas from all over the world – Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, Canada and Africa – to be treated by him.
Regretfully, there are only a handful of physicians in the United States who treat patients with environmental illness and chronic fatigue syndrome. Most doctors know nothing about the illness, much less how it should be treated.
Treatment is intensive: weekly IVs with vitamins and minerals (since chemically injured people generally have malabsorption and need extra amino acids to help with detoxification), supplements, antigen injections, sauna to sweat out toxins, organic foods simply prepared, and oxygen therapy. Avoiding chemicals in the home, outdoors, and in all places that we visit that are toxic to the chemically sensitive is also important. For instance, I can only clean my house with borax, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. I use no pesticides, herbicides or insecticides in my environment.
I learned that my immune system became impaired trying to rid my body of the silicone, and when I was exposed to a blast of chemicals during the remodeling of my house – formaldehyde, pressure treated lumber containing arsenic, solvents, paints, and chemicals in carpeting – I developed severe symptoms, my detoxification system became seriously impaired, and I became toxic from the chemical overload. I became increasingly more ill as my body lost the ability to repair itself. Although the initial chemical insult varies, in the end, we all present with similar symptoms – the same symptoms as veterans with Gulf War Syndrome.
Through my experience, and the experience of countless other patients, I’ve learned that there is a stigma about this illness. I believe most people think we are phobic and mentally ill; however, many patients with environmental illness, which includes chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity, develop psychiatric symptoms (depression, irritability, memory loss, and confusion) as a result of the illness. We are depressed because we are ill; we are not ill because we are depressed.
It is my hope to provide education to health care professionals so that when patients present with my symptoms, they will be referred to a physician who can provide effective treatment. Had I had such a referral, I’d be well today.
Recently I was asked how my experience at the Environmental Health Center in Dallas helped me.
First I will say that each person’s experience will be different based on individual constitution including genetic, biochemical and physiologic make up and individual response to treatment and therapies.
My primary goal was to learn to identify the sources causing adverse reactions and to learn how to manage them. Some of these things were foods, chemicals, pollens, weather conditions, EMF, viruses, and other non-related conditions that were diagnosed along the way. Here are some examples:
Foods: Initially there was sensitivity to nearly every food. When the food issues did not clear up it was then determined that there were sensitives to some of the natural occurring chemicals in the foods. Following that discovery the food issues improved.
Chemicals: Identifying the specific chemicals causing adverse reactions (petroleum, fragrance, pesticide, Lysol, soaps, cleaners, hair care products, car exhaust, etc.) has allowed either avoidance of those chemicals and/or alternative less-toxic choices. This also improved the quality of daily living.
Pollens: Learning about the different pollen seasons and their interaction with foods improved the pollen reactions.
In looking back I recall that initially this all seemed a little overwhelming. Hind sight is a great teacher. If I only knew then what I know now this is what I would do.
I went to three MD’s who were EI specialists over a period of five years where I used to live. Despite their treatment, I continued to get worse. I then became a patient of Dr. Rea, even though I had to travel to EHC-D. He has the expertise that the others could not match and also has a world-class facility at EHC-D. I was a universal reactor and had so many symptoms that made it hard for me to function. I had brain fog, dizziness, migraines, respiratory problems, weakness, digestive problems, vascular problems, adrenal exhaustion, and infections that would not go away. As a result of my treatment at EHC-D over a period of four years, I am almost functioning as a normal person. I feel so blessed and grateful.
Thank you Dr. Rea and everyone else at EHC-D!
- I would understand that personal experience is based on genetic, biochemical and physiologic make up and individual responses to treatment and therapies.
- After establishing the doctor’s treatment plan, I would look at the overall big picture. I would avoid unrealistic expectations and I would begin by making realistic quality life-style changes to food, drink, nutrition, housing, and environment issues, etc. Some changes will be made immediately and others will happen over time.
- I would get a copy of Carolyn Gorman’s book, “Less-Toxic Alternatives,” an excellent guidebook for making these necessary life-style changes to help gain and maintain optimum health.
- I would be very careful to maintain a positive outlook.
- I would understand that you cannot eat the whole elephant all at once and that it takes time to unravel the complexity of Chemical Sensitivities. I’ve seen different scenarios: simple cases quickly resolved, other cases that took longer, and then cases like mine that have other conditions entangled with the Chemical Sensitivities.
Identifying and learning how to manage the food, chemical and environmental issues have allowed an improvement in the quality of daily living.
My objective was met. My experience was positive.
My local physician discovered my immune system had been compromised and I needed medical treatment from a board certified physician in Environmental Medicine. He referred me to Dr. William Rea. I explained to Dr. Rea what happened to me and my thoughts on my symptoms being interrelated. Dr. Rea validated my observations explaining what happened to my body and what must be done to rectify the issue. Finally, a doctor that could provide a simple, clear explanation that completely put all the pieces to my medical mystery into place. I didn’t have to try so hard to figure it all out anymore. Now, I had Dr. Rea to manage my medical treatment. I felt safe and was relieved. After speaking with many of his patients at the client, I was confident I made the right decision in choosing the EHC-Dallas.
Upon arriving at the clinic I tested speckled on the ANA titer. My P02 (blood gas oxygen), IgE, one IgG subclass, 4 components of T & B cells and T3 uptake were all out of range. Lung Function spirometry was out of range. I had heavy metal poisoning, most notably Mercury. My levels of Organophosphates, Volatile Solvents, Chlorinated Pesticides and Bisphenol A were elevated. A SPECT scan showed Toxic Encephalopathy.
Within 2 ½ months of treatment I was negative on the ANA titer, two components of the T & B cells were in range. IgG moved into the low range of normal. Within 3 months my T3 uptake was well within normal range. After 8 chelation IV’s my Organophosphate level decreased from the 95th percentile to the ≤ DL (less than detectable level). After 15 chelation IV’s Mercury toxicity dropped from 37 to 3, which is within reference range (<4). After 4 months of oxygen therapy my PO2 decreased by 19 points only 8 points out of range. Walking in a park a few times a week for a few months further reduced my PO2 into the normal range and it has maintained the normal range since then. After 7 ½ months of antigens therapy my IgE reduced by 54 points bringing it well into range. My Lung Function Spirometry has improved somewhat, but it is a slow process. I am so incredibly grateful for Dr. Rea’s swift action that allowed my body to turn the tide in the right direction.
With the help of the entire staff at EHC-D I was taught how to manage an environmental illness, a crucial part of recovery. This phase of my recovery is up to me. I am working hard to control my home environment and safely navigate through the uncontrolled environments in my community. It takes time, learning and discipline to make so many changes. I am much more functional than I was when I arrived at the clinic and I intend to continue the progress.
The EHC-D has all the treatment modalities a person needs under one roof, making it more manageable to receive comprehensive care. If you need a referral to a physician in another field of medicine, Dr. Rea works with many physicians in the area that are familiar with his treatment modalities. I am so grateful for the sacrifices Dr. Rea and his entire staff make on a daily basis to bring quality, proven, environmental medicine to people like me in a caring and understanding environment at the EHC-D.
Case Report of 42-year-old female animal radiologist with fatigue, muscle and joint aches, short-term memory loss, and mental confusion. Many symptoms were produced by using the computer on which she worked 8 hours per day.
She presented with medication intolerance and also intolerance to recommended nutrient therapy.
Diagnosis: Immune Studies, Skin testing of 10 metals, placed in an environment which is 5 times less polluted than other indoor air, chemical and heavy metal evaluation. Intradermal provocation neutralization found the patient to be very sensitive to aluminum and molybdenum. All symptoms were reproduced during the skin testing of these two metals.
Avoid chemical and particulate air contamination in home and office by using air purifiers with HEPA and charcoal filters.
Avoid all contact with molybdenum and aluminum. Patient was advised of items which could contain these metals.
Self-injected desensitization antigens for molybdenum and aluminum. Did well. Returned to work.
Case report of a 26-year-old male who presented with severe incapacitating headaches, unresponsive to medication for 5 years.
Diagnosis: Placed in a controlled less-polluted environment for one week. Evaluated for autonomic nervous system dysfunction, immune dysregulation, irritable bowel, and issues of a toxic body burden.
Intradermally tested for foods by provocation neutralization. Food sensitivities found.
Treatment: Food antigens to be self-administered every 4 days for foods to which he tested sensitive. Placed on a 4-day rotary diet of foods chosen from skin-testing results. Instructed to avoid beef, lettuce, and apples due to severe sensitivity response to these foods.
Headache has cleared, and patient is working regularly without any symptoms.