Marilee's Full Story
By Branch Basics |
In my life, two potentially tragic events occurred that enabled me to put together what is now being confirmed by science, but is not yet being adopted in full by medical practices. These events allowed me to pivot my life and find true healing for both me and my son. My goal for sharing my story is so that you will never say as I have “I wish someone had told me.” I am not a doctor, nor am I a scientist, but I submit my life’s findings hoping to benefit any person that has ears to hear. If this information impacts or changes even one person’s life for the better it is worth the effort of sharing because every human life is of the utmost importance and significance.
I hope that my story can broaden your horizons and bring you into the freedom of health that allows you to be the person you were created to be. Whether you are searching for answers for yourself or a loved one, each increment of perception that is grasped and applied brings reward.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
Some people say, “Ignorance is bliss”. My answer to that is, “My family’s life illustrates the opposite. That “blissful ignorance” has cost my family in a way that all the money in the world would not give us back what was missed out on or make up for the losses we have experienced.
What a difference living unaware (in ignorance) and/or living with misinformation can make. I think back on my life and a palpable agony rises up whenever I face the realization that the suffering my son, my husband, and I have been through was so unnecessary. The many years of trying to survive, years of trying to undo years of choices made in ignorance, the years it took to figure it all out and finally recover – it could have been avoided. Living in ignorance will not shield you from consequences; but education, understanding, and taking positive proactive action will.
The Food Supply
From a very young age I was not well. I had what the doctors called fevers of unknown origin every 4-6 weeks which would sometimes spike to 106. So of course I grew up taking many courses of antibiotics. By the time I was in high school I had already started my own personal investigation. I wanted to help the doctors figure out what in the world was wrong with me. I got my own medical textbook from Baylor College of Medicine and started studying. After my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I decided I wanted to study pre med at The University of Texas with the very idealistic intention of going to medical school, finding a cure for cancer and finding out what in the world was wrong with me. My list of complaints were
- I had been administered antibiotics and other medications for the majority of my life up to that time and there were side effects
- I was so weakened that I could only function many times through sheer mental determination
- Childhood bronchitis/asthma/allergies to pollens, foods, environments, etc.
- Infections, one after another – sinus, bronchial, flu-like
- A constant search for wellness/feeling normal – whatever that was!
- Tenacious, intractable constipation/digestive issues
- Cystic acne
- Raging insomnia
- Chronic pain
- Endometriosis – excruciating monthly cramps
- Staggering, incessant fatigue
- Living in “survival mode” state
- Chronic sinus congestion
- Going from doctor to doctor to find – the miracle cure
- and many more
At age 23, I entered this journey of awakening. Before this time I was eating what everyone else was eating (the Standard American Diet – SAD), using products everyone was using, and just following the commonly accepted way of life in which I had been brought up. I had no idea that this blind adherence/allegiance to conventionality or commonly held practices was the reason for my medical issues. As my symptoms continued to rage and my condition deteriorated, doctors were dumbfounded. I had major exploratory surgery which I felt was going to solve all my problems. After all, I had the best doctors at a famous Houston medical center on my case! After the surgery the primary doctor came in and said “Your surgery was unsuccessful, you will need to go on dialysis and eventually have a kidney transplant and you will never be able to get pregnant”.
This moment profoundly changed my life and the way I react to “hopeless” diagnosis. Right then, a “positive rebellion” rose up in me and I refused to accept this verdict.I looked up at him from the hospital bed and said (respectfully because I loved that doctor) – “I am just glad you are not God!” I knew in my heart there was another answer.
This prognosis catapulted me into a questioning mode and a shift from unawareness, ignorance, hopelessness, and despair into a welcoming realm of liberating knowledge and hope. I had run into the medical wall of no answers and I decided not to accept that diagnosis, but to search for alternatives. I refused to believe that I was subject and limited to what the medical world had discovered at that time in history for my condition. I refused to believe I was stuck in the medical world’s real time information gap.
In the meantime, during this search for answers, I continued to take several medications for my condition. I became pregnant (supposedly a medical impossibility as exploratory surgery had revealed extensive endometriosis) and I was already so sick that my doctor proposed termination of the pregnancy. That was not an option for my husband and me. Motivation to protect our baby rose up and we were committed to not do anything to harm him or her. For some unknown reason, in my vast ignorance of cause and effect between what I did and how it affected my health, innately I knew that I should stop all prescription medication, all over the counter medication, and that I should stop eating sugar. I went cold turkey and somehow lived through the sugar and drug withdrawal and made it through the pregnancy off all medications prescribed for my kidney condition.
Unfortunately, my innate instinct was limited. Like many excited expectant parents we decided to fix up the nursery. We also had our home sprayed by an exterminator to make sure our baby would not have any bugs to deal with. Totally oblivious to how poisonous pesticides were (especially to unborn children) and the fact that paint has toxic fumes, I painted the baby’s room myself and immediately went into labor. The next day my son, Douglas, was born three weeks premature. Of course, I made absolutely no connection that my decisions had anything to do with the premature birth.
Douglas immediately distinguished himself in the hospital nursery. The nurses told me that he could find no solace unless he was being held and comforted. What I didn’t know at the time was that we were about to undergo 18 months of an unimagined nightmare. My precious baby was unable to relax unless being held and was generally continually miserable especially at night. I refused to “just let him cry” as many advised, because I knew that something was wrong. I did not want him for one minute to be left without consolation. My husband and I traded off 24/7 caring for him.
My pediatrician just thought I was a hysterical mother and thought that I was exaggerating – he said that there was no way a baby could stay awake and cry all night as I described. After spending the night in the hospital when Douglas was having what seemed to be a serious reaction “to something” the doctor came in and apologized to me for doubting what I had reported, saying that the nurses had written on his chart that Douglas cried the entire night. The doctor had no answers, but to give him something to calm him. The medications made him worse.
As I would hold Douglas, I would read everything I could get my hands on to try to figure out what was happening and how to get help. I would read the articles to him as if telling him a story. When he was about six months old a friend gave me a book about “The Feingold Diet” that was supposed to affect behavior and hyperactivity by avoiding artificial coloring, flavoring, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, sugar, aspirin, and foods containing salicylates (which plants make as a natural pesticide to protect themselves). I was breast-feeding so I immediately threw out all the foods that contained these items. The transformation was radical and within three days Douglas became calm and was content enough to be put down during the day. He was way behind developmentally, but made very rapid strides and began to catch up to the norm. We were in ecstatics with this change. Unfortunately the nights did not improve and this misery at night persisted until he was 18 months old.
I did not notice any change in my condition with the Feingold diet and I continued to deteriorate with little sleep and constant vigilance. I was barely functional and I put every ounce of energy I did have into taking care of Douglas. I stopped breast-feeding because I had to begin taking medication again for my kidney condition. I rationalized that perhaps because I was so ill, my milk was no good and that Douglas would do better on a formula. He became MUCH worse, regressed rapidly from his recent developmental progress, and needed once again to be held day and night.
Thankfully, the process of enlightenment from God intervened and reappeared one night with a phone call at 1:00 a.m. from my sister. She just HAD to read me an article from “The Saturday Evening Post” that was about a medical doctor who had used “food as medicine” to cure a medically incurable disease. The next morning I was on the phone to a Boston hospital asking for information. Within one month of incorporation of a dietary prescription for my condition, I was able to stop all medications and have been prescription free for over 30 years.
This was revolutionary – the pressure was off my kidneys – the dietary changes I made were dramatic. I literally overhauled my pantry and dumped its contents overnight. I had always been a hearty eater; in fact, my mother called me her “human garbage disposal”. It was a family joke that I could out eat anyone. If my mother baked the family a cake, she made me my own cake because I would not stop until I had devoured the entire cake. If it was on the table – whether animal or vegetable, there would be no leftovers. I just could not fill up. I was addicted to sugar and food. If my mother gave me money to go shopping for clothes as a teenager – I would go buy food. I was a food addict. I was obsessed with food and thought about it constantly. With the diet change, suddenly I was satisfied after a normal sized meal. I couldn’t believe it. My body was finally being nourished with what it needed – real unadulterated, non-processed, organic food. Liberation was rapid for me, and voila Douglas began sleeping through the night! I had started breastfeeding again, once off the medication, and the real Douglas emerged with the most beautiful disposition, no signs of agitation – he was a happy, normal child that “slept like a baby”.
Now what was I to do with this? Of course, my husband and I were overjoyed, but at the same time I was stunned. It appeared that my life up until age 28 had virtually been governed by what I ate and my son’s life to 18 months was governed by what I ate. As realization set in and a dazed stupefaction came over me my lament was – Where had this information been all my life? Why hadn’t the doctors informed me or why hadn’t I been given instruction on how to make choices that would have given me the opportunity to avoid all the misery, cost, and anguish? My kidney problems, severe cramps, endometriosis, pollen allergies, and constipation had all resolved with just a change in diet (Note: my sensitivities to different environmental issues remained). I had been poisoning myself as well as my child. How was it that in this civilized country we were actually putting chemicals in our food supply that poison us, as if they belonged there and how was this fact not front page news? How is it that intelligent people who actually have heard and do know choose to continue to poison themselves as well as their children? What are we doing? What are we thinking? Better yet – why aren’t we thinking?
As mentioned above, perspective on any topic is based on an understanding of the available information that pertains to the subject and this next section describes a second wake up call. I ended up studying “Using Food as Medicine” extensively, became a medicinal cook, and was given the opportunity to be in charge of a health resort right on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. My entire family benefited greatly from this move. We all felt better than ever. We tied this to being in such a pristine outdoor environment. Most stunning was the intellectual leap that my son made when we left the environment of Houston, Texas and landed on the Caribbean beach of Montego Bay. His mathematical abilities flew off the charts for his age. A few weeks after we arrived, he was spontaneously adding, multiplying, dividing, and subtracting at age 5. It was as if his mind had been released to function at a new potential. His coordination and athletic ability also improved. We would in the future see very clearly how exposure to chemicals can dramatically affect the mind and body through my son’s experiences.
After spending a year in Jamaica, we moved back to the states. We were all very healthy, but soon my condition started to deteriorate. My kidney function was still good, but I was reacting to what I considered environmental exposures. I didn’t have full clarity about this phenomenon, but I knew that I felt better in some places than in others (especially at the beach). At this time, I was associating my problems with outdoor air. So, when Douglas was eight years old we moved from the big city of Houston, Texas to a very small country town in Texas. Unfortunately, at age 10, Douglas was exposed to a cocktail of very high levels of 3 banned pesticides – chlordane, heptachlor, and dieldrin. He was also exposed to Dursban (banned in 2000), pyrethroids and other currently used pesticides. This exposure resulted in a cataclysmic breakdown of his immune system. The medical doctors told me that he would never recover from such an exposure and on top of that he would have cancer within 10 years. I was told that he would be like a bubble boy – unable to function around the chemicals we are all exposed to everyday and that he would need to live in isolation. That was a heck of a mouthful and an earful for me. I respected the doctor and his work, but we were at a medical crossroad where there was no answer – no hope of recovery. Again, that same response I had to my surgeon – “a positive rebellion” – rose up in me and I refused to accept this verdict – I was intent on finding a way to FULLY recover our son.
At this point I was so naïve and unsuspecting – I had no idea that we were at the beginning of a long harrowing journey. Shortly after the exposure Douglas continued to deteriorate physically and lose his mental capacity. At first it felt like we were negotiating through a minefield as we discovered the extent of the damage to our son which at that point was still progressing. We never knew what to expect. Our former very calm, stable, brilliant and athletic son was absolutely unpredictable with wide swings of bizarre behavior both mentally and physically – one minute he would be bouncing off the walls as if he were on some sort of crack drug – uncontrollable – or he might be reduced to extreme lethargy unable to function or even lift his head off a pillow. He would start crying or go into deep depression, then snap out of it and become so wired that he couldn’t sleep. He might suddenly become listless, sometimes almost catatonic as if in a stupor. He would fall down in a heap of agony with blinding headaches, excruciating sensitivity to light and sound (he would cover his ears and whisper, “Don’t talk so loud, please whisper” with tears flowing down his face), profound muscle weakness, incoordination, etc. His limbs would sometimes twitch and he would say they felt so heavy that he had trouble lifting them. The slightest whiff of a scented product might throw him into a rage, sorrow/crying, or it could trigger wheezing, difficulty breathing, and choking. He would continually try to clear his throat as if something were blocking it. Materials easily irritated his skin and at times couldn’t stand for anything to touch him. He could not concentrate and was very easily frustrated. He would become unresponsive – sitting and staring or sleeping – if even something so minor as a common #2 pencil was “outgassing” in his periphery. He went from being a crack speller and very advanced in mathematics to not even being able to spell three letter words or do simple computations. This was a time of much sorrow and grief as we watched our son suffer in such bizarre ways.
Since his immune system was so damaged by the pesticide exposure, he reacted to very minute amounts of the chemicals we are all exposed to in our everyday life. He was virtually being poisoned continuously. The doctors recommended we put him on an organic rotation diet and create as chemical free home as possible. We got rid of all clothes made with synthetic materials, our beds, all upholstered furniture and any furniture that had any manufactured wood in it, all carpet/ rugs, and all drapes. This virtually left us stripped down to a concrete floor, two beds made with all organic materials, wire baskets to keep our clothes in, and a solid wood table and four chairs. For an item (such as books, etc.) to stay in the house we would “outgas” it in the sun for days. I started throwing out my cleaners, body care products, deodorants, perfumes, hair sprays, and on and on and on. And then, as time went on, I discovered I needed to throw out even more – like old scented soaps, polish, and again on and on. No one could come to visit us because he would react to laundry, hair and body care products that people used. We kept discovering and eliminating these “immune stressors” in our home that would trigger a reaction in him.
Douglas made some progress, but every time we turned around he was reacting at some level and it felt like we were all on a rollercoaster. He would go back to ground zero with what appeared at the time like minute exposures. After all that work, the fact that he was a little better one minute and laid waste the next was nerve-racking and to say the least disheartening and heart breaking. When I look back at this early point of the journey – we had no idea that these wide ranges of symptoms were directly related to his being exposed and therefore poisoned by different and specific chemicals whether from food, drink, something in the air, something in a product, etc. that he came into contact with. We didn’t realize that we were just watching one reaction to a chemical or chemicals blur into another reaction – there was no separation. There was no direct cause and effect. At this point to us he was just sick and we were trying to help him through each crisis. We had no idea how important even one seemingly insignificant factor could have an impact on him and inhibit his recovery.
Constant reading, investigating, praying, trying to uncover what could be done to help Douglas became an obsession. This was my single focus every minute of the day every chance I got. I experienced déjà vu – as I had searched for answers for myself and they were found when he was a baby – I knew there was a way to recover his health and that I would find it. I studied the Phase 1, 2, and 3 Liver Detoxification Pathways and how to support them. I studied enhanced intestinal permeability (leaky gut), mold toxicity, expanded my study of Food as Medicine and synthesized the information for application to improve detoxification. In addition I read everything I could get my hands on about environmental controls and the clean room concept, how building materials can impact the body, and much more. I wanted to discover the keys that were necessary for real recovery since the generally accepted thought was and still is that people that are severely chemically injured just don’t ever recover fully – they just live with whatever level of functionality they can get. I was chemically sensitive myself to a degree, and I realized through the revelation of the extent of Douglas’ sensitivity how actually complacent I had been on this issue. You think you are trying, but you are just not digging deep enough. Boy, did I wake up! Seeing your child reduced to a “pile of inability to function” will enable you to lift a 2-ton truck and continue on like a Navy SEAL – (there is no give up – ever – if you are shot down you get up and continue fighting). The “pesticide cocktail’s” devastation of my son had mobilized a non-stop drive to overcome and we all ended up benefiting from the overflow.
We tried to engage Douglas in his process of recovery and make it a game. We all took on the role of detectives trying to discover clues and solutions. Douglas kept telling us that the 23 shots a day and the medications were making him feel worse. He absolutely dreaded the shots and that alone was a huge stressor. We stopped the shots plus numerous oral medications. We saw a tangible, yet subtle direct effect by removing a cause that I feel was both chemical and stress related. Douglas also stayed outside in the clean country air as much as possible because he felt better when outdoors. The game paid off – this was an essential clue and told us that there were still issues in our home that we were not yet addressing, but we didn’t yet know what to do about it.
The learning curve was very steep. We would make a little progress as mentioned above, see a tangible change in Douglas, then have a setback and seemingly plunge right to the bottom where we had started. For example, one day Douglas was playing outside. Our house sat back on a hill above a country road about 300 feet away. A big diesel truck went by and unfortunately the wind was just right so that it carried up a diesel fume payload right to Douglas. To an outsider and for me, as his mother, this event was probably one of our most frightening episodes. It was like watching the “Incredible Hulk” mobilize with his expanding neck only instead of being strengthened Douglas was being strangled by swelling lymph nodes all up and down his neck while his throat was closing up as he gasped for breath. The family was in survival mode – every waking minute devoted to trying to keep afloat mentally and physically – forget living life – it was SOS – rescue us – all the way. This event woke us up to the fact that his situation was not only volatile, but also very unpredictable. Now this is what you could call depressing, but to a child, it was a crushing blow every time we felt like we had fallen again into the pit and were starting over. We had numerous emergency situations that were similar during his recovery that were quite difficult for him – We battled mold, a spilled pesticide (malathion) stored for years in a storage room next door that a workman knocked over and broke, noxious fumes from burning trash (we live in the country and this is how some people deal with their trash), road nearby being resurfaced with asphalt, dust storms, pesticide drift from neighbors spraying their property, forest fires from Mexico, well contamination, diesel and car exhaust, and many other assaults too numerous to mention.
I would like to pause right here and say that our big picture perspective and intention to fully recover Douglas was essential and provided a way to refocus when emergencies such as the ones above occurred so that we did not give up. The application can be universal to many difficult situations especially in cases of trying to recover children with serious issues. This is important because it is so easy to get discouraged and make decisions based on emotion and inadequate understanding. For example, incorrect reasoning coming from a wrong premise leads to wrong conclusions. If at that point we had concluded –“Well we have done everything we can and he is no better we just have to live with this – the doctors were right – he won’t recover, this could get dangerous – let’s medicate him as the doctors said and get on with our life” – no one would have questioned that decision. In another context we could have said “He just needs to learn to control his behavior – he is undisciplined, not manageable. We have removed all these things from our home, he should be better. We just need to train him or even punish him and teach him how to behave, make him concentrate and learn. Or another import point – incorrect reasoning from wrong motivation leads to wrong actions and conclusions. We were really tired and it was exhausting to take care of him. It would have been easy to say – “This is too much trouble, this is interfering with what we think our life should be like.” We realized that if we might compromise or dismiss something because it was inconvenient to us, that it was at HIS EXPENSE and would drive his misery. And of course, we would be drawn right down into that misery with him. The need to refocus on our goal when needed was always necessary and after considering these and other options we would resolve even with more passion, to find a way to recover him.
Many times it felt like we were at a standstill – not making enough progress. I thought about this and started to liken healing from severe chemical injury to healing from a wound inflicted by a knife on the skin. If you take that knife every day and re irritate the wound with the knife, the cut just will not heal. But, if you do not abrade the skin again, it will naturally continue to repair as the body is marvelously designed to mend and restore given the right tools and circumstances. I reasoned (of course as an observer, not a scientist), that since a chemically injured person does not have the physical equipment (detoxification system is damaged) to neutralize and metabolize the chemicals found in everyday life, that to heal they must avoid these exposures as much as possible because they are literally poisoned (reinjured) every time they are exposed. So, I figured that what seemed like mini poisoning incidents were inhibiting my son’s ability to heal and in order to heal and give the immune system a rest and a chance to repair them had to be stopped. Now that may sound like it is obvious, but I must say that to carry this out in practical reality seemed quite difficult. That is until an accident and a realization occurred that turned out to be a blessing that helped to clarify once and for all exactly what needed to be done and why we couldn’t establish a baseline before to start healing from.
One day some items from a friend’s house were dropped off on our front porch. The windows were open. Douglas was in the back of the house and within seconds of that delivery he was down with BB sized lymph nodes popping out all over his neck. He started having difficulty breathing. It seemed that whatever chemical was in the items on our porch had come into our house through the window in probably ppm (parts per million), ppb (parts per billion), or even ppt ( parts per trillion) and Douglas was cratering. At that time we had not made the connection to the delivery at the front door and didn’t know what was wrong. We took him outside into the fresh air. He started to recover. Every time we tried to reenter the house he would react. We ended up sleeping outside for three weeks because he was unable to enter the house without an intense reaction. We made this a family adventure – sleeping out in the open (no tent – open to the stars). Being outdoors 24/7 he started to get better and better. But, every time he tried to go back into the house he would start reacting.
We didn’t know what to do about the house. We couldn’t figure out exactly what happened except that for some reason after those items were put on the porch our home was unapproachable for Douglas. The only thing we could think of was that the house became contaminated by the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) coming off the materials somehow – crazy as that may seem. I knew there was something we just didn’t understand* so we tried to clean the house up, but he kept reacting when we tried to get him to come in. Finally I learned about a “Deep Cleaning Process” that made the house livable again for him. We ended up having to take everything outside, sun all contents, vacuum, wash and wipe down all surfaces in the house with a special soap that we had found that other chemically injured people were using. After a cleanup from ceiling to floor with that soap he was able to come back in without reacting. After a few hours however he started to react again and refused to sleep in the house. That night as I was looking up at the stars trying to rack my brain of any detail I was missing, something came to mind. I recalled that when I had removed cleaning and personal care products from the house, I kept my favorite ones that I intended to use again when he recovered in one box in a closet. I argued with myself for a while – I just didn’t see how that would matter – after all they were closed up in a box. Finally, I got up in the middle of the night and took that box out of the house. I just couldn’t think of anything else that could be done. The next day Douglas went into the house as he had the day before. We waited and waited and waited – no reactions. He consented to spend the night with the stipulation that he would go outside if he had any problems. We spent the night in the house. We soon saw that THAT ONE BOX that contained products with harmful synthetic ingredients had been a key that prevented us from getting to a baseline where he was non-reactive and could start real recovery.
So why would this “one box” be so important? Think about how it smells when you walk down the aisle in the grocery store that has cleaning products. You go to the grocery store – pick up your produce, meats, and canned goods and generally you are not smelling anything, but when you turn the corner on to where the cleaning products are – Whew!! The smell is so strong! Those bottles are not only closed, they are sealed, yet you can smell them. The same thing happens in your home with all the bottles under your sinks and in cabinets. They are emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in parts per million, billion or even trillion. So, these products create a low level chemical soup in the home that the body has to constantly detoxify and deal with 24/7. The air quality in the home is dramatically improved with just the removal of all toxic products. This was illustrated graphically to us when Douglas was able to finally stay in the house without reaction only after this box was removed.
*NOTE: Thankfully, finally after trying to put every scenario together to make sense, we realized that his reaction was definitely due to the items placed on the porch – what had stumped us was – we never brought them into our house. The wind had carried the chemicals from those belongings through the window and throughout our house. Whatever “it” was had apparently been incorporated into the materials in our home. It was later discovered that the friend’s house where the items on the porch came from had been treated with chlordane – the main banned chemical he was originally exposed to – another story in itself.
We had seen such great improvements in Douglas when we were forced to stay outside for three weeks, and it was now obvious that the “ONE BOX” removal was significant. We had finally cleared our home of ALL products with harmful synthetic ingredients so that he reached a baseline where he was unreactive and stable even in the house. We were getting our son back and were celebratory. We felt like we had entered the home stretch – BUT clarification had actually only just begun. At this point I still didn’t realize important implications at the time, but hindsight and experience has clarified why this “ ONE BOX” was a momentous discovery. The next steps in our journey would uncover critical keys to recovery for him and others with serious illness.
Since we had stayed outside for three weeks and THE BOX was removed, the dynamics shifted and we began to positively see specific direct cause and effect because Douglas had completely “unmasked” – he was stabilized. Before we completely cleared our home, the origin of a symptom was masked and could not be isolated because there were too many hidden chemical triggers. His exposures overlapped and we would see a confusing array of symptoms. Now we had the chance to witness and understand what and how harmful chemical exposures affect the mind and body.
We were about to enter a period that illustrates why the severely chemically injured have been called our benchmark for safety – they warn us when something is not safe in terms of chemical exposure. The medical benchmark is the fetus, but the fetus can’t talk, the chemically injured can and they are the true canaries of our day. Canaries were used in coalmines as an early warning of danger to protect the coal miners from going too deep into the mine where there were poisonous gases. The canaries would die with the first sniff of a poisonous gas, which would warn the miners to go no deeper – it was not safe. The chemically injured do the same for us today – they warn us that there are harmful chemicals in our food, homes, workplaces, and in the products we use on our bodies and clean our homes with.
Douglas now became our family’s own little canary. He was unmasked so we were able to start understanding much more clearly what had been behind his bizarre behaviors. His behavioral, physical, and cognitive symptoms warned us when something toxic came into the house that needed to be removed. He might get an immediate headache, start crying for no reason, become super hyperactive or hypoactive, lose ability to concentrate, become enraged for no reason, and on and on. After establishing our safe haven, important clarifications about chemical exposure were revealed. We found that we had to take a shower, wash our hair and change our clothes before we came into our house if we had been in town shopping, etc. because the chemicals from the store were on our clothes and hair. Prior to removing the one box, we had no idea that when we came into the house from town that there was any direct cause and effect on Douglas. We also discovered that if we bought something at the store that we could not bring it into the house until we had “outgassed the bag and contents” in the sun. For example, one day my husband opened the front door and put a bag from Wal-Mart inside the door. Douglas was down in the kitchen within seconds reacting to the VOCs – chemicals that were coming from the bag from Wal-Mart. So a new procedure had to be created for bringing anything into the home. Trying to find products that he didn’t react to was our greatest challenge and helped to define what was SAFE and what was not. I found to my surprise and shock that he reacted to most of the so-called non-toxic products. It was eye opening. I had to research and find out why. It was because even though most of them were called “non-toxic”, they still had at least one or more harmful synthetic chemical in the formula. Before he was “unmasked” we had no idea how exposure to even very small amounts of chemicals were causing such dramatic symptoms.
Before the pesticide exposure Douglas had supreme concentration and focus. After the exposure he could not complete even very simple tasks without diversion of attention. It was as if he had Age Related Memory Decline or extreme ADD/ADHD. Even if something were right in front of him, he would forget what he was doing. Before the exposure Douglas was a crack speller and brilliant in mathematics – all was lost after the exposure. I thought of the children that are labeled slow or retarded and recalled my son’s response to my withdrawing the additives from food when he was a baby and his increase in seeming intelligence when we moved to the pristine beach of Jamaica. This made me start to aggressively question how much of what we call intelligence level, ADD/ADHD, hyperactivity, Age Related Memory Decline, dementia, etc. is actually related to food and environmental factors.
So, I realized that Douglas was a laboratory for observation on how the body and mind react to chemical exposures/triggers as well as how they respond to a removal of those triggers. I was participating in a very important private viewing of the “human subject scientific experiment” that all Americans are participating in right now – the dissolution of American bodies and minds due to chemical exposure. Unfolding right before my eyes was a playout, a demonstration of the horrors of chemical exposure and how these exposures depict various stages of mental and physical impairment. As the toxic load was increased inadvertently or taken away, so also shifts in his mental and physical function were clearly exhibited. I was observing a severely disabled child pick up and drop cognitive, physical, and mental/emotional symptoms as we gained understanding of how to create and maintain a home free of harmful chemicals. I noticed that there was a continuum that followed a pattern. If he had an unintended exposure he would exhibit specific symptoms, revert back to a phase and start recovering then from there when his environment was cleared. From autistic type symptoms, symptoms resembling dementia, extreme ADHD, abject hopelessness and depression, wide emotional swings, hyperactivity, hypo activity, lack of concentration, distractibility, general irritability and unease to clarity and stability. The more severe the exposure the longer it took to bounce back. I grieved that the products we use to kill bugs, clean with, use on our hair and bodies, and wash our clothes with are contributing to physical, behavioral, and cognitive issues in our children as well as adults. The consequences of chemical exposures on his mood, behavior, and learning ability were eye-opening. The old dose makes the poison concept has been turned upside down. A little bit of even one chemical here and there can have a huge impact. I was clearly seeing that both a healthy diet and environment free of harmful chemicals is foundational to health.
So, I started to have the deep conviction that these everyday chemicals that we had to remove from our home environment in order for him to heal were in fact undermining everyone’s health on subtle and not so subtle levels and that we are all unintentionally living in a veritable chemical soup. This would later be proven and borne out in my work with clients and is now being validated by cutting edge scientific research.
With a one-track mind to gain momentum and discover everything we could that was affecting our son’s recovery, my husband and I started the study of Bau-Biology, which originated in Germany. The German term Bau-biologie, which translates into English as “Building Biology”, is the study of how buildings affect health with emphasis on the bedroom. The bedroom is considered the most important room in the house and the bed itself the most important piece of furniture. This is because at night when we sleep the body focuses on healing and rejuvenation and is at the same time much more sensitive to environmental influences than when awake. If the body is surrounded by a chemical soup and is stressed from electromagnetic pollution then the immune system is on red alert and is unable to utilize the night for deep rest, regeneration, and the shedding of metabolic waste. So the body becomes more toxic and is less able to handle the pollutants faced during the day. If this cycle of disturbed sleep continues, the toxic body burden increases, various symptoms may appear, and finally degenerative disease can ensue. The Germans consider this information so important that some insurance companies will not pay for a doctor visit unless the patient has had a Bau-Biologist test the sleeping place to make sure that there is nothing in the house that could be inhibiting them from healing.
I learned from Bau-Biology that a real clue that there is a problem in the environment and/or diet is that the body is not recovering from illness as would be expected, chronic illness has developed, and/or there is sleeping difficulty. The body is designed to heal and rejuvenate (like a cut will mend if it is not repeatedly irritated) and when it doesn’t heal there is something inhibiting that process. At that time, according to the Germans, electro stress from electric fields on the body at night during sleep was one of the main reasons for inhibited healing. Electric fields are a measure of voltage and are present whether there is current flow or not. The human body acts as an antenna in the presence of these fields. High voltages in the sleeping place have been linked to muscle pain, insomnia, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, bedwetting, nervousness, short-term memory impairment, increased allergies, adverse effects on the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and inhibition of the healing process. Electric fields are measured in milliVolts (mV). It takes only 1 mV to operate a pacemaker. We measured Douglas in his bed and his body showed an electric field greater than 1,000 (mV). That was ridiculously high – we lived in a very old home with very poor wiring. We reduced this level to about 20 mV through proper grounding and shielding. The Baubiology standard of 20 milliVolts and below are recommended for a healthy bedroom.
This discovery that the electro climate in the home has an effect on the health and the reduction of these electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) was another definitive turning point in his recovery. We had already removed synthetic materials and found that this reduces the DC Electric Fields (synthetic materials increase static electricity), we removed steel items that could induce DC Magnetic Fields, and made sure that Douglas limited his exposure to batteries (DC Magnetic Fields) and other AC field exposures. Thankfully, at least the magnetic field where he slept was perfect – under .2 milligaus (you want .2 milligaus or below for healing). To really avoid the EMF’s we tried to sleep outside whenever we could – out on our cots in the open air under the stars. Note: This was in the days before extensive cell phone use and Wi Fi and the resulting explosive increase of high frequency fields in our environment.
Obviously, mental attitude was a critical player in the recovery picture. Douglas was now isolated from his friends, he could not go to school, to church, to friend’s houses, to movies, to restaurants, to family reunions, and no one could visit our home because they would contaminate it with their laundry detergents, deodorant, shampoos, and other personal body care products. (NOTE: We did have some family members and friends that would “detoxify themselves as much as possible that would come and stay at a nearby cottage during this period. This was very infrequent because Douglas would often suffer during the time and after people left because of subtle exposures.) Depression became as big an issue as chemical exposure – some exposures themselves eliciting depression as a reaction. My husband and I never entertained the idea that he might not recover and that was the constant message that he got – encouragement, God will guide us, and there is a way out of this. At age 14, four years into the battle, he hit bottom and to climb out he had to take on his own positive mental/spiritual dynamics and make them his own. It was a defining moment when he latched on to that confidence in God that he actually would recover!
Slowly, very sporadically at first with many ups and downs, and then more steadily Douglas increased in mental as well as physical strength. Home schooling gave him the latitude to progress as fast or take as much time as needed to master a subject. As his brain function returned so also his coordination and athletic ability began to flourish. Fresh outdoor air and exercise played a very big part in his recovery. He played tennis, took Marshall Arts privately outdoors in our yard, and improved to the point where he could play on a local soccer team and became a star player. Setbacks continued, but didn’t take him down to square one. He still was not going into buildings and no one could come in our home’s safe haven. We were very carefully controlling what he was exposed to as much as we could. More and more clues and pieces to the puzzle were filling in – providing missing links to his recovery. We were seeing definitive gain. The hard work was paying off. After seven years Douglas was ready to very carefully start expanding his horizons. This process was done deliberately and cautiously. Ten years after his exposure he received a full scholarship to Schreiner College in Kerrville, Texas and started as a freshman, living at home.
A tremendous blow occurred right before he started college. Douglas had melanoma. This is a very serious skin cancer. The doctor had predicted in 1989 that Douglas would have cancer in ten years and here we were facing this monumental adversary. Chemotherapy was out of the question with his history, so we took an alternate natural path. Faith in God, mental determination and resolve were as critical as ever. Because of potential controversy we did not inform even close friends as we did not want to introduce or have time to deal with well-meaning points of views that might discourage or shift our focus. There was no time for hesitation or possible self-recrimination. Douglas emerged from this episode stronger than ever and after two years at Schreiner College he decided to apply to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was ready to leave home and fly. We checked out many facets of the Naval Academy including pesticide spraying (which they did not do in the rooms or halls), dietary options, and immunization requirements. He was accepted into the Academy and with much effort, the immunization requirements were waived, and Douglas started preparing for the rigorous boot camp physical training he would be subject to where they attempt to weed out those that are not tough enough to take academy life.
The day that Douglas left for Annapolis, Maryland to go to the Naval Academy was monumental. The courage it took for him to leave home and face the boot camp that is called “Plebe Summer” took his father and me to our knees. Tears of pride, happiness, and joy mixed with trepidation and apprehension streamed down our faces as we watched him walk down the narrow pathway to the plane (It was June, 2001, just a few months before 9/11). We knew that the grueling physical and mental ordeal that he had been forced to endure the past 13 years had given Douglas a very unique and incredible preparation. The depth of character and resolve it took to come through this, mind and body intact was nothing short of miraculous. But, how would he perform with no props, no immediate backup, and the intense pressures of Naval Academy life? His first semester at the Academy he made a 4.0 and maxed out his PRT’s (physical readiness tests) – which are periodic physical fitness tests. He was definitely making the cut. Through the four years at the Academy he was exposed to the constant mental and physical pressure that the Academy places on the Midshipmen so that they will be fit as leaders in our military. To think that a whiff of a #2 pencil had wiped him into oblivion just a few years before was a sobering thought. He had come so far and he was thriving. He graduated in 2005 and went on to Naval Aviation. As a Naval Aviation officer he underwent what is considered to be the most grueling training that the military branches offer – SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) Training (also called POW – Prisoner of War School) in the mountains of Southern California. He was sent out into the wilderness with no provisions, was tortured, and basically trained on how to be a prisoner of war in case of capture. He flew in 210 reconnaissance intelligence-gathering missions over Iraq, Afghanistan, and East Asia. I mention these details because the stamina and perseverance demanded by this type of training and activity is a real tribute to Douglas and his determination to totally overcome his difficult past. He is now in the Naval Aviation Intelligence Community. His life for the past 15 years since starting the Naval Academy has been most rigorous and he has continued to excel both physically and mentally.
My Life's Work
During the time that Douglas was recovering I started receiving calls from people asking me questions. I had not advertised or asked anyone to give out my name nor did I or seek to find people that were interested in my advice. At first most of the people were mothers from Texas whose children had been injured at school from pesticide spraying. One boy from an East Texas school had gone blind from exposure to a routine pesticide spraying at school. The school building was sprayed on a Friday afternoon and the child had forgotten something and came back into the room after school while it was being sprayed. The boy was bending down to get books out of his desk, the exterminator did not see him and accidentally sprayed him in the face. I heard tragic story after story. Lives being changed and ruined by decisions made in ignorance. Soon I was getting calls from all over the country, not only about pesticide exposures, but from the chemically injured at work, mold injured, fiberglass injured, glade plug in injured, formaldehyde injured, air freshener injured – and in general – the chemically sensitive. Most of these people were too sick to even go to a doctor’s office or travel to an environmental specialist. The bottom line answer for these victims was – in order for them to heal, they must have hope and believe that there is a way to recover, create the healthiest home environment possible totally free of products with harmful synthetic ingredients – starting with the bedroom, they must get some form of exercise, and they must eat only real food with no harmful synthetic ingredients. Then, with their environment, diet, and condition stabilized, they would be ready to start careful detoxification and perhaps be able to tolerate a doctor’s office if necessary. I began helping people become their own detective to discover what could be causing them immune stress and what to do about it. Many times the mother that was trying to help her child ended up being able to get off her own prescription drugs because as the chemical load in the home was reduced and the diet was changed – she and/or other family members also benefited.
After certification as a Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector my studies expanded to construction and Building Science which addresses how a building works as a system, how building strategies for particular climates are used to ensure that the building is not subject to mold growth and indoor air quality issues, and how ventilation, moisture, and humidity play a part in indoor air quality problems in the home. I saw how the combination of Building Science integrated with safe materials and Bau-Biology principles (which includes electromagnetic guidelines) would be the ultimate approach to healthy building practices. For a healthy home Building Science principles would determine how the materials would be put together and Bau-Biology standards would ensure that the materials used in the building would be safe and ideally even beneficial to the occupants.
There are so many desperate, very sick people that need guidance to help them unravel and discover the processes needed to liberate them from their prisons. The initial steps are concrete and solid, and the simple idea of “just Getting Back to Basics” – eating only real food and using only products with safe ingredients can revolutionize a person’s life. At first it can seem to be very complex especially if the illness has been long standing and chronic, but it is my job to take the situation, evaluate it, and develop a process that is workable and feasible for the client that will create the fastest results with the least amount of effort. Sometimes it is as simple as changing laundry detergents and eliminating fabric softener. One woman with contact dermatitis called and said that she had been itching for over a year and that it had gotten so bad that she was clawing her skin to shreds at night. She was frantic and very upset because she didn’t know what to do. She had been to dermatologists and been on medications. Still she was itching. One dermatologist had suggested changing her laundry detergent, which she did – numerous times. It just turned out that none of the laundry detergents she had tried was truly nontoxic. I had her buy a new set of organic sheets and cotton pajamas, change to a safe laundry soap and also had her change her body soap, shampoo, and lotions. After a few days no more itching! She was so grateful and it was relatively very simple. This string of events opened her mind to thinking maybe some of her other symptoms had a solution. Further investigation revealed electromagnetic issues in the bedroom that were influencing her heart rhythm. Resolution of the field issue and nutritional adjustments to the diet enabled her to get off a prescription drug, a Beta-blocker.
It is so hard for people to grasp how the body will respond when they are not being exposed to their daily dose of poison – the low level chemical soup that pervades American homes. We have become so adapted to our environment that we don’t realize how much it affects us until it is completely removed. We may be taking pills for headaches, stomachaches, depression, insomnia, but what is the source of the problem? There is always a reason – a headache is not a Darvon deficiency. The body may be just worn down trying to detoxify and eliminate what is constantly being applied, breathed, and eaten. When it gets a break from this immune stress, the body can relax and do its job of restoration and healing, basically it can stop “fighting”. If a relatively healthy person rids their home and diet of common everyday toxic elements, the body has much more reserve; more ability to fight viruses and bacteria, more rejuvenative and restorative energy, and therefore an even greater level of health is enjoyed. For example, all the precautions we had taken for Douglas benefited me and my husband. My health improved remarkably and I developed incredible physical stamina in contrast to the time when folding a dishtowel took every mental and physical effort I could muster. This stamina has continued for years. My husband has not missed a day of work for years and enjoys vibrant health. Removal of harmful chemicals from food and the home environment provides the Ultimate in Preventative Healthcare – “The Power of Pure” can literally transform your life.
The increase in awareness and change in perspective that resulted in life changing choices for my son and for me is illustrated by the following lines in the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”