If it quacks like a duck

This post is a little different than what we typically talk about with MyFear Zapper, although it is about fear – a very real fear.  It’s the story of our journey through the mire of the healthcare system to learn how very harmful toxins in our world today can be.  As we talked with people along the way, we learned about so many kids with unexplained problems.  We know first-hand how scary, lonesome and frustrating that is, and I’m hoping this provides some perspective and help if you, too, are searching for answers.  It’s long, but I wanted to share what happened to us over five awful months, plus a few years before that, as we tried to find solutions to our daughter’s strange health issues.

Is this a joke?

It started off almost as a joke.  “I got stuck today,” my 15-year-old daughter Natalie laughed.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She explained she’d been walking down the hall at school and her leg got “stuck” – it just wouldn’t work, wouldn’t move, and she was “stuck” for about 10 seconds before it got going again.

“Has this happened before?”  I asked, puzzled.

Just because it looks like a duck, it may not be
© Raymond Kasprzak | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Yes, she said, for about a year, perhaps every few weeks.  I thought it odd, but I had never seen it happen, and who knows what she really meant.  She was a teen, after all.

Then one day, she came to me, trying to laugh, but with a troubled look on her face.  She’d been out to dinner with a friend, and a disturbing thing happened:  “I was in the middle of bringing the fork to my mouth,” she described, “and I just couldn’t move my arm – it got stuck, and I dropped the fork; my hand wouldn’t work.  Shooting pain went up my arm and I was gasping, it hurt so much.”

She said they treated it as a joke, and indeed she was trying to laugh it off with me.  “It’s probably just growing pains,” I shrugged.  “But be sure to tell me if it happens again.”

And that was the start of our long, tortuous journey through a morass of medical confusion and misdirection, leading to a shocking conclusion that highlights just how dangerous our current world can be.  It was a good lesson proving once and for all that, even if it looks, acts and quacks like a duck – it may be something quite different.

She’s a teen

While I shrugged off the incident to Natalie, inside I was deeply disturbed.   We have a history of MS in our family, and of course my mind jumped to that immediately, as the incidents she was describing sounded like nerve issues.

In addition, over the past several years, I’d been seeing a change in my girl, who had always had a lot of energy and was interested in everything.  She was apathetic, extremely lethargic and fatigued, not engaged by much of anything.  She was moody – so moody – with daily headaches and quite often a “vacant” feel to her.  She went from someone always looking for something to do to a kid who wanted to spend all day, every day, in bed.

I asked the doctor about it.  “She’s a teen,” he said dismissively.  “It’s just growing pains, and moodiness and lethargy are standard.  She’s probably exaggerating what happened anyway.”

Wanting to grab onto something reassuring, I bought into this line of thinking.  However, deep down, I knew something was wrong.  I asked others if their kids ever had any incidents like this.  I got strange, skeptical looks.  Nope, this was a new one.  But everyone agreed I was worrying for no reason.

The incidents continued, as did the other symptoms.  Last spring, she got a severe “virus” from which she couldn’t seem to recover.  “She’s a teen,” I was told, again, and again, and again.

At the same time, in front of my eyes, my child was becoming a young woman I didn’t know.  Her emotions were all over the board.  She was irritable and always on edge.  Of course, all this was somewhat expected, because, after all – she’s a teen.  Relationship problems?  Naturally.  Friendship issues?  Expected.  Moody & non-communicative?  What did I expect?

But that parental intuition deep down inside still made me feel there was something more, something else … The challenge was getting someone to believe me, and figuring out what that “something else” was.

Everything – including Natalie – collapses

Natalie (in pink, in the middle front) with the trumpet section from marching band.

Then came summer, and our entire world collapsed when out of the blue, during band camp, Natalie started shaking uncontrollably, couldn’t stand, couldn’t hold a glass of water.  At the same time, all her symptoms got worse.  My tiny girl – 5’4”, 105 lbs – lost 15 lbs in two weeks.  She collapsed and fainted with uncontrollable blood sugar, she had consistent tremors, she couldn’t stand for periods at a time.  She was fatigued to the point of not being able to function more than a couple hours.

The doctor did all kinds of tests, yet nothing was there.  He still didn’t feel anything serious was wrong.  “It’s hypoglycemia,” was the official diagnosis.  “She needs to eat more,” was his sage advice, although of course, he had no interest in hearing how much she did eat.  “She needs to drink more.  She can’t eat any carbs.”  How was any of this helpful – especially when none of it made any change in the symptoms at all?

After several weeks of no results and her health spiraling out of control, we decided to see another doctor.  Thankfully, we had previous good experiences with Dr. Steve Amoils, founder of Cincinnati’s Alliance Center for Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Amoils helped me, decades ago, when no one else could; now we hoped he and his colleagues could help our daughter.

Quite a journey

Natalie found acupuncture was a great way to relieve pain & fatigue

The Alliance Center’s doctors are not only traditionally trained MDs, they also incorporate non-traditional approaches.  Natalie started on acupuncture, and after the first round of worrying about the needles, she learned it was an amazing experience.  Dr. Tiffany Lester did a different thyroid test on her and discovered that while her “standard” thyroid markers were normal, she had Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease, and her thyroid function was swinging from high to low – which explained the rapid weight loss, some of the tremors and the out-of-control emotions.

She did a food sensitivity test, which showed Natalie was reacting to a number of common foods – and which we were able to link back to some of the collapsing episodes.

But despite all this, the problems continued.  One of our doctors also diagnosed Epstein-Barr Virus, or “mono on steroids.”  Natalie was able to attend school only two periods a day, and she still couldn’t function normally.  Her blood sugar could not be controlled and we had no idea when she’d collapse next.  Her head was so fuzzy she couldn’t process information.  She was in constant pain all over her body.  The fatigue was getting worse, and she had “episodes” where she was just “not there.”  She was disheartened, depressed, scared, lonely.

Raynaud’s can be scary when you don’t know what it is. Photo from The Haven Healing Centre.

“It’ll take time,” Dr. Tiffany said.  “Let’s just keep going.

She had us visit all types of specialists:  endocrinologist for the blood sugar and thyroid; cardiologist to rule out heart problems (where we discovered that some of her collapses had to do with low blood pressure); neurologist to rule out seizures (and whom we felt treated us like we had Munchausen’s).  Natalie’s hands turned a beautiful shade of indigo and began to hurt, so we visited the ER at Children’s Hospital one Saturday, learning she had Raynaud’s Syndromeanother autoimmune disease.

We were at the end of our rope.  All the tests were normal, not conclusive, or not seemingly related to the issues she was having.  We didn’t know what to do.

The final straw

December 4 was an awful day.  We’d been dealing with these issues four months at that point, with no solution in sight.  Natalie was getting worse.

We had an appointment for a 6-hour blood sugar test at a hospital’s outpatient testing center. We went in first thing and Natalie got her blood drawn with no problem.  She was reclining in the hospital bed, waiting for her meal, when she started having one of her episodes.  Her eyes started rolling around in her head.  She got very pale.  The nurse immediately gave her orange juice, thinking it was a sugar drop.  But it wasn’t – her sugar was fine, the best it’d been in weeks, in fact.

She felt sick and wanted to go to the bathroom.  She couldn’t walk, both from being so dizzy and because her legs weren’t working properly.  She started to moan in pain.  She was burning up, then freezing, but her skin was clammy.  She was nauseous.  She was dizzy.  She couldn’t stand.  She didn’t know where she was or what was going on.  She was “gone.”

The nurse caught a glimpse of her in the bathroom.  “What COLOR is she?” she asked in a horrified tone.  “Even the bottoms of her feet – something’s really wrong!”

She got on the phone with the doctor, trying to get answers and direction.  After more than a half hour, several nurses helped me get Natalie back to bed.  She was still moaning but more quietly.  The main nurse came in and said the doctor wanted her to go to the ER.  Two nurses rolled her bed downstairs, all the while assuring me everything would be fine, but looking concerned and bewildered.

As we got to the ER – about an hour and a half after the episode started – Natalie’s color started to return to normal and she came back into herself.  She asked what was going on.  She didn’t remember most of what had happened over the past 90 minutes.

By the time the ER doc came in an hour later, Natalie was as normal as she could be after such an odd and scary incident.  She was exhausted and pale, the only two remnants of her adventure.  And after yet another hour, we still had no answers.  In fact, we received a diagnosis of “nerve pinch” – read: “we have no idea.”

As we left the hospital, I talked to Natalie about rescheduling the blood sugar test.  “Why bother?” she asked bitterly.  “They won’t find anything.  No one believes anything is wrong.  They all think we’re crazy.  Let’s just give it up.”

Finally – an answer

The heavy metal screen looked for high levels of metals such as lead and mercury in her tissues. Photo © Josiah Garber | Dreamstime Stock Photos

We went home, exhausted, dejected and desolate.  I had just one more glimmer of hope:  Natalie had taken a heavy metals test a few weeks before to look for heavy metal toxicity.  I’d been researching heavy metals and was amazed to learn that all her symptoms could be caused by high levels in her system.  I’d been holding on to hope, but it felt like grasping at a straw.

That evening, we had our appointment with Dr. Tiffany to get the metal results.  As she walked through the door, she asked what had happened that day at the hospital.   We caught her up, and I then said, pleadingly, “PLEASE tell me she has high metal levels!”

Ruefully, she shook her head.  I was crushed; what now?  Then she showed me the test.

“But lead is high!” I exclaimed.  She shrugged, saying yes, it was higher than they’d like to see, but she couldn’t say with any certainty that only one metal, at that level, was wreaking such havoc in my child’s body.  But not having any other options, we decided to start chelation therapy and see what happened.

The results were amazing

While Dr. Tiffany told us if there were any change, it would be fast, we were not prepared for just how fast.  Natalie was in a dark place, about to give up, but she took the chelation pills daily.  After a few weeks, I started to see a change:  she didn’t yet feel better physically, but emotionally she was changing.  She was more confident; she was standing up for herself; she was … different.

Natalie is getting progressively better and now sees the hope that was missing in her life for months

I mentioned this at our appointment, two weeks after therapy started.  “Maybe.” Dr. Tiffany was still guarded, not wanting to get our hopes up.  “Let’s give it a few more weeks and see.”

Just a few days after that – not too much before Christmas – we saw a huge change.  It’s almost like Natalie woke up one morning and was better.  She didn’t hurt; the fatigue was abating; her blood sugar was completely normal; her emotions were stable; her head wasn’t fuzzy; she started to put on weight; she was “present.”

Natalie is continuing her chelation therapy and continues to get better.  She’s still building up her stamina, and she has set-backs; but in general, she’s a different person.  She’s the person I would have expected her to be, had she continued to grow up “normally,” without this jog off the path.  We now see a bright, committed, enthusiastic, engaged teenager, one who certainly has her moods and “teenage issues,” but who is stable and confident, who is able to function for longer periods every day, and who is not in constant pain.

What does this all mean?

So where did the lead come from?  That’s the question.  Natalie never ate paint (she wasn’t even around lead-based paint), and there was no obvious lead in our lives.  What I’m learning now is lead, and other metals/contaminants, are all around us.  A report was just released about the levels of lead in seaweed – which is supposed to be so good for you!  Lead is also high in cosmetics – even lipstick.  There is lead in the dust, lead in the water …  lead is everywhere.  And for highly sensitive people like Natalie, it can be devastating.

This is scary for our kids and for future generations.  It’s scary for us.  How many of us are sick and don’t know why?  Heavy metals can cause so many problems – pain, fatigue, brain fog, hypoglycemia, food sensitivities, even mimic things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and MS (hmmmm).  If Natalie’s problems weren’t so disruptive, how long would we have gone on thinking she was “just a teen?”

There is lead in so many of our foods and other items we use regularly – even lipstick!

In fact, how long did we go before it got bad enough to force us to seek out an answer?  We likely spent years accepting that because it quacked like a duck, it must be one.

Even with so much evidence about how harmful metals and contaminants can be, and seeing the seemingly miraculous turn-around people can have with chelation therapy, many traditional doctors don’t believe environmental contaminants are truly a problem.  Yet I and many others have seen – first-hand – how treating heavy metal toxicity can turn a life around.  Just how many people can we help if we look at things differently?

Please, if your child – or you – are suffering and you don’t know why, open your mind.  Seek out a place like the Alliance Center.  Look for alternative answers and tests, and don’t discount what our environment can do to us.  Choose answers, and don’t settle.  After all, it may not be a duck.

About MyFear Zapper

MyFear Zapper is an interactive online system that helps children build self-confidence by teaching them how to face & overcome any type of fearful situation. It uses cognitive-behavioral therapy and positive imagery techniques to teach kids their minds are more powerful than their fears.
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