Diary of Unknown Symptoms

Mystery of the Internal Vibration

Entry for January 23, 2008

What a fantastic article… I’ve been down this road!

THE PERILS OF BEING A PATIENT

How to Survive Conventional Medicine with Your Health Intact

by Helke Ferrie

Everyone will sooner or later consult a doctor. That encounter may save your life dramatically in emergency medicine, or lead you into a living hell if chronic disease and cancer are involved. For chronic disease, modern medicine offers drugs derived from complex synthetic chemistry, drugs which are purposely designed to control symptoms and ensure loyal “consumers” until death – usually from the side effects (one of which is chemically induced nutritional deficiency). Indeed, package inserts clearly state “this drug does not cure”. The word cure has become a four-letter word in modern medicine. This symptom-control approach to medicine is provided by well-trained, well-intentioned licensed practitioners.

Having personally experienced medicine at its best and at its worst, these are no hyperboles. Human systems are essentially labyrinths; medicine is no exception. As in the Greek myth, when entering such a system one better have Ariadne’s thread, as the hero Theseus did when seeking out the subterranean monster, the Minotaur, to find the way back out. The Minotaur in our lives is illness, a monster that paralyzes through fear, and heroes are heroes because they conquer their fear – after that, slaying the monster is not necessarily a big deal. Being a hero isn’t all that difficult. Anyone who employs critical thought in the face of authority already is a hero.

YOUR DOCTOR

Doctors who practice “conventional” medicine are fundamentally handicapped by a medical paradigm that accepts most diseases as idiopathic (of unknown cause). In truth, there is no such thing. If doctors tell you that you have an incurable disease they cease to be scientists, whether they know it or not. Don’t believe them. Educate them. And if they won’t listen, fire them.

Conventional thinking equates labels with reality. For example, the labels “cancer”, “multiple sclerosis”, or “diabetes” are descriptive terms that identify the differences between them as seen by the doctor and experienced by the patient. Description is of little help when you want a cure. All of these diseases are ultimately caused by the same thing – heavy metals, nano-bacteria (mercury amalgam fillings and root canals), common pesticides, chronic vitamin D deficiency, or long-term nutritional deficiencies from a diet of processed and nutrient-devoid foods loaded with antibiotics, synthetic flavouring and preservatives. While it is true that cancer is defined by abnormal cell growth, multiple sclerosis is characterized by the disintegration of the nerves’ myelin sheaths, and diabetics are deficient in insulin, the patient needs to understand what caused their disease in order to regain health: no cause, no cure.

Science has proven exhaustively that every disease is caused by some kind of identifiable challenge to the body’s defences, primarily the liver and the immune system (e.g. bacteria, viruses, parasites, radiation, systemic electro-magnetic interference, stress-induced hormonal imbalances with toxic consequences, environmental or pharmaceutical toxins causing organ damage or genetic interference which result in the malfunctioning of vital enzymes, and more). Every disease state is in theory (and also in practice) curable by making the immune system and liver into the patient’s allies through removing that harmful cause and fueling the body with those nutrients that have become deficient.

Synthetic drugs are never nutrients and always increase toxicity. A disease is never a drug deficiency, but always accompanied by serious nutrient deficiencies. The fact that a toxic trigger can cause cancer in one person and diabetes in another is certainly of “academic” interest, and some day we may know why – but who cares?

This confusion between a useful cause-based diagnosis and a descriptive label leads often to lethal “cognitive traps”, as Dr. Groopman explains in his fascinating book How Doctors Think. At autopsy, he reports, at least 15% of diagnoses are proven to have been wrong, which is why the patient is dead. He cites research showing that 80% of serious doctor-caused harm to patients can be explained by a “cascade of cognitive errors”, all stemming from not having listened carefully to the patient and hastily plugging the patient into diagnoses.

When showing my physician husband this book, he snorted, “Most don’t think.” His respect for conventional medical practice got its first shock when, a few weeks after completing his specialization exams, he ran into one of his most intelligent colleagues. When he asked his friend about his current reading, expecting to discuss new research, his friend answered: “Now I am studying the fee schedule.”

MEDICINE’S DARK SIDE

Since the 1970’s, money interests have steadily taken control over how governments run health care systems, how doctors practice, and how medical research is conducted. Last November, I attended an event at the University of Toronto; the guest speaker was Dr. Richard Smith, who until recently was editor of the British Medical Journal (for 25 years), one of the “Big Five”. His brilliant discussion of the phantom world that medical journals have become was as disturbing as his admission that he was unable to stop this corrupting process. He confirmed what editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell and Jerome Kassierer, had reported in their own recent books about their failed battles against the dominance of financial interests and the fraudulent research these interests require to profit from sick people.

When asked if one could trust any leading medical journals, Dr. Smith laughed out loud and exclaimed: “No!” And how should patients protect themselves from doctors acting in good faith on this mostly fraudulent research? Dr. Smith replied, “Patients have to understand that they are actually in a bogus contract with the doctor. The patient thinks the doctor can fix my problem. That is a very powerful fantasy! Patients need to invest time and energy in researching [their problem] and be smarter than the doctor. Nowadays that is possible!” And he recommended the internet-based open-access medical journals which are free of advertising and Big Pharma interference.

Because of a relentless push to produce patentable, lucrative symptom-control drugs, researchers around the world have concluded, after combing through 9.4 million research papers at the US National Library of Medicine in 4,000 journals, that “the vast majority of published research… is false.” (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 17, 2007). As for mandatory continuing medical education, Nature reported on September 22 last year that these conferences are basically “re-allocated marketing events” controlled by the funding pharmaceutical and medical devices industries. On January 7 and 8, CBC reported that the Health Canada warnings about adverse events associated with prescription drugs are generally ignored by doctors: “We cannot open the letter for them. We cannot make them read them,” the HC spokesperson said.

BASIC SURVIVAL TIPS

It is charitable and proper to forgive those who sacrifice their profession and their patients by functioning as drug-pushers, for they know not what they do. But it is vital that patients know that only those doctors who determinedly think outside the box will listen carefully and dare to go for a genuine “cure”.

Patients can’t wait until medical schools and journals are reformed and profit ceases to dominate medicine. You need to take charge. Ask your doctor if he or she sees drug reps and point out that they are neither patients nor medically trained, so you – the patient – expect equal time. Always hold your doctor to the current standard of practice as published on the websites of the licensing colleges:

Never accept an antibiotic unless the target bacteria has been identified through appropriate lab tests and it is certain your infection is not caused by a virus, which antibiotics can’t kill. Antibiotic resistance is possibly the greatest health threat in the world today – caused mostly by careless prescribing and their prophylactic use in food-producing animals.

Always treat pain, chronic or acute, to the fullest extent as it is now internationally recognized as the 5th vital sign and must be treated with the drugs that work best for you and in the individually necessary dosage.

C) Always demand a full explanation (diagnosis, treatment, drugs prescribed, dangers of that drug etc.) because informed consent is the law governing medical practice, and if necessary point that out.

Always ask if the drug prescribed is still under patent protection. If it is, ask to see the current CPS (Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties) to check for Health Canada warnings (the older the drug, the safer it generally is). Insist on a generic equivalent or substitute if available, as the Canadian Medical Association guidelines expects of doctors. This applies even to drugs handed out in a hospital: you are entitled to this information.

ADVANCED SURVIVAL TIPS

While discussing this article with my husband, he suggested that it is vital, when consulting a doctor, “never to use a conventional diagnostic term”. If you say “I am so depressed”, sixty seconds later you will have a prescription and be headed for Antidepressant Hell, because you have just pushed a well-worn button. To find out what awaits you on those drugs, spend a couple of hours surfing the net by typing in search words such as “SSRIs + adverse events” or “+ legal actions”.

Should you ever be tempted to take a drug you see advertised on American television (unavoidable since Direct to Consumer Advertising (DTCA) of drugs is permitted in the US), clear your brains as fast as possible by surfing the net for information on DTCA. Those are probably the deadliest drugs on the market and most were created to target diseases invented by the pharmaceutical industry to create a new market niche.

Should your doctor offer you enrollment in a drug trial, remember that doctors get paid big bucks for such recruitments. Guy Faguet, author of The War On Cancer, spent his life as a leading researcher with the US National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society. He describes drug trials as nothing less than human toxicity tests. (As an aside, note that he disapproves of mammography, and PSA tests for prostate check-ups, because of their unacceptably high false positives!) On September 27 last year, the New York Times published salient details of the US Department of Health report on drug trials. The Inspector General concluded that “in many ways, rats and mice get better protection as research subjects than do humans.”

If you are taking a synthetic drug, consult the nutrient depletion handbook by the American Association of Pharmacists, and Dr. Cass’ excellent book. They spell out which essential nutrients are depleted by every prescription drug. Supplementing those nutrients is the logical thing to do and is guaranteed to reduce side effects and may even get you off the drug altogether.

How do you know what is a bad drug? Google the World Health Organization’s Essential Drugs List; not a single patented drug is on it. It does not include cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants and the like. Then there is the excellent newsletter Best Pills Worst Pills published monthly by Ralph Nader’s organization, Public Citizen, which has successfully challenged the FDA on many dangerous drugs and got them off the market. A quick internet survey on the number of law suits filed against a drug provides the most informative warning.

To me, any drug that carries a Health Canada advisory or an FDA black box warning is unacceptable, no matter the disease, because they have been found to interfere with cell repair, damage the immune system and the liver, and decrease vitally important hormone activity. I prefer to be my body’s friend instead. For every conventional and usually toxic treatment, there exists a non-toxic alternative – every one of which was developed by mainstream medical research. Your doctor is not trained to look for alternatives and drug reps don’t discuss them. Doctors are always astonished to learn that they exist and are science-based. In fact, never before in the history of medicine have we had this much choice.

Descartes (1590-1650) started us on the path of scientific thinking, which is both a habit and a method of antiauthoritarianism. Descartes taught that “systematic doubt” should be “the guiding principle for action” – a matter of life and death for patients. Uncritically accepting external authority of any kind is always the beginning of suffering because then you have “squandered [your] resistance for a pocket-full of mumbles”, as Simon and Garfunkle famously put it. If anybody wonders if this article comes close to practising medicine without a license, I better make it clear that my aim was to suggest everybody should treat, with determined and polite doubt, all those who practice medicine with a licence.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Health | , , | 3 Comments

Entry for July 11, 2007

I add this because it’s very interesting and specific regarding certain foods needed to fight the ever growing incidence of cancer. Cancer in my belief is a basically a diet deficiency. So will there every be a cure? Nope, because people are not willing to change BEFORE it’s too late.

Cancer Fighting Foods

Red grapes:Though they are not nutrient rich they are a virtual treasure chest of cancer fighting carotenoids, phenols, anthocyanidins and quercetin. They contain some beta and alpha carotene as well as lutein, zeaxanthin, caffeic acid, ellagic acid and are a good source of resveratrol.

Watermelon:In addition to containing some beta and alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, this is one of the few food sources of lycopene. It is also very high in potassium.

Sweet Potato: A particularly rich source of beta-carotene (the darker or deeper the color, the more carotene) they are also a good source of Vitamin C and contain natural protease inhibitors, compounds being researched as anti cancer agents.

Spinach:Due to its high oxalic acid content, people prone to kidney stones should eat this vegetable sparingly. Spinach is a good source of fiber, twice that of many vegetables. It is one of the highest sources of lutein and zeaxanthin and is a very good source of beta-carotene.

Swiss Chard:Also high in oxalic acid, so kidney stone formers must be careful and limit foods such as these. It is a good source of beta-carotene and also contains alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. It is also a good source of calcium, iron and potassium.

Carrots:People that eat carrots a few times a week or consume carrot juice on a regular basis have lower rates of lung cancer and may reduce risk of esophageal, throat, mouth, stomach and skin cancers. Carrots are a good source of potassium and carrot fiber may reduce risks of colorectal cancer. Carrots are an excellent source of beta as well as alpha carotene.

Tomato:People that consume a lot of tomatoes or tomato products may be reducing their risk of lung cancer as well as pancreatic, bladder, colorectal and skin cancers. Lycopene of which the tomato is the primary dietary source, is the antioxidant carotenoid, that provides this protection. Lycopene is not destroyed by cooking or by heat, so it is found in tomato sauce, ketchup and tomato juice. It has also been found that compounds found in tomatoes inhibit nitrosimine formation, a leading cause of stomach cancer. New research suggests that lycopene may not only help to prevent prostate cancer, but may help to slow its progression.

Pumpkin: A member of the squash family, pumpkin contains a good amount of beta- carotene and is a very high source of alpha carotene. Adding pumpkin to your diet may help to reduce the risk of lung, stomach and skin cancer.

Onions:A powerhouse of disease fighting compounds such as phenols, sulfur and the bioflavonoid quercetin (yellow and red varieties.) Quercetin may inhibit melanoma and combat squamous cell carcinoma. Onions can also help lower blood pressure, keep blood free of clots and contains anti-inflammatory properties helpful in relieving symptoms of asthma and reducing the severity of the common cold.

Winter Squash:When cooked, winter squash is a good source of beta-carotene and contains smaller amounts of alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Parsley:Though parsley is usually served as a condiment, this tasty vegetable contains beta-carotene as well as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Green peas:In addition to their sweet taste, green peas are a good source of insoluble fiber, contains a small amount of beta and alpha carotene and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

Kale:Vitamin K is needed to make proteins that insure proper blood clotting. Kale is a good source of this vitamin. It is also a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Eating lots of crucifers have been associated with lower colorectal, breast and lung cancers. Kale is a great source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. It also contains the calcium equivalent to a glass of milk.

Red Pepper:A good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, it contains small amounts of beta and alpha carotene and some lycopene. Medium red peppers have three times the Vitamin C as oranges.

Romaine Lettuce:A rich source of carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin. It is also high in Vitamin k.

Strawberries:Compounds in strawberries inhibit nitrosimine formation, a potent carcinogen that can lead to stomach cancer. They are a good source of anthocyanins and pectin, which are heart healthy. Strawberries are a good source of ellagic acid. A few servings a week can help reduce risks of cervical, breast, esophageal and skin cancers to name a few.

Pears:The insoluble fiber of a pear is a natural laxative and could help decrease cancerous polyps in the colon. Its pectin content helps lower cholesterol and may be of value in preventing gall bladder problems. They contain some beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and the anti cancer bioflavonoid, quercetin.

Cantaloupe:This fruit is particularly nutrient rich, being one of the richest sources of potassium. Incredibly, they contain adenosine, a chemical used to thin blood in patients that have had heart attacks or angina. They are also one of the best sources of beta and alpha carotene.

Peaches:This fruit is a good source of beta and alpha carotene as well as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Cranberries: Though most often consumed around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, they are effective in blocking certain strains of E. coli, the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections. They also contain beta and alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin and the super cancer fighting phenol, ellagic acid.

Blackberries:A really good source of insoluble fibers, so necessary to the health of the digestive tract. They also contain anthocyanidins, beta-carotene and ellagic acid.

Raspberries:A good source of anthocyanidins for healthier blood vessels and good source of carotenoid nutrition, containing beta and alpha carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the highest source of ellagic acid known.

Blueberries:Like other anthocyanin rich foods, blueberries may increase visual acuity as we age. They actually help with eyestrain quite a bit. Recent studies show blueberries to be neuroprotective. This is really quite an incredible food. In Europe they have been used in powders and soups as an anti diarrhea and to block the growth of E. coli. Like cranberries, they are also effective in treating urinary tract infections. They are an important source of manganese and contain beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Apples:A good source of the water soluble fiber, pectin, a bacteriostatic compound effective in combating E. coli, staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus faecalis. May help to reduce the risk of colon cancer and lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind.) A good source of salicylates, a possible chemopreventive for skin cancer as well as quercetin and glucaric acid.

Oranges:This is a powerhouse of phytonutrients. Oranges contain beta and alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin; important bioflavonoids found in the pulp or white of the fruit including hesperin and are a very good source of potassium and the B vitamin, folic acid and glucaric acid.

Tangerines:Tangeretin is a very potent tumor inhibitor and may play a role in preventing skin and breast cancer. In addition to tangeretin, tangerines contain beta- carotene as well.

Red and Pink Grapefruit:A very good source of potassium as well as one of the few dietary sources of lycopene (
not nearly as good as tomatoes, but still a source nonetheless.) They also contain beta-carotene and limonene, a flavonoid being researched for its prophylactic role in skin cancer. Grapefruit pectin is an effective cholesterol-lowering agent.

Flaxseed Powder:Ligands are important factors found in fiber. Diets high in ligands are protective against breast cancer. They also help to lower blood cholesterol. Flaxseeds are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, important for heart health, improving mental health, lower triglycerides and in preventing certain cancers including skin cancer.

Dried Apricots:A very rich source of beta- and alpha-carotene, also contains lutein and zeaxanthin and is a rich source of potassium and glucaric acid.

Dried Prunes:Though best known for their laxative properties, prunes are a good source of beta and alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Cherries:This fruit contains the anti cancer bioflavonoid, quercetin. Surprisingly, processed sweet cherries have nearly twice the amount as does fresh. Cherries also contain the monoterpine, periyll alcohol.

Brazil Nuts: Though high in calories and fat, a few of these nuts a day will provide the daily needed amounts of the mineral selenium, as one nut contains between 100 and 125mcg. It is by far the highest source of dietary selenium. They are also rich in protease inhibitors.

Walnuts:A good source of monosaturated fat (like that of avocados and olive oil) walnuts are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and they contain the anti-cancer phytosuperstar, ellagic acid. They are a good source of minerals as well as fiber.

Peanuts:A very good source of protein (though many people are allergic to this food) and resveratrol.

Other foods rich in carotenoids:

Green beans
Watercress
Seaweed
Mangoes and papayas

Other foods in the skin cancer breakthrough program include:

Pecans (a source of ellagic acid)
Huckleberries and mulberries (sources of resveratrol)
Eggs (Hens fed a diet rich in ground flaxseed produce Omega 3 rich-eggs.)
Olive oil, flaxseed oil and perilla oil
Spices such as tumeric rich curry, garlic, and ginger
CLA rich organic cheeses

Highest Source of Beta-Carotene:

Dried apricots
Raw apricots
Beet greens
Cantaloupe
Cooked, canned and frozen carrots
Raw carrots
Dill (not dried)
Collard greens
Kale
Fresh parsley
Dried peaches
Red peppers
Pumpkin
Cooked spinach
Cooked winter squash
Cooked sweet potato
Raw sweet potato
Raw swiss chard
Spirulina
Wheat grass
Barley grass

Highest Source of Lycopene:

Cooked, canned and stewed tomatoes
Guava juice
Raw guava (higher)
Pink grapefruit
Raw scallion
Watermelon

July 11, 2007 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Entry for January 22, 2007

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For some reason my wife was looking at my fingernails and commented on the fact that they all have little ridges running in vertical lines. But what does it mean? One web site suggested a magnesium/calcium deficiency another offered this analysis:

Fingernail Health – Some indicators of what your nails are telling you!

Your nails are a reflection of the health and wellness of your body. You can tell you a lot from looking at fingernails. It is true that abnormalities of the nails can often provide early clues to common medical problems or severe systemic diseases. Take a few moments and examine your unpolished fingernails under a good light. You will gather a new appreciation for how your lifestyle affects your nails and overall health.

Wasting away of Nails; Nail loses luster and becomes smaller, Injury or disease

Thickened Nail Plate: Poor circulation; fungal infection; heredity; mild, persistent trauma to the nail

Pitted Nails sometimes yellow-to=brown: Eczema or psoriasis; hair loss condition

Very soft Nails: Contact with strong alkali; malnutrition; endocrine problems; chronic arthritis

Spoon shaped Nails: Iron deficiency; thyroid disease

Clublike Nails – swollen finger ends: Chronic respiratory or heart problems; cirrhosis of the liver

Horizontal ridges: Injury; infection; nutrition

Longitudinal ridges: Aging, poor absorption of vitamins and minerals; thyroid disease; kidney failure

Colorless: May indicate anemia.

Red or deep pink: Can indicate a tendency to poor peripheral circulation.

Yellow: Could indicate fungus, diabetes, psoriasis, use of tetracycline, or heredity.

White, crumbly, soft: May be a result of a fungus infection

No Moons: Possible underactive thyroid; genetics

Overlarge Moons: Possible Overactive thyroid; genetics; self-induced trauma (habit tick)

Complete loss of Nail: Trauma

Nail Plate Loose: Injury; nail psoriasis; fungal or bacterial infections; medicines; chemotherapy; thyroid disease; Raynaud’s phenomenon; lupus

Brittle, split Nails: Nail dryness, nails in contact with irritating substances (detergents, chemicals, polish remover); silica deficiency

Pale, brittle nails, spoon-shaped or with ridges down the length – can signify anemia; this lack of iron can be due to inadequate nutrition

Thick, distorted fingernails can signify a fungal condition: If you have a fungal infection distorted fingernails could also be due to arterial sclerosis, so see your health care conditioner to rule that out.

Clubbed fingernails can signify a problem with your blood flow. See your health care practitioner.

White spots on your nails – is often due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

Brittle and lifting easily from your nail beds, along with dry skin, always feeling cold and hair falling out – could indicate a problem with your thyroid gland;

Excessively flexible nails, may signify deficiency of calcium and sometimes protein.

Infected Nails: RED, TENDER, SWOLLEN, PUS: Bacterial or yeast infection

Whitish hue at base of fingernails, may signify liver trouble. If it’s a matter of cleansing your liver, taking milk thistle (silymarin) capsules, available at your health food store;

Splinters that don’t hurt – could be subacute bacterial endocarditis, a very serious condition. See your health care practitioner immediately!

Purple or black: Usually due to trauma, or may also be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Bluish nails – probably means you aren’t getting enough oxygen; combined with a cough and shortness of breath means heart failure or chronic lung trouble and you should see you health care practitioner;

A Brown or Black streak:, that begins at the base of the nail and extends to its tip could be a diagnostic clue to a potentially dangerous melanoma. See your healthcare provider.

January 22, 2007 Posted by | Health | , | 3 Comments

Entry for January 15, 2007

Seems I’m not alone with my weird symptoms. I wonder how many of them have vitamin and mineral deficiencies or are effected by EMF exposure? I have mups!

Unexplained symptoms affect 5% of Canadians
Updated Fri. Jan. 12 2007 12:01 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

In 2003, five per cent of Canadians older than 11 had medically unexplained physical symptoms that could not be definitively identified through physical examination or medical testing.

Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms (MUPS)

The symptoms, known as MUPS, are linked to conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity, Statistics Canada reports. Gulf War syndrome is also considered to be a MUPS illness.

The results of the new Health Reports study were released on StatsCan’s The Daily news site on Friday. About 1.2 million Canadians had at least one of the three conditions. The study found the following key results:

About 2.4 per cent of the population experienced multiple chemical sensitivity — a condition in which people develop symptoms upon exposure to synthetic chemicals in doses that usually have no noticeable effect.

Fibromyalgia was found in 1.5 per cent of the population. People with the condition typically experience pain, lasting three months or more, in at least 11 of 18 specific areas.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, which is characterized by extreme tiredness, affected 1.3 per cent of Canadians.

Of Canadians who were found to have medically unexplained conditions, 14 per cent experienced at least two of the three listed conditions.

According to the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, twice as many women as men experienced each of the three conditions, and the conditions were all more common among Canadians with lower incomes. And the rate of mental disorder, such as depression or agoraphobia, was higher among people reporting medically unexplained physical symptoms, than among the general population.

Among the subject group, 21 per cent had at least one psychiatric disorder and the rates were highest among those who experienced chronic fatigue syndrome. By comparison, the rate of psychiatric disorder among people who do not have unexplained symptoms is eight per cent.

The number of people affected by MUPS is also linked to age, the study found. The proportion of people experiencing at least one of the conditions was 1.6 per cent for people between 12 and 24, and peaked at 6.9 per cent for people between the ages 45 and 64.

January 15, 2007 Posted by | Health | | Leave a comment

Entry for December 25, 2006

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The perfect Christmas present.

December 26, 2006 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Entry for November 10, 2006

Exactly my point!! Didn’t I mention this months ago?

Google could help doctors diagnose illness
Last updated at 10:12am on 10th November 2006

Doctors could turn to Google to help them diagnose illnesses, experts said today. The internet search engine found the correct diagnosis in 58 per cent of difficult cases, they said.

But the idea has met with opposition from patient groups who questioned the credibility of many health sites. And the Royal College of General Practitioners said the internet was “in no way a replacement for doctors”.

For the study, researchers at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, identified 26 difficult cases from the New England Journal of Medicine.

They included Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), Cushing’s syndrome (a hormonal disorder), acute chest syndrome and Churg-Strauss syndrome (an autoimmune disease).

The researchers selected three to five search terms from each case and did a Google search on each, while “blind” to the correct diagnoses.

They then selected and recorded the three diagnoses that were ranked most prominently and which seemed to fit the symptoms and signs. Those results were compared with the correct diagnoses as listed in the journal.

The study found that Google found the correct diagnosis in 15 of the 26 cases. The experts said doctors would get a better result than patients, who may find the search less efficient and be less likely to reach the correct diagnosis. They also suggested that medical students would find the tool useful.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), concluded: “Doctors and patients are increasingly proficient with the internet and frequently use Google to search for medical information.

“Twenty five million people in the United Kingdom were estimated to have web access in 2001, and searching for health information was one of the most common uses of the web.

“Our study suggests that in difficult diagnostic cases, it is often useful to ‘Google for a diagnosis’.

“Web-based search engines such as Google are becoming the latest tools in clinical medicine, and doctors in training need to become proficient in their use.”

But a spokeswoman for the Patients Association said doctors already had a wide knowledge when it came to diagnosing conditions. She added: “We would be concerned if they were using websites to diagnose people, what would happen if they gave the patient the wrong information?

“Also, a lot of sites are not credible. There are lots of good sites out there, but we also know that there are many that are not credible.”

Professor Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “The internet is in no way a replacement for doctors – their clinical judgment and expertise will always be necessary to make sense of the information.

“Rather, it should be seen as a way of supporting doctors and their patients.

November 10, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Entry for November 02, 2006

Getting Health Care Info on the Web
By LAURA MARQUEZ

Oct. 31, 2006 — Medical information is just a click away. But how accurate is it?

In a new study just released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a whopping 80 percent of American Internet users say they have searched the Web for answers to their health questions. That translates to some 113 million users.

But of that number, just 15 percent say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online.

“Most people are starting with a search engine,” says Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew Project. “So they’re trusting Dr. Google essentially to give them a second opinion.”

Fox adds the date and source of the articles found in those searches are “the two most important quality indicators of health information.”

But checking the date isn’t always easy. A recent federal government study found only 4 percent of popular health sites put a date on their information. And in the fast- changing world of medical information, that date could be crucial.

For instance, hormone replacement therapy pre-2002 was considered safe, but after that year, researchers found that HRT carried major health implications.

The Pew project found that 74 percent of people say they felt confident and “reassured” that they could make appropriate health care decisions after their last search. And the majority say that as a result of their searches, they would likely raise new questions with their doctors.

“People are really finding what they need,” Fox says.

But one doctor ABC News talked to who asked not to be quoted called online health information “sometimes flawed” and says that “patients often get confused between legitimate Internet reporting and what is effectively advertising of services.”

Another interesting finding of the Pew research is that half of the searches on the Internet are done on behalf of someone else.

“So now, instead of bringing just flowers or a meal to someone, you also bring the gift of information to their bedside,” Fox says.

November 2, 2006 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Entry for August 22, 2006

 

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Having a child is a life changing event. It has changed my perspective and changed my way of thinking. It’s made me realize how sick I’ve become. I look at her every day and question how my body should feel. She’s only nine months old now and she’s so strong, so healthy and has so much energy. It’s amazing to watch.

She probably saved my life.

August 22, 2006 Posted by | Health | | Leave a comment

Entry for August 03, 2006

Do Lunch Meats Cause Stomach Cancer?
Wednesday August 2, 2006

Pedro Zucchet was never shy about his love for traditional processed Italian meats.  They were a regular part of his daily lunches. So when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he never suspected a link between his love of salami and his illness. 

But now research out of Sweden suggests such a tie between lunchmeats and the disease may exist. The scientists looked at several kinds of processed meat including ham, salami, hot dogs and bacon, and they found that the more you consume such foods, the greater your risk of getting stomach cancer. The worst culprit turned out to be bacon. Experts believe sodium nitrite in the meats could be to blame, or it could be all the salt.

“The salt can act as an irritant to the stomach lining and in fact may predispose the stomach to cancer development,” said U. of T. professor Michael Archer.”I guess the best advice is moderation,” he adds.  “I wouldn’t eat processed meats three times a day every day.”

Zucchet, who has now been cancer free for five years, takes heed of that advice. “I’ve changed what I eat now,” he said.  “I’m a little bit more conscious of what I eat.”

Many processed meats are also high in artery-clogging saturated fat, giving consumers another reason to steer clear.

August 3, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Entry for July 24, 2006

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– Brendan Brazier (from the Jugo Juice magazine)

July 24, 2006 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Entry for July 18, 2006

Is Diet Soda Making You Fat?
By Leslie Pepper

If you drink diet soda to stay slim, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio tracked more than 600 normal-weight adults over seven to eight years and found that, on average, those who drank diet soda- even as little as one can or bottle a day- did not lose weight and were significantly more likely to become overweight than those who drank regular soft drinks or none at all. The more diet soda they drank, the more likely they were to become overweight.

How can that be? Sharon Parten Fowler, M.P.H., a researcher on the study, has a few theories. One is that artificial sweeteners may muddle the body’s ability to judge caloric intake by offering a taste of something sweet without providing the calories. Scientists at Purdue University discovered that rats fed a diet including an artificially sweetened liquid ate more than rats given natural high-calorie sweeteners alone. “When the brain senses food coming in, it puts into motion mechanisms to take care of the calories it anticipates,” notes Fowler. But when those calories fail to materialize, the body may continue to crave what it expected, which may lead to bingeing.

July 18, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Entry for July 16, 2006

Who’s in Charge?
It’s Your Care. Take Control of It, Recommends One Physician.

By Marc Siegel
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 11, 2006; Page HE01

For much of my 15 years of medical practice, I was a card-carrying member of the group of doctors who resent know-it-all patients — the Web surfers, the health column clippers, the types we suspect are out to feed their egos by proving they know more than their physicians.

But most self-informed patients can sense our cynicism, and they don’t like it. A 2003 study published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care added to growing evidence that, for patients, physician “empathy is perceived as going hand-in-hand with competence.”
 
Fortunately, my jaundiced view has given way to an appreciation for patients who inform themselves. It turns out that patients we acknowledge as stewards of their care tend to be more satisfied with their treatment. Several studies also seem to suggest that informed patients tend to have better outcomes.

For the ideal combination, mix an informed patient with an inquiring physician. Arthur Caplan, chairman of the medical ethics department at the University of Pennsylvania, likes to cite a quote attributed to the ancient Greek physician Galen: “The best physician is something of a philosopher.” Such a physician does more than “pose questions,” says Caplan. He “isn’t afraid to have them asked. The process of questioning can lead to understanding and patient satisfaction.”

My patient Brian Morton, a 50-year-old writer and teacher, became more cautious about his health after dealing with his infant daughter’s illness. Morton began to read more about health and medicine and to ask more questions of me.

I treated Morton for high blood pressure with a diuretic and a pill, Diovan, that dilates arteries. But when I began raising his Diovan dose in response to high readings — ranging from 160 to 180 systolic pressure over 100 to 110 diastolic pressure (normal is generally considered less than 130 over 85) — he was uneasy. Concerned about the potential side effects of higher doses, including fatigue and dizziness, he began to measure the pressure himself and record the values at home. The readings he got were consistently lower, 120 to 140 over 80 to 90.

What the two sets of readings suggested was “white coat syndrome,” a recognized phenomenon in which blood pressure levels are higher in a doctor’s presence. These results helped me to adjust his medications more effectively. Though I didn’t disregard my own readings, I did begin to figure his in. I became less likely to raise his dosage automatically in response to an elevated value obtained in my office.

Some doctors would have been made uneasy by Morton’s increasing scrutiny — he kept track of all his medicines, and once stopped the pharmacist from dispensing too high a dose by mistake. But I learned that he wasn’t unhappy, just questioning. Once he saw he could remain in control of his health decisions, our relationship was able to flourish.

Doubting Gout

Morton is not an isolated case. Patient knowledge often informs treatment — or should.

Of course, not all information is helpful. Direct-to-consumer ads, which now account for more than 16 percent of drug company marketing dollars, lead my patients to pressure me to prescribe the newest and most expensive drugs, thereby overlooking cheaper tried-and-true generic drugs.

I have also found that many Internet Web sites, even when they report factual information, skew toward severe cases and prompt patients to believe their health is worse than it is. Even the most reputable online sources, such as Web-MD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, may lead many patients to worry unnecessarily about their symptoms.

Whatever the source of a patient’s information, a physician is most effective when he or she isn’t defensive, but acts as an interpreter of information and guide of treatment, leaving the ultimate control to the patient.

That’s not just my opinion.

A 1999 Canadian research review of 22 published studies focusing on crucial aspects of doctor/patient communication, including “clear information provided to the patient, mutually agreed upon goals, an active role for the patient, and positive affect, empathy, and support from the doctor,” found that these features led to patient satisfaction and adherence to treatment plan. And the studies showed a “generally positive effect of key dimensions of communication on actual patient health outcomes such as pain, recovery from symptom anxiety, functional status, and physiologic measurement of blood pressure and blood glucose.”

Many studies have shown a link between poor patient understanding about his or her health (that is, poor health literacy) and poor outcomes. In 1999, a committee of the American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs tied health literacy to improved health outcomes for multiple diseases. A 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked the use of patient self-management education programs with improved outcomes in many chronic illnesses.

On their own, many of my patients have developed self-education skills, some of which have led to astute self-diagnoses.

New York microbiologist Guenther Stotzky, a longtime patient of mine, developed a painfully swollen leg a few years ago. Examining him, I could make no definitive determination, since there wasn’t the kind of accentuated warmth or redness characteristic of infection or a blood clot. I felt he had probably strained a muscle, but he felt strongly that he had gout. So did his cardiologist.

“What does your cardiologist know about gout,” I grumbled.

I had reason to be skeptical. Yes, his leg was tender and swollen, and slightly warm to the touch, but it lacked the bright-red, extremely painful joint inflammation that I — and other physicians — commonly ascribe to gout.

But Stotzky had read about atypical presentations of gout on the Internet, and he convinced me that he was right, especially when his uric acid level came back suspiciously high, characteristic for gout. I treated him with two anti-inflammatory medicines, and he improved.

I suppose I was more open to Stotzky’s ideas because of his scientific background. But I was also starting to learn that my patients often know their bodies better than I do, and that they, too, can read up on their symptoms, coming to me with a diagnosis already in mind. I am less likely to be embarrassed if I don’t battle my patients for control, but let them provide insights into their own health.

A Cholesterol Quandary

Some patients readily offer suggestions. Others rely more on my input. A third kind of patient incorporates their suggestions together with my input.

One patient, a nationally known 52-year-old lawyer, who — she asked that her name be withheld so that her medical history not become known to clients or judges — preferred that all medical decisions be made jointly — in much the way, I thought, that she mediated solutions in her law practice. We had developed a good rapport. She was in good health and rode horses regularly. Our main discussion at her yearly checkups concerned her elevated cholesterol level.

Her total cholesterol ranged between 230 and 260 (well over the 200 ceiling recommended by the American Heart Association) and her low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) ranged from 140 to 160, considered borderline high. Many heart experts feel the target numbers should be lower still.

But despite her readings, my patient was reluctant to take cholesterol-lowering medication since she had no heart disease, no family history of heart disease and no significant risk factors for heart disease. She didn’t smoke, had normal blood pressure and wasn’t overweight. She said she ate mostly vegetables and few dairy products.

I was less comfortable with her high numbers. I mentioned statins every time she came to see me. She continued to resist. Although the medical literature showed that these cholesterol-lowering drugs dramatically reduce plaque in the coronaries of those with known disease, she pointed out correctly, there was still no direct evidence that the treatment worked in patients without clinical heart disease.

Beyond that, she simply didn’t want to start a pill — for good reason. I’ve learned from my patients that pills can be a form of dependency. It is also too easy for many medicine-takers to forgo important lifestyle changes. Though it was unlikely to happen with this patient, many people find it is too easy to revert to a lax diet once they are put on a cholesterol-lowering drug. I call this the “hot fudge sundae with Lipitor on top” phenomenon.

Finally, when her total cholesterol rose to 265, I admitted to her that I was on a statin drug myself, expecting this would provide the final reassurance she needed.

“I tolerate it fine,” I said. “Some people have muscle aches, but many feel nothing at all. I would monitor your liver and your muscle enzymes, but they’re normal in most cases.”

“Why doesn’t that reassure me?” she replied, dryly.

Was there another test that could help us decide, she asked. I thought about it and suggested performing a high-speed CT (computed tomography) scan of the chest to look for evidence of calcified coronary plaques. This test wasn’t perfect, and I was one of many doctors reluctant to use it because of concern it was overly sensitive (meaning that a positive result didn’t always correlate with definite disease). But in this case, we both agreed it would provide a tiebreaker: no to the drug if negative, yes if the test showed calcium.

She is now set to have the test in mid-July; her insurer will cover the $350 fee. We both hope the test will come back negative.

But we feel we’ve made a reasonable choice. We are working together in the gray area of health care where there is no right or wrong answer. Our joint decision on how to proceed is far more gratifying to both of us than a unilateral one, as occurs when a patient stubbornly refuses a treatment that a doctor is stubbornly insisting on.

In the meantime, my patient’s cholesterol readings remain high. After reading a news report about two patients suing Pfizer over pain, weakness and memory loss they claim was caused by Lipitor, she shot me an e-mail, saying such complaints are “exactly what concerns me about the drug du jour.” Still, she is also more concerned about her cholesterol than before. On my end, there is a growing appreciation of her right to choose as well as her intuitive wisdom regarding her health.

Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

July 17, 2006 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Entry for June 26, 2006

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Woke up vibrating… But today is my appointment with the Osteopath.

Because the Oseopath is down the street from where I live, I am working from home today. I have the company laptop with me so I decide to test it for EMF exposure.

I turn on the laptop and use the meter to take a reading and it’s off the scale. Everyday I see people using laptop computers on their lap and it makes you wonder. These people are easily travelling two hours a day. What about the health effects of long term exposure?

June 26, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entry for June 13, 2006

Still bothered by what happened yesterday with the hydro lines, I look up the effects of electromagnetic frequencies on the brain. I come across an article that suggests that EMF exposure reduces the hormone Melatonin. Dr. Google?…

Electromagnetic radiation – A threat to our health

Electromagnetic radiation is the big issue he is involved in at the moment—radio waves from radio and TV towers, microwaves from cell phones, cell sites, mobile phones, cordless phones, and microwave ovens (the last being a minor problem compared with the others). The background radiation has been rising significantly by factors of thousands in the general population since the Second World War. Cancer is partly genetic, but largely environmental. Our food, the toxins in the environment like air pollutants, benzene, toxins in food like saccharine, are shown to be potential carcinogens, all those PCVs and other fairly toxic chemicals, can damage cells, but evidence is very strong that electromagnetic radiation damages cells in a way that is potentially cancer causing.

The official position of those who make their money out of producing and using this technology is that we all know that the only thing that electro magnetic radiation can do is heat and if it doesn’t heat it can’t have any effect.

However, a different view comes from science from reading the people who have researched what happens to cells in laboratories in repeatable experiments. For example, a laboratory took human breast cancer cells, and exposed them to an infusion of melatonin, which is a natural neurohormone which we all have, which helps us sleep at night. Then they applied a very low level of varying electric field, 50 cycles field, and the oncostatic effect of melatonin was totally eliminated.

Every night when we go to sleep our melatonin levels rise and melatonin goes through our blood and cleans our cells up. For example, it scavenges out free radicals which are highly damaging chemicals. If the free radicals persist for very long they damage DNA and cause damaged cells and are shown to be carcinogenic. Melatonin is one of those agents that cleans us up every night to reduce the possibility that cells will become carcinogenic.

That experiment shows that electromagnetic radiation from power lines and appliances can reduce the melatonin cleaning-up effect on human breast cancer cells. The experiment was repeated in three other laboratories. It gave a very reliable and repeatable result. The strength of the signal they used was two to twelve mill gauss – a very low level magnetic field magnitude in that wave.

The European standard for safety for ELF fields is “20,000 mill gauss is safe, whereas this experiment shows that 2 mill gauss causes a significant reduction in the cleansing effect of melatonin on cancer cells.

Common symptoms and signs of melatonin deficiency:

insomnia
difficulty getting to sleep
difficulty falling back to sleep when awaken during the night
light sleeper/easy waking during the night
early morning awakening
un-refreshing sleep
lack of dreaming
family history of insomnia
personal or family history of breast cancer
personal or family history of prostate cancer
prostate enlargement
fatigue
depression
irregular menstrual cycle
unusual menstrual flow (light or heavy)
PMS
scoliosis
poor sleeping prior to menses
anxiety
sensitivity to stress
cataracts
neurodegerative disorder (MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, etc)
elevated cholesterol
high blood pressure
blood clots
heart attack
heart arrhythmias

I do some more reading and it’s available as a suppliment. I read some more about the symptoms of melatonin deficiency and I have a few of the symptoms I decide to get some. Couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

I’ve taken 900 mg of niacin for two days and I’m still vibrating when I wake up. I really thought that it would make a difference. Maybe I need to do it longer. Who knows…

Today I’ll go back to 400 mg of niacin a day and try the melatonin before I go to bed.

June 13, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Entry for June 12, 2006

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Why on earth would anyone want to look like a bronzed Egyptian statue? She’s not fooling anyone… It doesn’t look natural AND she’s bright orange for god’s sake!!!! I also love the fact that she is posed on a “beach” in full sun.

Ingredients
Water, Dimethyl Ether, Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana), Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Dihydroxyacetone, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Dipropylene Glycol, Isoceteth-20, Methyl Gluceth-20, Glycereth-7, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben,Sodium PCA, Citric Acid, Fragrance.

Let\’s face it, this is a product for women. One of the listed ingredients “Propylparaben” is a known toxic chemical with the following risks:

INGREDIENT REPORT: PROPYLPARABEN

1) Classified as toxic
2) Immune system toxicants (allergies, sensitization)
3) Estrogenic chemicals and other endocrine disruptors

Health

Concern: Potential breast cancer risks
Description: Potential breast carcinogen

Concern: Endocrine disruptor
Description: Potential endocrine disruptor, raising concern for impaired fertility or development, and increased risks for certain cancers

Concern: Skin sensitizer
Description: Sensitizer – can instigate immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin

Chemicals that can cause Breast Cancer in a product aimed at women. While everyone is running for the cure, people are spraying themselves to look pretty. Unbelieveable…

June 12, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Entry for June 09, 2006

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More people consult Google over health
By Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

GOOGLE, the internet search engine, has now become one of the patient’s best friends, second only to the family doctor. A survey of 1,000 people found that 12 per cent turn first to Google. Fewer consult family and friends, the media or medical encyclopaedias when faced with a medical problem.

The internet is consulted by 21 per cent as the first port of call. Some use search engines other than Google and some log on directly to other websites.

Although more — 52 per cent — would see a GP first, the survey shows how important the internet is in informing patients. Friends and family, a traditional source of guidance, were cited by 10 per cent.

Most Googlers believe that the information they find is accurate. While 94 per cent trust their GP, nearly as many (86 per cent) believe that what they find from a Google search is accurate.

The survey was carried out by ICM Healthcare for Core-Create, a design company that specialises in visual communications for healthcare clients.

Although the Department of Health has tried to create a new breed of “expert patients”, 60 per cent of GPs said that self-diagnosis wasted their time — either by slowing down consultations or because patients convince themselves that they have a condition that they do not have.

June 11, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Entry for May 24, 2006

“Health problems rarely occur in isolation or for obvious reasons. Instead of simply guessing at what might be wrong, discover what is really going on inside your body based on the many clues it is giving.”

– The Analyst

This quote is so true. The body is like a baby trying to communicate in the only way it knows how. It’s our job to try and figure out the language. Throughout the past year, I’ve come to realize that every single minor detail is a symptom of something even if you don’t think it’s a symptom.

Here’s another quote:

“Orthodox medicine has so much to learn.”  -Prince Charles

May 24, 2006 Posted by | Health | , | Leave a comment

Entry for May 08, 2006

There is definately a difference taking the higher dose. My body doesn’t have the strong morning vibration anymore and in fact, there is hardly any vibration at all.

After going to work, I feel really good all day and it feels like I have a bit more energy.  Some people have noticed the flushing in my face and make a comment. Must be working!

After reading a number of different articles, I’ve going to start my personal embargo on microwave food. The microwave has become such a part of our society now that it’s hard to avoid but I’ll give it a try and see how it goes.

May 9, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Entry for May 07, 2006

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Then I find another article that talks about the effects of microwaved water!!!

Do this at home: Test your microwave
By Larry Cook

If you have ever wondered whether or not microwaved food is safe, here’s an experiment you can do at home: Plant seeds in two pots. Water one pot with water that has been microwaved, the other with regular tap water.

The seeds that received microwaved water won’t sprout. If microwaved water can stop plants from growing, think of what microwaved food can do to your health!

May 7, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Entry for April 27, 2006 (Brooke Di Bernardo)

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My mother was telling me about a girl from Orangeville who had these very weird symptoms and it was declared a mysterious illness. She bounced around from doctor to doctor for four years before they finally figured it out. It’s an extremely sad story…

Here is the article from the Toronto Star:

`We all let her die’
Brooke Di Bernardo’s heart simply wore out. Her parents wonder why, in four years of shuttling her to doctors, no one saw it coming

Apr. 22, 2006. 05:23 AM
JESSICA LEEDER
STAFF REPORTER

For the final four years of her life, 14-year-old Brooke Di Bernardo suffered from a mysterious illness: a constant pain burned in her chest; tying her shoelaces left her winded and dizzy; she had blacked out in school stairwells, in doctors’ offices, and alone in the horse-training arena where she couldn’t muster the strength to pull her face up from the dirt.

The Caledon teen was shuttled to more than a dozen physicians, from cardiac specialists to psychiatrists and emergency room doctors, but no diagnosis — not motion sickness, not asthma, not stress or anxiety — seemed to fit. Eventually, both her parents and some of her doctors began to wonder if her illness was real.

One pediatrician, Brooke’s mother Lea recalls, was adamant that the girl was just panning for attention.

“(The doctor) said, `I know all about children like you. You are going to have to sit there on the floor if you collapse and you are going to tell your brain … Brain, I’m not going to do this anymore,'” Lea said.

Brooke died three weeks ago, on the first day of April. The day before, when she was so weak she couldn’t sip water without choking, she was airlifted from a hospital in Orangeville to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Doctors there determined she was in the advanced stage of a hard-to-detect heart/lung disease called pulmonary hypertension, a rare and fatal disorder that causes the heart to fail, starving the body and lungs of blood. Brooke’s heart gave out a day after she was diagnosed.

Concerns over the quality of Brooke’s medical care have prompted the Ontario coroner’s office to launch an investigation. A committee of eight independent medical experts will review every test the teen was ever given to figure out how her illness was missed, with the aim of discerning what, if anything, went wrong. Their final report could include recommendations for systemic changes.

“The question is how did the child see so many physicians over a period of time and yet not be diagnosed,” said Dr. Jim Cairns, the province’s deputy chief coroner. “That’s a very valid question on the part of the family. It’s one we want to know the answer to.”

Brooke’s parents, Vince and Lea Di Bernardo, and her sister, Brittney, 16, understand the rarity of the disorder. But they insist that had she seen doctors who steered her on a different treatment path — and spent less time on mental health queries — she would have suffered less.

“I would have hugged her every day, and laid in her bed with her,” Lea said. “Nobody would have been telling her, `It’s in your head.’ Nobody took her seriously because she was a young child. We’re sick now, thinking about it. What if we got her to Sick Kids sooner? They might have saved her. From the time she was 10 to the time she died, the whole system failed her. We all let her die.”

When Brooke was 10, she began complaining of dizziness when riding her horse. The former competitive swimmer also had trouble catching her breath, which was strange. She’d never had any trouble before.

A doctor suggested Brooke might have motion sickness. So the Di Bernardos bought special wristbands in hopes the symptoms would go away. They did not. “She had the exact symptoms from day one to the day she died,” Lea said.

As the year wore on, Brooke began making medical rounds. Sitting in different doctors’ offices, she was tested for allergies, asthma, a hormonal imbalance, heart trouble. All the tests came back clean, including an echocardiogram done to examine her heart rhythms in 2003.

Partly because of Brooke’s love of horses, Lea and Vince, a retired Internet entrepreneur, traded their Mississauga estate for a sprawling Caledon farm, where they built a horse-training arena and began to care for the animals full-time. But when they moved, a year and a half ago, Brooke was too sick to ride.

As the months passed, Brooke’s “episodes” were triggered anytime she couldn’t catch her breath. First, her face would go red, then turn whitish in the cheeks. Her eyes took on a vacant look and she lost her vision right before a collapse.

The Toronto Star contacted eight doctors who counted Brooke as their patient. Four refused comment, citing patient confidentiality and the coroner’s investigation.

Dr. Tilman Humpl, a pediatric critical care specialist and director of the pulmonary hypertension clinic at Sick Kids, said the disease Brooke suffered from is extremely difficult to detect, largely because there is no way to screen for it, no silver-bullet test. Fatal in its final stage, the condition affects the small blood vessels supplying the lungs. They tighten and scar over time and — as if the opening in the pipes that feed the lungs have shrunk — make it harder for blood to get to the lungs. To compensate, the right side of the heart goes into overdrive and pumps harder. As that side of the muscle grows, it inflates so much it squeezes the left size of the heart.

“It’s only able to do this for a certain amount of time. At some point, it fails. The whole system falls apart,” Humpl said.

The symptoms leading to that point — dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain — could take years to develop, and mimic other disorders, like asthma, Humpl said. For those reasons, patients with pulmonary hypertension are often misdiagnosed.

In Brooke’s case, asthma was ruled out. A psychiatrist Brooke was then referred to suggested her episodes might be caused by anxiety; the Di Bernardos say they were told that by picking her up from school when she had an episode, or by taking her to the hospital, they were encouraging the behaviour.

Although skeptical, Vince stopped leaving out the ATV he had purchased for Brooke when she got sick so she could ride up the long farm driveway when she got off the school bus. The walk takes a healthy person about five minutes; it caused Brooke to collapse.

When school administrators called to say Brooke had an episode in the hallway, he would plead with them not to call an ambulance, citing a psychiatrist’s advice. He chided her when she didn’t have the energy to get out of bed and talk with friends on the phone.

“We told her, `You’re going to have no friends,'” Vince said.

But he felt funny about ignoring Brooke’s symptoms — she was never the type to act out for attention.

On the last night of Christmas break, Brooke slipped a note to Lea begging to take a leave from school until she recovered: “I’ve been trying to make some decisions on life involving my illness, and I’ve realized how much happier I am when I’m at home with just you and the horses,” she wrote. “At school I feel nervous and stressed as if people are judging me and I hear about everybody’s weekend with their friends and how I know I can’t do those same things … I feel so alone, but when I’m with you I feel as if I’m important enough.”

The Di Bernardos insisted Brooke continue at school. In February, her symptoms worsened. She was usually too weak to last a day at school.

Vince and Lea suspected Brooke actually had far more episodes than she let on. “She was so tired in her mind, and nobody was listening,” Lea said.

A few months before Brooke’s death, the Di Bernardos said they were making appointments with her family doctor every couple of weeks. Eventually, they had trouble getting appointments. “As
if we were hypochondriacs,” Vince said. “I started panicking. I was calling (the doctor) every day.”

The family’s Orangeville-based physician, Dr. David Josephson, told the Star in a written statement he could not discuss the case. “It is impossible to discuss the medical issues in this case publicly,” he wrote.

Vince said he was worried that doctors weren’t doing enough so he sought out an American clinic where he could take Brooke for help. “Money wasn’t an issue,” he said. But he decided to wait, and exhaust local options first. The Di Bernardos were hoping to get Brooke checked out by specialists at Sick Kids — they’d been there before, but on referral to see a psychiatrist. To see any other specialists they were told they’d need a referral. Lea said she asked Josephson, but was not able to get one.

One night, about six weeks before she died, alone for a few minutes in the training arena, Brooke collapsed in the dirt.

“I’m walking past the (barn) opening and I see Brooke at one end, her legs all twisted, her face was right in the sand,” Lea said. “I couldn’t get her up and I couldn’t get her in the wheelbarrow.”

Vince and Lea cleaned her up and put her to bed, rather than making the trek to the hospital.

“We’ve been conditioned not to go. We have gone so many times to the hospital and they just send us home. I wish I knew I could have just taken her to the emergency room at Sick Kids,” she said. “We wouldn’t have wasted all this time.”

The last time the Di Bernardos were sent home was after an early-morning visit to Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville in late March. Brooke was vomiting, had diarrhea and said her whole body was in pain. “Just to touch her chest was horrifying,” Lea said. In the emergency room, Lea said she tried to explain Brooke’s complicated medical history. After some tests, Brooke was told she might have the flu, Lea said. Brooke was dehydrated, and they were told to pick up some Gatorade on the way home.

“The symptoms she presented our hospital certainly would not prompt one to think of pulmonary hypertension as the most likely thing,” Dr. Ronald Murphy, the hospital’s chief of staff, told the Star yesterday. “Being told to go home and drink some Gatorade is not what happened. A little more happened than that.” He declined to elaborate.

The Di Bernardos say they left the hospital frustrated.

“(Brooke) sat and rocked on the floor all night vomiting,” Lea said. At 6 a.m. the next day, Brooke asked to go back to Headwaters. They saw a different doctor, and chest X-rays showed swelling in her heart, lungs and liver. Brooke was hooked up to an oxygen machine. Lea said she begged the doctors to send Brooke to the Hospital for Sick Children. In the hallway outside Brooke’s room, chatter began about ordering a helicopter.

The flight to Sick Kids was 20 minutes, and Brooke and Lea landed just before 3 p.m. Emergency room doctors began running a plethora of tests including an echocardiogram, the same test Brooke took in 2003, when she was given a clean bill. This time, it showed she had advanced pulmonary hypertension, known as PH.

Dr. David Langleben, a Montreal-based PH specialist, said there are only about 10 to 15 new cases of the rarest, most deadly form of the disease in Ontario per year. “For a general practitioner to pick this up would be very lucky,” he said.

Although research on the disease is advancing, Sick Kids’ Humpl said there is no cure, although some treatments (such as lung transplants) can extend patients’ life span for a few years. The likelihood of a treatment working is higher the earlier the disease is caught. In other cases, especially where doctors can’t pinpoint a cause, treatments do not work at all.

“Always in retrospect, you say if we’d picked it up earlier, we could have prescribed this wonderful medication,” said Humpl. “That isn’t how it works.”

Humpl said PH is “not a clear-cut disease. This is the problem. You have to have this click in your mind. You have to think, this may be PH,” Humpl said.

For one of Humpl’s colleagues at Sick Kids, that “click” came not long after Brooke arrived. But by then, the left side of her heart was barely working; the only real treatment possibility was an immediate lung transplant. To do it, doctors would have had to catch the disease much earlier, said Cairns, the coroner. Although Sick Kids’ doctors found the problem immediately, it was too late.

At Brooke’s bedside, Lea watched as her daughter pulled off her oxygen mask.

“She starts blowing her nose, frantically blowing her nose. She couldn’t breathe. She was flailing and grabbing her throat. They were holding her down, they held her as she was gasping for air, and they were grabbing us and dragging us out,” she said. “Then they came to tell us they couldn’t save her.”

Brooke died of cardiac arrest.

When it was over, the Di Bernardos clustered around her body. A nurse washed her hair and cut off a blond ponytail-length lock for them to keep.

“We got to hold our daughter for two hours after she died in the trauma room,” Lea said. “That’s my good memory.”

In the weeks since Brooke’s death, the Di Bernardo farm has become burdened with signs of teenage death. The kitchen is filled with sympathy cards, dried-out flower arrangements, a handful of colourful “bravery beads” given to Brooke at Sick Kids, the lock of her hair, and a clay imprint of her hand.

With pictures of Brooke everywhere, the Di Bernardos have been sifting madly through heaps of her medical files and torturing themselves with “what ifs.” Their ultimate goal has become to make sure — somehow — that what happened to Brooke never happens to any child ever again.

“My daughter’s death can’t be for nothing,” Vince said. He and Lea hope the coroner’s investigation will lead to an inquest.

“It’s hard enough to lose a child, but to know they’ve suffered,” Lea said. “I can’t sleep at night. I think of all the times she suffered and we didn’t know. We’re crippled now for the rest of our lives.”

April 27, 2006 Posted by | Health | , , | 2 Comments

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