A Tale of Autism, Mercury Poisoning and Recovery

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On a beautiful Saturday in September, 2011, my husband and I made the  forty-mile trip from our eastern Lancaster County home to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to visit our son, Derek.  Derek was training for an eight month term of voluntary service in Guinea-Bissau, a small country on the west coast of Africa, bordering Senegal.  Part of a team of five, operating under the Eastern Mennonite Missions program called Youth Evangelism Service, he will be involved in projects such as building a school, teaching English and Bible and building relationships.

Watching him walk across the lawn to greet us, I was struck by his health and vitality, by the sparkle in his eyes and the bounce in his step.  It was his twentieth birthday.  We took him to Texas Roadhouse to celebrate.   The afternoon was a wonderful time together, talking, laughing, catching up and listening to him speak with clarity, focus and joy about his mission training and this new chapter in his life.

Our times together were not always so happy.  In fact, five years earlier, this day would have been impossible to envision.  Ours is a story of the incredible pain of watching a child slip away into autism, of a desperate search for answers, of caring teachers, of a committed pastor, of insightful counselors, and of a brilliant and wise medical doctor who brought our son back.

Derek was born on September 24, 1991.  He was a happy, healthy baby and was welcomed into the family by his father, by me and his older brother and sister.  Of course we made sure he received all the recommended vaccines at the recommended times—we wanted him to remain healthy!

It became apparent when he was quite young that he had trouble focusing, but we were not concerned.   We assumed it was just a “boy” thing, something he would eventually outgrow.  When he started school his teachers reported attention deficit problems, but he did well both socially and academically through fifth grade.

Things took a sudden turn when he entered middle school.  He became reclusive, isolating himself in his bedroom immediately upon coming home from school, and emerging only to eat dinner.  There was little to no communication; he simply stopped talking.

This was only the beginning of increasingly troubling behavior.  Depression became his constant companion. He was unable to make eye contact, and he couldn’t tolerate being touched.  Irritability escalated into rage at the slightest provocation.  We were at a complete loss as to what was happening, as to where things had gone wrong.   We could only conclude that we had failed terribly as parents.

In the spring of his eighth grade year, Derek attempted suicide.  I felt as though I was falling down a dark bottomless hole.  He spent a week in a behavioral hospital and, upon his release, began seeing a psychiatrist.  I pleaded with this doctor to do testing to determine if there was a cause for Derek’s illness.  No tests were ordered.  Instead, she prescribed one medication after another in an attempt to treat his symptoms of depression, his inability to focus, his rage and withdrawal.

At one session I was told that I was raising a criminal.  As I walked out of the psychiatrist’s office that day, shaking with anger and despair, I realized that it was up to us to find answers.  I did not disagree with her assessment; all indications pointed to the fact that we were indeed raising a criminal.  But I could not accept that there was nothing to be done beyond medicating the symptoms.

We began a search which led us to Woodlands Healing Research Center in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.  There we met Dr. Harold Buttram.  Though there were not, at that time, completely reliable tests for measuring mercury levels, Dr. Buttram diagnosed Derek with Autism Spectrum Disorder based on the results of the tests he had ordered, Derek’s symptoms, and the knowledge of the amounts of mercury he had received in his childhood vaccines.

What we learned from Dr. Buttram stunned us.  Testosterone, present in high levels in males, increases the toxicity of mercury.  In addition, Derek’s body did not produce adequate glutathione to rid itself of toxins.  And, at the very time his brain was forming, he received highly toxic amounts of mercury in his immunizations.  In attendance were all the components necessary to create the perfect storm.  At last we were getting some answers—and along with answers, hope.

Derek began chelation when he was two months shy of fifteen years of age.  His treatment consisted of Vitamin B12 to break down the hardened mercury in his brain, and glutathione to provide a pathway out of his body.  In an amazingly short period of time, we were witness to the beginnings of a transformation.

I can remember, as though it were yesterday, the day—only a month after starting treatment— when Derek and I were standing in the kitchen and he looked directly at me when I spoke to him.  And as I looked into his brown eyes, I saw in their depths a spark, a glimmer, a glimpse of the return of my son.  It was, for me, a holy moment.

I am deeply grateful for Lisa Sykes and her team of doctors and scientists who have been working tirelessly for years to bring about changes so that someday this devastation simply cannot happen.  I met Lisa in the pages of her book, Sacred Spark, and have been moved by her resolve and passion to correct what is so terribly wrong with the world of vaccines.

If our federal health agencies, the pharmaceutical industry and the medical establishment will not take responsibility to ensure that all vaccines are free of mercury, then a clarion call, long, loud and clear must sound from those who have witnessed firsthand the devastation mercury can cause.  At the very least, people must be made aware of the frightening and unacceptable risk inherent in vaccines preserved with mercury; only then will they be able to make informed decisions.

I am so thankful for the people who walked beside us during the dark years.  At those times when we were too distraught to even pray, there were people praying on our behalf.  There were teachers who reached out to Derek, showing him in meaningful ways that they cared.  Our pastor stood by us and came to our aid whenever we called.  It defies explanation, but Derek trusted him even when things seemed hopeless. Derek’s counselor also played a critical role in his road to health.  When Derek reached a certain point in his recovery, she was able to work with him in restructuring his thought patterns and behaviors.

Derek is now fully recovered.  I am not able to express adequately my gratitude and joy in his return to health.  He loves life, he loves people and, along with other discoveries, has uncovered a love of singing.  Where once there was only brokenness and deafening silence, there is now a song of wholeness and beauty.

Yvonne can be reached via ayhersh@comcast.net

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