It may be little known that most people will receive an incorrect or late medical diagnosis at least once in their lives. According to a 2015 report by the National Academy of Medicine, about 12 million people are misdiagnosed annually. A more recent report out of the Mayo Clinic published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice found that more than 20 percent of patients who asked specialists to review their cases had received incorrect diagnoses. Such diagnostic errors often produce serious consequences and may even lead to the patient's death, leaving loved ones feeling confused, angry, desperate and absolutely helpless.
It is a feeling I have come to know well.
In 2013, my wife, Gena, began to suffer from an undefined, escalating and debilitating illness that ultimately landed her in a hospital emergency room and on hold for multiple nights of tests and observation. Doctors checked her for everything from cancer to ALS, Parkinson's to multiple sclerosis; they were completely baffled.
As Gena recently recalled for investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson in an interview for the weekly news program, Full Measure, doctors kept asking what was wrong with her "I don't know," she'd answer. "I don't feel good. And I'm just burning. All I can tell you is I'm burning all over. I feel like I have acid everywhere in my tissues, [I just feel like] I'm on fire." By this time, she was also having trouble breathing; she could hardly swallow. My beloved wife was literally at death's door.
During consultations, it was brought up several times that, before the onset of her condition, Gena had three MRIs in one week to evaluate some discomfort she was experiencing from an arthritic condition. While doctors didn't see this as a factor, Gena and I began to see a connection.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging — commonly known as an MRI — is a growing and routine medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. To generate a better image, a contrast dye is often infected into the area. The chemical agent most commonly used is a heavy metal called gadolinium. One of every three patients undergoing an MRI scan is injected with the contrast agent, gadolinium. Doctors have long insisted that gadolinium is quickly expelled from the body through the kidneys following this procedure. While this is generally true, we are coming to find that this is not the case with all patients.
What current research is revealing is that, for some, gadolinium can accumulate in tissues, including brain, bone and kidneys, creating a debilitating disease. When this happens, patients can become chronically ill, in constant pain, and cannot mentally perform even routine tasks. Some say that they have lost their zest for living; that they feel their lives slipping away. This was Gena.
This revelation about the source of her condition led us to Dr. Bruce Fong at the Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, a facility known for its success in combining conventional and alternative therapies in confronting illness. He quickly was able to confirm our theory. Tests revealed that the gadolinium, which was supposed to be gone from her body hours after each MRI, had remained at levels that were literally off the charts. Once Dr. Fong's initial treatment restored Gena's health to the point she was able to travel, we returned to Texas and the care of Dr. Alfred Johnson, a doctor of internal medicine with special interest in the area of chronic illness and environmental medicine. Dr. Johnson helped direct a course of treatment that would ultimately lead to her recovery.
The answer was intensive alternative medicine; non-traditional treatments for gadolinium poisoning that have run their course over a period of years. Not the kind of medicine that is covered by insurance; a situation that must be remedied. I am well aware of how fortunate I am to have had the financial resources necessary to do what was required to restore Gena to the good health she enjoys today; to her full potential as a life partner and loving wife and mother to our children.
Gena decided recently to go public with her ordeal in order to help others. So that those out there who might find themselves in a position similar to her do not feel they are alone and unheard.
In his book, "Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us — And How to Know When Not to Trust Them," author David H. Freedman notes how studies show that in a typical visit to a doctor's office, doctors are likely to change the subject back to technical talk whenever a patient mentions their emotions. Not surprisingly, a study shows that medical students score progressively lower on empathy tests the further they get into their training. Given that stress impairs the immune system, it seems obvious that relieving patient stress should be a priority in any medical assessment. Yet far too many doctors seem inclined to discredit and dismiss what they don't understand, leaving patients to find their own answers. It is, in large part, an area where mainstream medicine is failing us.
As Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a biologist at the University of California at San Francisco and a Nobel laureate tells Freedman: "We face an entirely different set of big medical challenges today. But we haven't rethought the way we fight illness."
Meanwhile, last March in Europe, a government health committee made a striking recommendation to suspend use of several gadolinium-based contrast agents as a tool in Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Thanks to patients speaking out, pressure is also being applied to the Federal Drug Administration to be more forthright about the risks gadolinium poses to the public. In response to questions from the producers of Full Measure, a Federal Drug Administration spokesperson said it's evaluating rare reports of "chronic pain and various other symptoms" to determine if "there are any potential adverse health effects." It should also be pointed out that, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about a third of the drugs the FDA approved between 2001 and 2010 were involved in some kind of safety event after reaching the market.
For the latest information about gadolinium toxicity, please visit Facebook, MRI Gadolinium Toxicity Illnesses, or the Light House Project.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.