Updated May 6, 2013
Almost 2 years ago we almost lost our 13 year-old daughter, Mayra, when she suddenly came down with an autoimmune disease, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP), which we eventually discovered was due to Lupus. ITP is a condition where her own body attacked her blood cells and platelets. About two weeks before her hospital-ization, she developed a rash (petechia) on her legs and bruising on her arms; one week later she became very tired, and four days after that her condition worsened with severe headaches, along with weakness over the left side of her body and face.
We made an appointment with our family doctor who thought it might be anemia. He ordered a blood test at a lab across the street. The lab technicians were astounded; they had never seen blood that looked so much like water. She had lost almost half of her blood (hemoglobin of 7.9) and her platelets were also dangerously low (platelets are important for blood clotting). The ambulance took her directly from the doctor’s office to the hospital on November 5, 2002.
She was given bag after bag of blood – as fast as they gave her transfusions her body chewed up the blood. They talked about taking her spleen out and a bone marrow transplant. On the fifth night, I walked into an empty hospital room – they had transferred her to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). There I witnessed a nightmare – she was surrounded by machines, she had a tube down her throat because she couldn’t even breathe on her own. They told me then that they feared she had had a type of stroke. Things became hectic; they did a spinal tap, a bone marrow biopsy and several other diagnostic examinations (MRI). The hospital’s chief blood doctor said things were bad and this could be the night we lose her.
When we were alone I stroked the hair from her face, her eyes were wild with fear. I told her that we knew she loved us and we her. I told her all the things that a father must at a time like this. Never once did I turn my eyes from hers as she stared up into mine. It seemed we were the only two people on earth as I spoke, though I heard her mother crying softly in the background. Thankfully, Mayra survived that night.
Mayra got five more days of transfusions, plasmapheresis, chemotherapy, and steroids – and she survived. She was released after two weeks with medications and instructions to check her blood counts weekly for a month or two. After two months things looked OK, and we were thrilled. Then we received the news that she had Lupus – a serious autoimmune disease that attacks the joints, kidneys, brain, and blood. The Lupus had been the underlying cause of her ITP that had destroyed her blood cells and platelets. The rheumatologist put her on steroids again with instructions, “These are for life. You know how sick she was. You don’t want her back in the ICU!”
Somehow I knew there had to be a better way, and so I asked for some time to try to figure this thing out. Maybe changing her diet or her mind, and eliminating the poisons from her body would be a better answer. The doctors were less than happy with me, but they agreed to let me try. “If this doesn’t work, its Western medicines” they told me. Her mother, friends and family, and her doctors all thought I’d taken leave of my senses – thinking I could help her naturally, but I wasn’t going to give up on her – ever. What choice did I have? This was my only daughter. What kind of life did she have to look forward to? More and more powerful drugs, being sick all the time, three or four trips to the hospital a year to have her blood filtered (plasmapheresis), and eventually kidney damage?
For the next 4-5 months we changed her diet; adding lots of raw organic fruits and veggies, took out milk and soda, stopped all hair sprays, perfumes and deodorants; threw out the aluminum pots and pans, and gave her only bottled water to drink. I spent hundreds of hours in libraries and on the Internet, learning all I could about health and disease, healthful foods, vitamins, herbs, common toxins, and allergies.
The blood tests showed her body had stopped attacking her red blood cells, but now her immune system was destroying her white blood cells. We could tell her Lupus was very active because antibodies that attacked her DNA were also very high. Her doctors wanted her to restart cancer chemotherapy drugs (Cytoxan or Methotrexate) in order to suppress her immune system, in hopes of getting the white blood cells back up.
Since her kidneys and joints were still OK, I did not see the need to rush into more toxic drugs. I took her to Dr. Andrew Weil’s Clinic of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona on May 12, 2003. The doctors took her history, and then made some suggestions, like more olive oil, fish oil, as well as vitamins and herbal supplements to reduce inflammation. They supported her in staying away from milk but recommended she continue to eat fish, shrimp, meat, and eggs in moderation. Unfortunately, even after all their efforts her white blood cells were still falling. With seemingly no other choice, her doctors put her on steroids again, and Plaquenil (an anti-malarial drug); and were still insisting on more “chemo.”
I knew something had to be done, and soon. We were almost out of options at this point, I knew the drugs would cause as many, if not more, problems than what they were supposed to treat, further compounding things. My efforts on the Internet finally led me to Dr. McDougall’s web site. Mayra’s serious diet change began in August of 2003 after I read about the “Star McDougaller’s,” Vanessa and Sabrina (found at www.drmcdougall.com) – and I figured if they could be cured from similar problems, then so could Mayra. I stopped all the supplements and herbs.
The results of the diet change were immediate. The next month’s test showed a normal white blood cell count, and so did the next, and the next. Three whole months! No steroids and on her own. However, for two of those months she was still 400 mg daily of Plaquenil, but for the third she was without that drug. As we followed the diet more strictly everything became better. Her white blood cell count is now normal (4.8). Almost one year after starting the McDougall diet she is still drug free and healthy.
(Almost one year later, her parents were finally sufficiently confident of Mayra’s recovery to tell her story. Her most recent doctor’s visit helped.)
I rarely go to Mayra’s doctor’s appointment, because I really don’t get along with them, but I went today (June 10, 2004) to ask some questions and ask for her medical records. Her doctor said, to my surprise, that it does indeed seem that the diet is the cause of her remission and it’s not a coincidence. At the end of our meeting, the head doctor of the department stopped in to ask if we were sure we didn’t want Mayra to be on drugs. Can you believe the nerve? I was really taken aback for a moment, and then I told him so in no uncertain terms.
We are grateful to the hospital and the doctors, but we believe that if we had known then, what we know now, she never would have gotten sick. I hope other parents can benefit from our experiences and avoid a similar tragedy, by feeding their family the right foods before anything bad happens. We certainly need no more lessons. Mayra looks forward to the future. She likes sports, school, fashion, friends, and learning and reading the Bible.
Consider for a moment what we feed our children: Krispy Kreme donuts, Cokes, greasy burgers, hot dogs made of unmentionable animal parts, French fries boiled in hydrogenated fats, and milk from cows – and we wonder why they get sick? We should instead wonder why so many are not in horrible health. Surviving this degree of malnutrition is a testament to the strengths of the human body. But how are they surviving?
Look again. I don’t think the health of children living in Western societies is something to be proud of – do you? More than 1/3 of them are grossly overweight. Most are constipated. They suffer from stomach pains, headaches, and arthritis, daily. Their complexions are greasy and pitted with acne. They become sexually grown-up long before they are mentally mature (precocious puberty). All these physical ailments translate into emotional sufferings, too. You would think this amount of misery would be a call-to-action for all parents and concerned citizens.
Unfortunately, few people make the connection between their fork and spoon, and the diseases afflicting people following the Western diet. Even life-threatening events, like those that happened to the Dengler family, rarely result in people asking “why and how” – and then tirelessly pursuing the answers. But they should. Why did I have a heart attack? How can I get rid of my diabetes? Why am I crippled with the pain of arthritis? How can I give my family everything they deserve – especially good health? There are simple answers out there for those seeking the truth.
Mayra’s cure did not cost her family a penny, nor did she suffer any side effects. And her father’s insistence that there must be a better answer – as we all read – is the only reason she has her health today. Are you going to be that person in your family – or among your friends – that insists there must be a better answer? There is no reason to wait for more motivation.
Mayra’s underlying problem was that her own immune system was attacking her own tissues – a condition called an autoimmune disease. Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) essentially means; the doctor does not know why (idiopathic) her body is destroying her blood clotting elements, platelets (causing thrombocytopenia), and now the patient is bleeding into her skin (purpura). ITP can occur as part of a more generalized disorder labeled Lupus. Lupus is a disease that occurs in populations of people who eat the Western diet and is unknown among people who eat a plant-based diet.
The underlying mechanism of autoimmune diseases is a metabolic process called molecular mimicry. Foreign proteins from foods (usually animal protein) enter the bloodstream through a “leaky gut.” This excessively permeable intestine can be caused by many things, including a high-fat, injurious, diet. These food proteins cause the production of antibodies that attack the tissues of the person’s own body. A healthy diet stops these attacks by removing the animal, “foreign,” proteins, improving the accuracy of the immune system, and healing the “leaky gut.”
This healing diet is the basic McDougall diet – starches, vegetables, and fruits – no animal products of any kind and no added oils. Read more on my web site at www.drmcdougall.com: “Diet: Only Hope for Arthritis” and “Star McDougallers” – Jean Brown, Vanessa, Sabrina, and Rolling Back Dermatitis… For more help, there are recipes at the end of each newsletter, and I would suggest you purchase the DVDs (VHS) and the Quick and Easy Cookbook.