By Pilar Olave
“This is a lab result that I would expect from a 90 year-old who has worked his entire life in a petroleum oil factory.” — Dr. Rea (from Pilar’s medical report, 2015)
From day one, the casting director told me that this would be a documentary that would help spread understanding of rare chronic illnesses, that it would show viewers that these illnesses are not symptoms of a mental disorder, but that they are in fact very real.
She told me that Dan Partland, the creator of this series, had a family member with a rare illness and that he saw what this person was going through and how they were being treated by the medical community, and that people around them thought that it was all in their head. The casting director said that this is what inspired the creator to plan a documentary that would expose the truth. She told me that I would be working with Executive Producer Peter Logreco and that she knew him very well. She assured me that “I would be in very good hands”. On the first day of filming, Peter Logreco later arrived and introduced Stephanie Lincoln as part of the team. They would be the producers filming my story based on Dan Partland’s vision.
I was so excited to hear this! Finally someone is working on a documentary that will lead to understanding about what I have been through and what many others around the world have also experienced. After everything that has happened to me, it is my heart’s mission to bring awareness and also prevention to the issue of environmental illnesses. So this was perfect! I knew my story had a purpose and that all the pain and suffering that I had endured had a meaning: others would be able to feel supported, understood, and know that they are not alone, that it is not in their heads and that they can heal.
I told the casting director every detail of my story and my progress, of my passion for helping others, how I feel for those who have also walked in my shoes. She told me that I would bring lots of hope to many people.
During the evaluation process, they had to do a background check. I had to give them full access to my Facebook account, write down a detailed timeline of everything that had happened to me (with specific dates), including from the years prior to and during the illness. I had to undergo an online psychological test that took me almost 5 hours to finish and then have an appointment with their psychologist. According to them, all of this was necessary in order to reassure them I was mentally stable.
Today I am having to write these words, struggling to find ways to express my disappointment about Afflicted. It is absolutely nothing like what the casting director said it would be.
My Afflicted chapter was nothing more than a plot from a telenovela. They wanted to give viewers a show while making them believe in the filmmakers’ false narrative by calling it a documentary instead of a reality TV show.
Viewers were misled into thinking that everything they saw was indeed all real and therefore also all truthful, that the subjects are technically all suffering from a mental disorder and that what they are going through is all in their heads. I just couldn’t believe it when I started to watch it! The entire casting process was a lie from the beginning and furthermore, they planned to profit from our good intentions.
The producers establish totally skewed thoughts in the minds of its audience, making it a real challenge to assert the truth for each lie presented. I will attempt to do so by outlining the medical facts of my condition, breakdowns of several scenes, and a description of how quotes were heavily manipulated and taken out of context.
The Medical Facts
My Afflicted episode was a drama, manufactured to lead the audience into reacting toward my character as the villain, and had nothing to do with my real story. They created a soap opera with a husband who was made into a hero, fighting hard, doing all the right things until the end, despite an extremely unsupportive father and a mentally ill wife who used him to her advantage, perhaps even entirely faking her so-called illness in order to leave the marriage.
That is not the real story at all. The reality is that I got terribly sick — the result of a two-year gas leak exposure from an undetected gas pipe underneath my bedroom. It pains me to write, but these circumstances ended up bringing out the worst in my husband at the time.
As an aside, many people have asked why we didn’t sue the builders or the home owners’ association. We worked with a lawyer to seek damages for the harm caused by the gas leak, but soon discovered that the legal responsibility lay only with the condo owner: Jeff. So, we dropped the lawsuit. This is information that DocShop Productions (the filmmaking company) had been provided.
My symptoms appeared gradually, with occasional headaches and food allergies. I didn’t know what was wrong, but the doctors who I saw weren’t able to detect anything, so I assumed that it wasn’t serious.
But it got worse. I had more and more doctor’s visits that were not able to yield the source of my symptoms. I was often advised to simply rest — but in retrospect, spending more time in my poisonous bedroom made me even more sick.
Eventually, I was reacting to almost everything. Pollen, common chemicals, smoke, fumes, light (including the sun), insect bites, mold, dirt, and electromagnetic radiation would cause such extreme inflammation that I wouldn’t be able to breathe or speak and would experience palpitations, nerve pain, and physical numbness. Eventually, I received informed diagnoses from top specialists in their fields: Dr. William Rea (environmental specialist), Dr. Gunnar Heuser (neurotoxicologist and EMF specialist), Dr. Jeremy Kaslow (immunologist), and Dr. Terry Chin (allergist and immunologist) all diagnosed me using lab tests. (Please refer to “Medical/Laboratory Findings”, at the bottom of this article.)
I was reduced to living within 4 walls, wearing a breathing mask, surrounded by air purifiers running 24 hours a day, and little else. This is not an easy thing to have to endure. It wasn’t just about being away from my husband at the time, but also away from everything and everybody, including my parents and siblings. I missed holidays, parts of my little nieces’ and nephews’ childhoods, birthdays, family activities, and social life with friends. This buildup of toxins in my entire system forced me into total isolation.
And the physical symptoms were almost unendurable. I was losing my vision, and many times felt like my soul was leaving my body — like I was dying over and over again, without ever reaching the point of death. I was in constant pain, unable to speak, move, write, read, process information, and handle conversations. I went almost a year without showering because I was being affected by impurities in the water (that I wasn’t aware of): bacteria, fluoride, heavy metals, and mold. These substances are commonly found in tap water, but even trace amounts were extremely detrimental to my body.
I also couldn’t tolerate clothes, to the extent that I had to wear a single outfit for months without washing. I was intolerant of so many foods that I didn’t know what would be possible for me to eat anymore. Everything that I touched, smelled, and ate caused me to feel like I was running out of oxygen, the anaphylactic symptom of Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) (one of my many proven diagnoses — unmentioned in the series).
While searching for answers, prior to receiving the diagnoses, I found myself struggling to find a place that my body could tolerate. I ended up sleeping in my car, the safest place I could find. By the time Netflix showed up, two years of intense isolation had already gone by, and I had already gone through many treatments. I had made much progress.
Afflicted spent very little time examining my medical history and the cause of my illnesses (the gas leak). It did not include testimony or reports of any of the physicians involved in my case. Instead, they took footage from what should have been a serious medical documentary to assemble one-sided characters to play out a contrived, false, and dramatic narrative for sensationalist entertainment.
My First Scene: The Truth
In my first scene with Jeff, he is shown bringing me a case of water. I am shown telling him where to place it and to change his clothes, so as to prevent my body from reacting later, when we will be in the car together. He insists that his clothes are harmless because he washed them with natural detergent and baking soda — but I smell him and tell him that he has to change them anyway. I seem serious and cold throughout the scene.
The truth is that I was surprised that the camera crew would have Jeff bring me water, since that is not something he was normally doing for me at the time. That’s why he didn’t think to place the case of water (which brought in contaminants) away from the cooking counter. He was also not normally driving me to the sauna at the time. It bothered me that the camera crew put him up to all this — they had asked me to do things to set up scenes for them previously — I could never figure out why. That, along with quick camera cuts, is why I appeared uncomfortable and felt awkward.
As far as Jeff’s clothes, his dad had been using strong chemical detergents in the same laundry machine, and Jeff’s newly bought used car had also contaminated his clothes with chemicals. When I said I was “reacting to Jeff”, I was referring to chemicals and biological contaminants. These were not made-up or inconsistent reactions, but normal symptoms of my illnesses. (Please refer to the doctors’ notes at the bottom of this article for a more thorough description.)
To add to the impression that I am using claims of sickness as a manipulative tool, the viewer is presented with the thoughts of Dr. Richard Friedman, a psychologist who I have never met and who is not familiar with my case. He says:
“If you see somebody has a chronic illness, let’s say chemical sensitivity, and if the actual symptoms seem to only appear in certain contexts — let’s say when it benefits them — it does make you wonder: what is the role of the symptom? So, if it provides a benefit and it is only in some situations but not in others — therefore it’s not consistent with the idea of chemical sensitivity — you have to entertain the hypothesis that this is not a physical problem, but this is an emotional one.”
While Dr. Friedman speaks, the viewer can see me leave the apartment with Jeff, covering my nose while I go through the hallway, elevator, parking area, and finally enter the car. This is not an emotional reaction to Jeff (as implied by Dr. Friedman), but a reaction to cleaning products in the building, fragrances in the elevator, and car exhaust in the parking area. Once I’m in my car, I’m able to stop covering my face because there are no scents in my car.
“Exposure to the smallest amount of incitant can cause an acute exacerbation of this patient’s illness. Exposure to these incitants can significantly impair her physical and neurological functioning. Her symptoms will vary with the severity, type, and duration of exposure.”
- Dr. Rea (from Pilar’s medical report, 2015)
Several physicians had already tested me and diagnosed my condition as a physical one, not an emotional one. Therefore, Dr. Friedman’s quote is not relevant to the scene, nor are the filmmakers’ other efforts to conflate physical and emotional issues throughout Afflicted.
Jeff said that he would like to be able to hold my hand, sleep next to me, or kiss me. The truth is that the weakness of my immune system made intimacy or regular physical contact physically dangerous for me. I would react to a sweaty hand or saliva, for example, and not just Jeff’s — friends and family would often have to keep a distance, which was very sad for everyone. I was able to hug Jeff, but only when his clothes were not contaminated. (Please see the notes on the immune system dysfunction in “Medical/Laboratory Findings”, at the bottom of this article.)
Partial Quotes, False Meanings
Many aspects of the Afflicted soap opera are simply false. The documentary claims that Jeff had exhausted his savings, was looking for a second job, and was fixing his condo to cover my treatments while living at his parents. The reality is that it was both of our savings, he stopped giving me money for treatments months before the crew ceased filming, and they were fully aware of it. It’s only natural that in a marriage, the finances are shared. I worked throughout our then 7-year marriage — contributing to our income — until I got sick. Had Jeff been the one who became sick, we would have used our income and savings to cover his treatments.
Before the crew even began filming, I had already began looking for ways to make a living and, with my family’s help, support my basic needs. That is why you see me at a voiceover session toward the end of the series — because I had started to do some work to cover expenses, even though I was still struggling with illnesses and never knew how my body would react to new environments.
The cruelest thing is that the producers manufactured their story by cobbling together an assortment of my own words and actions. I was recorded as saying: “I feel like I’m taking advantage of him. But I know because of his love towards me that he wants to continue to help me. Maybe Jeff feels that if he can keep helping me, that somehow he can keep making this relationship happen. But he can’t force me to love him back. I don’t see him as a husband anymore.” This seems to damn me with my own words, confirming that I’m a bad, mentally ill wife with evil intentions, as Afflicted would have its audience believe.
The reality is that “my” statement was contrived. Here’s how they manufactured it. When we started the interviews, the director told me: I want you to begin each answer by saying the question first, pausing, then saying your answer.
Me: Ok, I understand.
Director: Do you feel like you are taking advantage of him?
I repeated the phrase, as instructed: Do I feel like I am taking advantage of him. I then paused and answered the question, telling him that I would never take advantage of Jeff, that he knows that.
You can clearly hear how they removed the “do” and started my shot with me saying only, “I feel like I am taking advantage of him” as a fact. That is not even how I talk and you can clearly hear the questioning tone of my voice. I would also never say such a thing.
If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that there’s a cut between this sentence and the next. The editors brought me on and off camera so that the audio cuts would be less obvious to the viewer and this would appear to be a single, coherent statement, but in fact, these sentences were recorded at different times and taken out of context. You can also tell that the tone of my voice does not match between sentences.
The producers got me to say the next sentence in a similar way, asking: “Do you think maybe Jeff feels that if he keeps helping you, that somehow he can make this relationship happen?” Again, I had been instructed to repeat the question, so I repeated, “Do I think maybe Jeff feels that if he can keep helping me, that somehow he can keep making this relationship happen?” You can tell that I’m more focused on keeping track of the words than expressing the meaning.
You can hear the change in my voice when I finally added my own genuine thoughts. I spoke more quickly, with more confidence, as I said what I truly believed: “But he can’t force me to love him back. I don’t see him as a husband anymore.”
It’s very important to understand the context of these last two sentences (which were not even sentences that I spoke consecutively, as you can see and hear from the editing). In an interview with the producer, I said that it had been difficult for me to trust Jeff: he had put my health in serious jeopardy several times.
Two years after the gas leak began poisoning me, and a year after undergoing testing and unsuccessful local treatments, I left the condo unit (the site of the gas leak), for the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, where I was properly diagnosed and remained to receive proper care. It was only three months before Jeff decided that I needed to leave. My cognitive functions were severely compromised, oxygen intake was still an issue, and blood flow to my brain was poor. I was still very sick, very reactive, and unable to make rational decisions; I trusted that Jeff understood and would carry out the instructions given to us by Dr. Rea. So we left for his parents’ house. There, I was exposed to chemicals and natural gas again, this time intentionally by Jeff’s father, who also verbally abused me daily. This erased any improvements I had made from my stay at the Dallas Center.
My health continued to deteriorate and Jeff’s father abruptly forced me to leave without giving me time to make plans. Jeff refused to help me look for a safe apartment, leaving the entire responsibility on me, and I was not well enough to find the safe housing that my body needed. The process of looking exposed me to more chemicals and mold, and due to time constraints, I had to settle for a moldy house. I also had to get my parents involved — they moved in to take care of me — as Jeff was not understanding of the severity of my illness. They saw that I was dying in that environment and so, after much arguing, they were finally able to convince Jeff to bring me back to the Environmental Health Center in Dallas where I had begun my isolation and extreme avoidance protocol. The day we had planned for me to leave came, but Jeff kept making excuses to delay the trip. By then I had become even sicker and when I told him that I had to go before I got worse, he flew into a blind rage. Jeff did not want to let me go. I was forced to sneak away in the middle of the night, fighting to stay alive, and I called my dad to take me on the 24 hour drive.
Jeff’s temper remained an issue and I found it increasingly hard on my health to be around him when he was overcome by anger. He was well aware of the problem. When DocShop Productions came to film in June of 2017, we were in the middle of talking about all of this. My brain function and speech had made some improvements, so I was able to handle conversations. If the filming had taken place just a few months earlier, I would not have been able to be filmed because of my reactivity, lack of motor movement, and brain processing impairments. When Jeff is filmed saying, “Well we had a lot of…a lot of things that happened, but… There’s no relationship at all. She asked me not to communicate with her,” he is really referring to the events just described. I requested space because of his regular temper problems which were making it impossible for us to have a normal conversation and were affecting my health.
He never truly accepted that I was physically ill and it was making our marriage unworkable. During the time the producers were filming, I spoke to Jeff on several occasions about our relationship. Calmly and with care, I told him that it was no longer good for either of us. I repeatedly let him know I understood that he has needs, and that I could no longer give him what he wanted because of my debilitating conditions.
Jeff would sometimes apologize for his past actions, but would not accept a divorce. Despite all the challenges we’ve experienced, I have always cared for Jeff, and my intentions are nothing but for him to be happy. So, I gave the relationship a chance, but eventually (after the filming had ceased in 2017), it proved too difficult, as he kept repeating his pattern of disbelief, neglect, and abuse. I could no longer trust him.
You do not see much of my family addressing the relationship because they couldn’t give the production anything that would support the Reality TV Show/Soap Opera they were aiming for.
The producers were manipulative throughout the entire filming and editing process for the sake of their contrived storyline. They clearly never had the intention to make a serious, honest, and accurate documentary, as we were told it would be.
Other Controversial Scenes
Episode 5: Showering
Jeff is talking to a friend about my alleged condition.
Jeff: “She’s got a reaction from the shower”.
Anthony: “Really strange, man, that’s really strange.”
While there had been a period when I could not shower for medical reasons, I had been using a water filter on my shower in 2016 and have been showering regularly since then with no reactions. Jeff was fully aware of that, as were the filmmakers. That clip is completely artificial.
Episode 5 and 7: The Nutritionist, the Placebo, and the Touch
The filmmakers wanted to give the impression that my illness was “all in my head”, that my legitimate treatments were simply a waste of money, and that a placebo cured me. They attempted to misrepresent my actual (and still ongoing) healing process and medical regimen by setting up and presenting a consultation with a nutritionist who I had met with only once before. They chose him over my regular physicians, who had diagnosed me and were willing to be interviewed. The film crew had access to those doctors (and my medical records), but opted not to interview any of them.
In our only prior meeting, Dr. Osborne recommended that I get tests for nutritional levels and blood. He subsequently gave me the results over the phone. Dr. Osborne is not my primary care physician, so his statements on the placebo effect are not significant for me, nor do they invalidate any of the other treatments that I have been pursuing for years at the recommendation of several specialists. (Please refer to the notes at the end of this article for my medical documentation.) The filmmakers made it appear as though I were a regular patient of Dr. Osborne’s, that I had seen him many times, when the reality is that his suggestions were a minor addition to my plan.
In the heavily edited and manipulated footage, Dr. Osborne is seen recommending that I increase my exposure to reactive environments — to get out of “the bubble”. This was something that I was already deliberately and carefully doing prior to first speaking with him. His recommended supplements were minor additions to my protocol at the time, which was based on suggestions from my primary physicians and my own extensive research.
Also, the filmmakers specifically asked us to hug. This does not undermine the necessity of my being unable to have physical contact with a person at other times, as that depends on the specifics of the clothes, the environment, and other factors. Dr. Osborne knows my medical condition and was very careful to avoid chemicals and not wear any fragrances on his clothes. Before examining my fingernails, he was careful to disinfect his hands. Also, they were not sweaty.
It is important to understand that the filmmakers only used very selective footage — often set up by them — that supported their narrative. They did not interview any of my friends, show extended interviews with my family, nor show footage of my family visiting me. This would have offered a very different narrative from the one the filmmakers presented. Instead, I had to be the villain.
The fact is, I volunteered to be in what they called a “docuseries” because I was told that it would help bring attention to the illnesses that had so upended my life. I volunteered for it as a very sick, very vulnerable person, and I sacrificed an enormous amount of energy and effort and time from my own healing in order to do it. The result is that the series failed to explain much about my illness at all — it didn’t even include most of my diagnoses: not only multiple chemical sensitivity, but also mast cell activation syndrome, toxic encephalopathy, mold sensitivity, autoimmune disorders, common variable immunodeficiency, hypogammaglobulinemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. Instead, the film spends its time painting me as the evil wife.
I wasn’t paid to do this. It wasn’t an acting job or a role in a reality TV series. The filmmakers explicitly told me it would be a documentary to help others. I wasn’t told I would be turned into a monster at the end and that I would be bullied as a result.
As soon as the film came out, before I’d even seen it, I started receiving hundreds of horrible messages like these:
I couldn’t understand why random strangers were talking to me like I was the worst villain and I should be punished. What happened?
Of course, once I watched the series, I got it: the filmmaker’s soap opera made me look like a terrible person. The horrible messages were entirely unsurprising. If the producers didn’t know that this would happen, it’s only because they didn’t bother considering the impact of their film at all.
I had to make all of my social media accounts private because of the nasty, hateful messages I have been receiving every day. As I type this, my computer screen continues to fill up with notifications of such messages. I had become the most hated character in the “documentary”. But more importantly, the entire movement for awareness, research, and understanding of chronic illnesses has been severely set back by the work of the filmmakers.
I don’t know how long this will last — perhaps forever, as long as Netflix continues to air Afflicted.
Read more essays by the cast of Afflicted here.
From Pilar’s 2015 medical report — notes from Dr. William Rea MD:
“This patient is under a program of strict avoidance of exposure to incitants, which may include exposure to natural gas fumes, petrochemicals, solvents, cleaners, pesticides, perfumes, fragrances, cleaning products, carpeting, cigarette smoke, minimal variations in heat and cold, vinyl and upholstered furniture, clothing and fabrics, unfiltered air, unfiltered water, photocopier chemicals and supplies, dust and mites, pollens, molds, formaldehyde-based materials, car exhaust, heavy metals, and other compounds. Even casual exposures to any of these commonly encountered environmental agents can be detrimental to this patient’s health. She must rigidly avoid public buildings or any physical environment where exposure may occur. Strict avoidance is the most important aspect in the treatment of a patient who has been made susceptible.
Based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the patient’s aforementioned diagnoses is related to chronic and cumulative exposure to leaking gas at her home. This patient’s condition is very unstable and her prognosis is guarded at this time. It is my medical opinion that this patient is totally disabled by her neurotoxicity and sensitivities. She is unable to engage in any type of sustained work or work-like activities at this time or in the foreseeable future.”
T&B Lymphocyte Subset Profile: a quantitative study of the different components of the T&B Subsets of Lymphocytes. It enumerates the White Blood Cell count, total Lymphocyte count, CDS, CD4, CDS, CD19, and T&B Lymphocyte count. The T-Cell is the mastermind of the immune system. These cells encounter antigens and process them, then instruct the B-Cell to make immunoglobulins against the specific incitant. Low levels of T-Cells reflect an inability to handle certain incitants. The identification of abnormalities will help determine the necessity of treatment with an immune booster. Results-(7/20/15) low CD4 and low CDS. laG and subclasses: suggest immune system dysfunction. IgG deficiency contributes to chronic fatigue, widespread inflammation, and recurrent infections. Results-(7/20/15) low lgG3 (9/22/15) low IgG 3 Venous Blood Gas: recommended to evaluate the degree of tissue utilization and extraction of Oxygen. A normal Venous Blood Gas ranges from 20 to 28 mm/Hg or lower. Results-(07/20/15) high at 46.7 mmHg (08/20/15) high at 61.9 mmHg (09/22/15) high at 35.3 mmHg
Volatile Solvents Profile — Whole Blood: Results- (07/20/15) elevated Benzene, high Ethylbenzene, high Styrene, and high o-Xylene.
Diagnosis: My diagnoses for this patient are Toxic Encephalopathy, Toxic Effects of Petrochemicals and Solvents, Toxic Effects of Heavy Metals, Immune Deregulation, Hypogammaglobulinemia, Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction, Vasculitis, Tissue Hypoxia, Allergic Food Gastroenteritis, Allergic Rhinosinusitis, Chemical Sensitivity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Electromagnetic Frequency Sensitivity and Malabsorption.
Significant medical findings revealed elevated levels of petrochemicals, and solvents as documented by the Chemical Analysis by Metametrix. The patient also had elevated levels of heavy metals such as documented by the Urine and Hair Mineral Analysis by Doctors Data. The patient had an abnormal T&B lymphocyte subset profile. The patient had an abnormal IgG subset test documenting hypogammaglobulinemia. Skin testing showed sensitivity to several foods, molds, pollens, and chemicals. This patient exists in a hypermetabolic and hyper-reactive state. This state has a tendency to deplete this patient’s nutrient pools, consequently impairing detoxification and resulting in the patient’s susceptibility to accumulation of toxins. The patient had an abnormal Heart Rate Variability Test revealing a dominant sympathetic nervous system. The posturography tests documents central and peripheral nervous system dysfunction rather than otolaryngological in origin. Venous blood gas results suggest inadequate utilization of oxygen due to tissue shunting. This may be secondary to cellular damage due to toxic exposures. Nutritional studies showed significant vitamin, mineral, and amino acid deficiencies. The patient will continue to undergo heat depuration therapy in a home maintenance program. This patient will continue with antigen therapy for 1–2 years until this patient’s symptoms have stabilized. The patient will continue to use oxygen to relieve acute reactions.
From Pilar’s 2016 Medical Report — Notes from Dr. Jeremy Kaslow MD:
“By June 2015 her reactions had escalated into systemic anaphylactoid attacks. Because her primary care doctor didn’t know how to treat cases like hers, they sought out a UCLA cardiologist, who found her nervous system to be “severely compromised” and diagnosed her with neuropathy due to the chronic gas exposure. Her primary doctor advised her to contact the Environmental Health Center in Texas. Upon evaluation there, Pilar was admitted as an in-patient of the clinic July 20th, 2015.
Sensitivity and Malabsorption. A complete review of systems included symptoms related to chronic fatigue, autonomic imbalance, headaches, neurotransmitter insufficiencies, hormone imbalances, and skin, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neurologic, and urogenital dysfunction.
NOTABLE PHYSICAL / OBJECTIVE FINDINGS in DECEMBER 2015:
Her physical examination was unrevealing with the following exceptions: Her body mass index was 17.0, which is underweight for her height and frame.
MEDICAL RECORDS Records from William Rea, MD and Rita Ellithorpe, MD were reviewed.
LABORATORY TESTING REQUESTED BY JEREMY E. KASLOW, MD
Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DR typing was performed at LabCorp. This test identifies a profile of genes associated with specific immune responses. Her genetic profile shows a pattern associated with sensitivity to molds and their biotoxins, and to multiple chemicals. The C4a level was tested at Quest Laboratories: This small protein is detected in high amounts when there is inflammation. Chronic Lyme disease, fungal/mold exposure, EMF, and other contributors are associated with elevated C4a. With chronic Lyme disease, C4a levels are significantly increased in patients with predominant musculoskeletal symptoms but normal in patients with predominant neurologic symptoms of the disease. It is often increased when other markers of inflammation such as the C-Reactive Protein and Sedimentation Rate are normal because it involves a different pathway. For this reason, it can provide unique insight into a disease process when everything else appears unremarkable. Pilar’s C4a level was 12163 ng/mL, which is markedly elevated suggestive of an ongoing inflammatory process. The normal range is <2830 ng/mL)
Mold Biotoxin Sensitivity Syndrome; activated and symptomatic Multiple Chemical Biotoxin Sensitivity Syndrome;
Ritchie Shoemaker, MD* observed that certain patterns of genes correlated with an individual’s susceptibility to particular neurotoxins.The genetic susceptibility to specific types of neurotoxins trigger cytokines that produce nerve, hormone and immune system dysfunction in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (located in the center of the brain). Since the hypothalamus controls autonomic functions (heart rate, temperature, etc.), emotions, endocrine gland activity, homeostasis, motor functions, food and water intake, sleep-wake cycles, etc. neurotoxins can cause a wide variety of symptoms that include altered mood, behavior, cognition, weight, menstrual cycle, energy, pain, resistance to infections, and sleep. Although this is a genetic predisposition, the symptoms and physical manifestations do not manifest until there is a triggering event.
Oftentimes it requires a significant mold or chemical exposure and/or infection to initiate the process. Unfortunately, it appears that once the process has been initiated, there is no apparent way to reverted back to a dormant state.
Furthermore, complicating the evaluation and management of individuals with this type of chemical and mold sensitivity, there are not a lot of health care professionals experienced in this field, despite having backgrounds of expertise in toxicology, infectious disease, immunology, etc. Too often are cases like this dismissed or misdiagnosed by specialists who do not recognize or understand that this is not an infection or an allergic/immune reaction to mold per se. Rather, chemical and mold sensitivity in this case is a response to the biotoxins released from a natural gas leak. Although it does involve the immune system, it is not directly nor should be considered an immune reaction alone since there are hormonal and neurocognitive components.
As a direct result, after an appropriate stimulus by a significant exposure to natural gas mixture, Ms. Olave predictably and with medical certainty experienced a constellation of symptoms that are compatible with the biotoxins response described by Ritchie Shoemaker, MD. She has specifically experienced many of the neurocognitive, hormonal, immune and dermatologic conditions reported to be consequences of chemical exposure. There is objective confirmation in addition to her subjective reports.
Because this is a genetic predisposition, she is going to be susceptible and symptomatic upon chemical exposure indefinitely. Furthermore, there is no specific treatment or remedy for her chemical and mold sensitivity. She will be required to employ strict chemical and mold avoidance measures, although she may find some partial relief using absorbent type detoxicants and optimizing her antioxidant and detoxification pathways with specific and targeted nutritional supplementation. There is a strong possibility that she may require ongoing medical management.’
Notes from Dr. Rita Ellithorpe MD (2016):
“In early 2013 she began to feel ill. She had multiple somatic and cognitive complaints. Physicians consulted were unable to help her and her symptoms continue to get worsen. She saw me January 2014.
She describes trouble with her thinking, memory and focus. This impacted her work as an actress memorizing her lines and cues. She had to stop working. She had trouble with her ability to focus mentally and even her daily activities of living and caring for her husband and home duties were disrupted. She described being increasingly fatigued from minor tasks. She began to have paresthesia to her hands and feet. Her muscles cramped and ached in her extremities. Her joints felt stiffer. She had poor digestion. She became constipated. She started to have floating dark spots in her vision. Her most notable symptom on our first visit was her description of “air hunger”.
I was not able to help her as the other physicians before me. On April 2014 the discovery of the gas leak was found in their apartment.
She was referred to Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas where they were able to help. The Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments done daily over a couple of months from February 2016 to April 2016 were associated with her best degree of improvement.
I consider her symptoms to be solely related to the chronic hypoxia of the home they live in from years from the gas leak”.
Read more essays by the cast of Afflicted here.
Pilar Olave is an actress, songwriter, and voice over artist, born in Santiago, Chile and now residing in California, USA.