SAM’S MIRACULOUS ROAD BACK TO PEAK PERFORMANCE

His own experience completely recovering from Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome formed the basis for a simple, research-driven, evidence-based solution for extremely common but often overlooked self-care habits that affect a large percentage of the workforce.

“After the military and graduating from college in 1983, I went out into the world to seek my fortune with boundless energy and vitality. I enjoyed good health for about a decade, except for the usual allergies that plague many Houstonians. In 1995 and again in ’97 I was exposed to massive doses of pesticides, unaware there would be long-term consequences.

During a career in the 80’s and 90’s that included a lot of stress, in 1998 I began noticing an unusual sensitivity to perfumes and scented products. To cope, I made minor changes, which sufficed for the time, not knowing the hell I would experience for the next 5 years.

In the summer of ’99, I took a job in the Texas Medical Center. My department was housed in what turned out to be a “sick building.” There was a print shop next door, and I could smell chemical fumes most of the time. I began having headaches at work. The building had also been flooded, and the mold remnants exacerbated my allergies. Several of my coworkers told me they were also sick from working there.

After 2 months, I began to have difficulty concentrating. I couldn’t focus for long, I was reacting to everything, and serious fatigue was setting in. I felt my world beginning to crumble. Needless to say, a period of very high stress!

I went to my Primary Care Physician, a bright woman with impeccable credentials who ordered a battery of tests, including a cat scan of my head. All tests came back negative, and I remember her saying, “I wish we could just put your head in a box.” She had no real answers for me, and I felt like she thought I was a nut case. And so began my odyssey into a new world in search of answers.

By autumn, I knew something was physically wrong, that it wasn’t all in my head. I began seeing a naturopathic doctor and an acupuncturist, and thankfully, their interventions helped slow my slide into the abyss.

My world was shrinking, I was barely able to work, and my new girlfriend was wondering if she could hang in there with me. I vowed to spend every penny I had (which I did), and I spent hours every day reading everything that I could about these issues.

I learned many of my symptoms were similar to Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), that the harmful effects of pesticide exposure – a condition known as organophosphate-induced neurotoxicity – had affected many returning warriors, and appeared to be the genesis of my downward spiral.

The Low Point
My girlfriend and I planned a Thanksgiving trip that would involve driving 20 hours over 4 days. I remember getting up that cold morning, thinking I couldn’t continue living this way. After an attempt at packing, we hit the road. I was in so much pain I could hardly lay down for the drive.

About 5 hours into the trip, we turned around and came home. I slumped in a chair wanting to die. I remember thinking I wouldn’t be that fortunate. This, I thought, was the low point of my life, having been reduced to a quivering mass of protoplasm operating at a bare survival level. Suicide looked inviting on more than one occasion.

On Monday, I dragged myself back to work in the “sick building.” I don’t know how I managed to function; it had become difficult to put whole sentences together or to focus on any task. The chemical sensitivities were getting much worse. Whenever I encountered any perfume or scents, I would immediately react with a headache, brain fog, tremors in my hands, and difficulty remembering where I was or what I was supposed to do next.

Needless to say, it was next to impossible to perform much quality work, but somehow, I pressed on. It took immense effort to do everyday tasks. Writing a simple memo might take a whole day!

In 2000, I began having my chi moved, taking a hundred pills a day, and experimenting with treatments too numerous and embarrassing to mention. Nothing worked. My fatigue increased, and I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours a night. My weight dropped from a robust 205 pounds to a sickly 165. Some of my friends and family thought I might be dying.

After this tour de’ force through alternative medicine, I wrote to Houston’s top expert on Chronic Fatigue, Patricia Salvato, M.D. Although she had a waiting list for new patients, she agreed to take my case. I met with her shortly before Christmas, presenting a 4-page memo listing my symptoms, treatments, my suspicions, a number of tests that I requested that we run, and a suggested course of treatment.

I remember how grateful I felt that this world-renowned physician and researcher took me seriously, reviewing my memo line-by-line, and offering comments and assurances that she could help. She agreed to all of my testing requests and treated me like a colleague mutually in search of answers to my medical condition. I remember her saying, “How do you think I know so much? It’s from my patients!”  Also, I began learning about the physiological effects of stress, and how to overcome it. I learned that reducing my stress was going to be a large part of my healing.

The test results showed a suppressed immune system and a confirmed diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or its more common name of Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), along with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). We began an aggressive campaign of intravenous gamma globulin treatments to rebuild my immune system. I began to have hope that I might eventually get my life back.

The Turning Point
My condition began to stabilize and I noticed some improvement. At my worst, my functioning level had been about 25%; it was now about 50%. October 15, 2001 was a turning point. On that day, I made my peace with the universe by deciding if this was my lot in life, I would make the best of it, and try to find a silver lining by seeing how my experience might be useful to others.

I continued seeing Dr. Salvato and other practitioners, and slowly my health improved to about 70%. Few knew the effort it took to function. I felt like a swan: smooth and graceful on the surface, but paddling like hell underneath. Although I was pleased with my progress, I was obsessed with finding answers and fully recovering from CFIDS, and wouldn’t settle for the status quo.

Sam in the 2008 MS 150 from Houston to Austin. Only 180 in 2 days. 5th Anniversary of recovery.

In the fall of ’02 I began re-examining a theory I had researched and dismissed as irrelevant: That mercury and other heavy metals found in dental amalgams and seafood could be the final piece of my puzzle. Shazam!

For 20 years, I had five mercury amalgams in my mouth, and ate more seafood than anyone I knew. I read everything I could, including the work of Dr. Hal Huggins, a prominent dentist, and Andy Cutler and Jeff Clark – two individuals who had similar experiences and had fully recovered. I had all of my mercury amalgams removed, stopped eating seafood, and began chelating various heavy metals from my body. The results were amazing.

Full Recovery
In 2003 my health report was very good. I had fully recovered. My energy level was back, and all specific CFIDS symptoms were in complete remission. I was able to begin exercising 4 – 5 times per week, my cognitive functions were restored and all chemical sensitivities disappeared. I am the only person I have ever met with a full-blown MCS diagnosis who has fully recovered. Also, I learned some remarkable information about how to control my stress, and knew that it would very useful to others. I have since shared this with tens of thousand of people.

Some researchers report that only about 20% of CFIDS’ suffers ever fully recover, and if they do, it almost always occurs within 5 years of the CFIDS onset. I keep asking myself, “Why am I one of the fortunate ones?” The obvious answer is I have been very persistent, and paid a lot for out-of-pocket medical expenses, despite having world-class health insurance.

Sam riding in the 2013 MS 150 from Houston to Austin. Completed in same time as 2008. Not bad for a geezer!! 10th Anniversary of recovery.

The other answer that I keep coming up with is that I am supposed to use this new found health to help others. That’s why I’ve dedicated my professional life to bringing wellness to the executive workplace.”