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Healing the Heroes of 911--- Part 2

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Message Vin LoPresti
As the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams chafed at the bit to get it on in Super Bowl XXXVII, and Mariah Carey's voice soared harmoniously at "the rocket's red glare," quite another image clouded US Army Captain Sean Donahue's mind. Unable to draw a deep breath without the painful arpeggios of an inflamed cough that threatened to disintegrate his lungs, Donahue's patriotic spirit flashed-back to an image of himself slogging through amorphous dust and charred debris. His laser-sharp aviator's eyes, manifestly watching a TV screen, painfully burned as they desperately tried, by the dawn's early light, to peer through heavy clouds of smoke and dust at ground zero, all through the night of September 11, searching, pleading with his God and the ghosts of the fallen to reveal themselves as whole. But only a fractured limb, a decapitated torso, a faint fragment of former humanity answered back through the grotesque wreckage and rubble of the World Trade Center.

And during his flashback on Super Bowl day of January 23, 2002, only Sean Donahue knew the price he had paid during his heroic 36 hours as a rescuer at ground zero on September 11 and 12, 2001""no protective equipment, a flimsy mask that retained far more dust than it shielded from his lungs, and a makeshift potpourri of about 20 military personnel of diverse nations working side-by-side with the FDNY in a frantic search-and rescue operation. Just a few weeks later, in October of 2001, Sean's symptoms would begin their escalation to a rage, this National Guardsman and highly trained Army pilot finding himself not only jobless and energy-less but confused, unable to breathe, and with chronic rash and diarrhea. His body was, quite literally, rejecting itself, its immune system sensing the foreign toxins but unable to remove them, the normally beneficial immune response now clogging his airways, ripping the lining from his stomach and colon.

Enter the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project Not right away, mind you""for the burly, muscular, 210-pound Sean would need to first wend his way through traditional medicine, gaining over 40 inactivity-pounds in the process, while losing his flight certification and teetering on the precipice of a very early retirement. Certainly, most medical personnel knew, the degradation in Sean's health was traceable back to those two fateful days of September 11 and 12, hunting for life within a graveyard of death, his body finding only PCBs and heavy metals like lead and mercury. These toxins clung to his adipose (fatty) tissue, triggered the crazed self-attack by his immune system, and squelched key enzymes in his brain cells, stultifying his cognition""a computer networking specialist struggling to make a living. What no one knew""until Donahue was finally referred to Jim Woodworth and his charitable organization""was what to do about it.

The MDs at NYC's Mt. Sinai Medical Center had done all they could""the albuterol, the steroids, and many other drugs had palliated Sean's symptoms enough to keep him breathing at all. But the docs were stymied. "I figured, what the hell, I was healthy before nine-eleven . . . there had to be a way to clean out the toxic junk; I don't think taking a bunch of prescription drugs is the issue," Sean thought aloud to his physicians. Fortunately, a physician's assistant heard his plea and recommended him""unofficially, of course""to NY Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, an organization grateful for much of its funding to actor Tom Cruise. The therapy was simple but brilliant, an L. Ron Hubbard-developed "down-home" detox strategy based on sauna and exercise (first reported on OpEd news at

"What have you got to lose?" the PA asked.

"Nothing," Sean knew only too well, facing retirement in his thirties and a potential life as a cripple. "I couldn't think straight, couldn't do anything," he recalls.

So Sean met organization president, Jim Woodworth, for the first time. "Unfortunately, at first I didn't believe anything he had to say," Sean confesses, but he did take the advice of an ex-Marine named Joe Higgins and surrendered to the detox therapy.

Three weeks later, the results were already remarkable. "I couldn't run at all, and after starting the program, I got back to the point where I could run three miles . . . still not acceptable by Army standards. But I was a lot better""wasn't sick all the time; a lot of my symptoms went away," Sean recalls with profound gratitude.

Subsequently, working with both Jim's organization and with the Army's PT program, Sean progressed steadily""recovering his health, his flight certification, and his life. Today, Major Sean Donahue serves with his beloved Louisiana National Guard, having plunged himself, selflessly, into the rescue operation for Katrina in 2005. When you're raised to serve, you don't renege on any opportunities, no matter how daunting, how dangerous.

Sean Donahue's story is but one of hundreds that bear witness to the fantastic and quasi-miraculous rehabilitative medicine of the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project (Please consider contributing"" It's important to emphasize the logic of their detoxification procedure. There are numerous illnesses in which toxic substances are ingested (swallowed, inhaled, or skin-contacted), and where physiological mechanisms are unable to remove these substances. For example, while the immune system can locate, identify, and remove many bacteria by killing and disintegrating them and recycling their component molecules, metal particles (like beryllium) or metal ions (like lead or mercury) are, for a variety of reasons, resistant to such processes and to other mechanisms of excretion (removal from the body). Because they are foreign substances (antigens), they can provoke""either directly or through specific immune responses""inflammation, a normal mechanism that provides white blood cells and blood proteins improved access to foreign substances. But in this case, the inflammation does not remove the foreign substances and, instead, causes the swelling, mucus production, and other changes that bring with them the symptoms of asthma, chronic diarrhea, skin rashes, etcetera. And while treating the patient with anti-inflammatory drugs (such as steroids) and airway-opening drugs (like albuterol) will help him breathe & reduce inflammation, it will NOT cure the underlying problem.

By contrast, the Hubbard method, using sauna and exercise to speed up metabolism and provoke the body to excrete toxins through its various routes of elimination (sweat, urine, feces) clearly is successful at actually removing the source of the problem""the toxins that are provoking the inflammation in the first place. Whatever the exact physiological mechanism, it is difficult to argue with clinical success""hundreds of cures to date.
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Vin has a PhD in molecular biology, taught college science in Boston, and currently writes about science for various venues. His passion is the evolution of the US healthcare system far beyond its current oversimplistic (more...)
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