journal chronicling battle with illness
By Melissa Priode knoxnews.com
Two years ago, 19-year-old Nathan Wells of Lenoir City said he
experienced a headache the likes of which most would classify as
torture. The headaches lasted 189 days until April 2010.
The pain became so severe that he couldn’t stand up or be around
any noise at all.
In addition to the headaches, he began experiencing severe nausea
and lacked an appetite. He began losing weight quickly. “I was
losing weight so fast that my body went into stress mode. Every time
I would take a shower, my hair would fall out. I had weakness in my
legs and some temporary paralysis,” he said.
Wells, who published a book about the experience, was seen by
more than 40 specialists including neurologists, ophthalmologists,
cardiologists, pediatricians and even an orthodontist.
“The day my headache started was the day my braces were removed.
They thought my teeth were trying to shift, but after it didn’t go
away, we knew it was something different,” he said.
Combined with lack of appetite, effects from medicines caused
Wells to reach a low of 89 pounds on his five-foot, three-inch
Wells said he then felt a sharp, loud pop in his head. His family
also heard the pop and rushed him to the emergency room. An MRI
determined the sensation to be a skeletal shift. His bones were
trying to figure out a way to get out of pain, he said. “After that
incident, a lot of people started wondering if they were losing me,”
He visited the Cleveland Medical Clinic in Ohio with hopes of a
diagnosis, but there was nothing conclusive.
“Nothing came out of the trip to Cleveland, and I thought, ‘This
is it. I’m taking charge of my life,’” he said. “When the
specialists would argue, I thought I would end up dying before they
could agree which direction to look into.”
The Wells family explored alternative medicine, sending him to a
physical therapist and an acupuncturist.
He said the acupuncture was the greatest peace he had during the
duration of the illness, and that it helped ease his mind. He also
kept a journal throughout the illness, as a way to cope and process
what was happening to him.
“I journaled every day because I didn’t think I was going to live
through it. I thought it was going to be my last communication
because nobody could diagnose me,” Wells said.
The illness had caused him to fall behind his junior year at
Lenoir City High School. A homebound teacher was not an option since
he could not stand noise or movement, and it seemed the only
solution was to restart the entire school year.
Mary Anne Tsakeres, a family nurse practitioner with advanced
clinical training in nutrition, finally diagnosed his symptoms as
mercury poisoning. Wells believes the mercury came from a flu
vaccine he was given two weeks before the headaches began in October
2009. The vaccine was to prevent the developing strain of the flu
virus known as “swine flu.”
“Chronic mercury toxicity can have symptoms that appear very
vague and can be confused with numerous illnesses. Mercury is found
in many different sources in our environment and can’t be pinned
down to just one particular source as the causative factor. Everyone
is an individual and reacts in different ways and with varying
degrees,” Tsakeres said.
Wells and his family were relieved to have a diagnosis, and
Nathan began a mercury detox program, which included an extensive
nutrition and vitamin regimen. It took several months for him to
Nathan felt that his story needed to be told, and he saw his
journal as an outreach tool.
He began typing and editing the journal, a process he said helped
him recover mentally. He added prefacing information about his
pre-illness life and reflected on entries. He decided to leave any
errors to show the state of mind he had been in while writing, and
to give the reader a visual and mental image.
Wells called his journal “Am I the Enemy?” — a question he asked
himself while being shuffled from doctor to doctor.
After the journal was published in October 2011, he found out
that he had not been alone in his struggle.
“Hundreds came to me and had all experienced similar reactions.
We went through the same stuff, but all of the people presented in a
different way,” he said.
He was able to finish high school by being homeschooled, and he
began online college courses through Tennessee Tech. He is currently
double-majoring in pre-med and psychology and working at Parkwest
“I do not preach against getting vaccines, with the exception of
the flu, of course. Just research what you are doing. Alternative
and western medicine are not the answer by themselves, but together
there could be a lot of people in better health.”
Some healthcare providers do offer a mercury-free flu vaccine, .
Proceeds from the book benefit a different charity monthly. The
book is available in print from
eBook through Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Amazon and as an audio
book from Audible. Wells is also on Twitter at twitter.com/internnwells.