By Teresa Conrick
It was a very warm September night in 2008 when I first met with Dan Olmsted. I had first seen Dan in a large auditorium at an autism conference a few years earlier. He had been up on the stage in a plaid shirt, talking about mercury, seeds, and Ceresan. With glasses and a laid back way about him, he seemed like Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper in Jaws, ready, willing, and able to take on Autism's menacing monster -- MERCURY.
I didn't understand why this "lumberjack guy" was talking to all of us parents about trees, Lignasan, and ethylmercury. My daughter became sickly and regressed in skills after vaccines -- many with the vaccine mercury called thimerosal. Bacterial and viral infections were then to be constant unwanted parasites in her life as her immune system took a direct hit. Meg was diagnosed with autism shortly after and just recently has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Dan seemed to me to be on the wrong trail. It took me a while to connect the research and see that these clues Dan, along with Mark Blaxill, had been discussing and writing about for quite some time were the first "puzzle" pieces to autism.
So on that September night, I was grateful and excited to finally meet with Dan. He had contacted me as he was coming into town to visit his sister, and wanted to know if I could meet them for dinner. I had become entranced with those children of the 1930s, those first canaries in the debut of mercury-containing vaccines, who were subsequently declared to have "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact". I had e-mailed Dan and Mark over the years as they researched their book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine and a Man-made Epidemic. My father had been an ophthalmologist and surgeon from the 1940s until the 1980s, and thimerosal, the ethylmercury preservative, was a heavily used medical product in that field, too, and in his own office.
Over dinner, after we shared stories and tears about my daughter's descent
into illness after vaccines and the ultimate reality of severe autism, Dan
pulled out a crisply, folded copy from his jacket pocket of Leo Kanner's 1971
paper, "Follow-up Study of Eleven Autistic Children Originally Reported in
Dan and his sister, Rosie, were both so encouraging as he invited me to make
history and help trace the roots of autism. It was an easy answer for me,
"Yes!" Dan and Mark had already found some of the "original
11," so I knew it could be done and I was ready for the challenge.
Finding the clues to how autism first appeared was like trying to hit a bullseye; slowly, we got closer and closer. To find the cause, we had to go back -- back to the start.
Dan also shared about GPI, General Paralysis of the Insane, a horrific neurodegenerative disease that had quite an interesting story. GPI historically was seen as the end result of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis, a sly spirochete bacteria very similar to the spirochete of Lyme bacteria today, sickening the brain and rendering its victim slowly insane, finally losing the ability to talk, walk or recognize anyone. Yet Dan and Mark's research showed that GPI only seemed to occur in syphilis patients who had been treated with mercury, a standard of care for centuries up to the era of antibiotics that arrived with penicillin in the 1940s. Like acrodynia in childhood, a disease connected to mercury in teething powders, GPI began to disappear when antibiotics took over as the treatment of choice. It seemed to be a possible interaction between the microbe of syphilis and mercury that sparked GPI. State mental institutions around the country had thousands of GPI patients, often for years, as their insanity whittled them down to a shell of their former selves.