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Ashleigh- 20+ years of mercury poisoning

Organized by: Claire Newman

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THE STORY:

Meet Ashleigh-a 32 year old photographer

As a child, Ashleigh excelled in all academics and could always be found reading a book. As she grew older, she developed very deep depression in high school. After seeking help from therapists and psychiatrists, no form of medicine or therapy helped. Focussing on a passion for art, Ashleigh was accepted to the prestigious photography program at Columbia College in Chicago. While in college, her father suffered from a career-ending injury on the job that the insurance company refused to pay and forced her family into financial and emotional struggles. Ashleigh graduated and was crippled with $100k in student debt and deteriorating health. After undergoing a series of health tests, she was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea. The sleep apnea CPAP machine helped a bit but her poor health remained a mystery. She gained weight despite following a serious health regimen. The depression worsened with age. After leaving a corporate job, Ashleigh decided to join an AmeriCorps program where she helped disaster survivors. She was a first responder for Hurricane Sandy and several other natural disasters, even while struggling with depression and poor health. In the following years, her health deteriorated even further, developing random food intolerances, serious heartburn, and recurring back pain.

Finally in September 2015, Ashleigh got extremely sick very suddenly. She was bedridden for a week straight with the most serious migraine she had ever experienced. Any time she would sit up, she would get vertigo and vomit. After 2-3 days of only being able to stay laying down, she was taken to the emergency room. The doctors assumed dehydration, gave her 2 bags of IV, and released her. Within a few hours, her condition was exactly the same. More than 2 weeks later, she still had the remnants of this mysterious migraine. It wasn't until nearly a month later that the cause of the sickness was uncovered- acute mercury poisoning. Only a day or two before the sudden migraine, one of Ashleigh's dental fillings broke and released liquid into her mouth. She tried to clean her mouth as best as she could, however, she inevitably swallowed some of the discharge. After some research, Ashleigh learned that she has 13 dental amalgam fillings in her teeth. Amalgam fillings are 50% mercury and certain people find themselves susceptible to the effects of mercury poisoning as a result of these fillings. Ashleigh got her first filling at 7 years old. These fillings have been leaching mercury into her system for over 20 years.

After discovering while working overseas that her mouth is full of mercury, she booked an appointment immediately with a dentist who specializes in removing mercury fillings. The dentist, who has been removing these fillings for two decades, gave Ashleigh a health questionnaire. After marking nearly 3/4 of the health problems on the list (including depression, sleep apnea, heartburn, food intolerance, mental fogginess, etc), the dentist admitted he would "be amazed if most of the health problems weren't due to mercury poisoning" and said he expects most of them to clear after the mercury is removed and a 1-2 year detoxification is followed. He used a device to measure the amount of mercury being released from each filling. After measuring the first one, both he and the assistant were shocked, as it was one of the highest readings they had ever seen, and that one filling had nearly 10x the average amount of mercury released per filling.

She was able to use all of her savings to have 11 of the 13 removed, and her health became less erratic and more stable in the weeks following. Finally, Ashleigh has some real hope that the mystery of depression and some of her health problems has been found. But the two worst fillings need crown replacements and still remain in her mouth. She cannot afford to have them removed because she is searching for a job and any money that she earns must first go to the $100k she owes for her college loans. She is stuck in a vicious cycle of having to focus on paying the loans each month before focussing on her health. The cost of the crowns and removing all of the mercury left in her mouth is around $2,300 and then she must undergo a detoxification process that will last at least 2 years. Ashleigh and her family are working class and would never want to ask for money, but this simple procedure could really help her restart a better life with a bright future. This wonderful young woman volunteered thousands of hours for survivors of natural disasters at their time of need and it would be absolutely incredible if anyone is able to return the act of kindness.

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Organized by

Claire Newman

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