People, both friends and strangers, often tell me about Lyme-related treatments and cures, and I’m grateful for all the suggestions as I navigate the dark maze of the unknown. Most of the time, my intuition says, no, no, no. Occasionally, however, one of these suggestions feels right in my gut and I want to know more. This happens one night when David comes home from a charity event where he saw the TV producer and director George Schlatter.
“George has been struggling with his health for a long time, but now he looks fantastic,” David says. “He wants to talk to you about this doctor in Tijuana.”
The next day, I call George, and he tells me about Dr. William Rader, whose focus is on an embryonic stem cell treatment that he practices in Tijuana because it’s not legal in the U.S. George sends me Dr. Rader’s book and a video, where Nancy Reagan praises this treatment, which is being used for various things like Alzheimer’s, brain damage, and autism. I do my best to read the book, which means going over the same page multiple times and highlighting what makes sense to me. I’ve always been fascinated by stem cell therapy, so I’m intrigued. I research Dr. Rader, and although I read some negative things, I see that many celebrities have gone to see him and benefited. These people have access to the best. There must be something to his treatments.
Even though I’ve had so many disappointments, I still get excited every time I hear about something that sounds promising. Somewhere deep in- side it feels as if I am going to crack this code before my time on Planet Earth is up. I am going to figure this out and find an affordable cure for all. I’m determined not to leave any stone unturned. My next step is a trip to Tijuana. And I’m hopeful.
Once again, Paige is the Thelma to my Louise, and she joins me on this new adventure. Following the instructions we get from Dr. Rader’s clinic, Paige drives us to a hotel in San Diego near the Mexican border. Here, we park the car and wait for a van to pick us up. We’re with a whole group of people, a mix of every age, race, class, shape, and size. The sense of desperation and hopelessness is thick in the air, and it’s clear that many of these people are here as a last chance to stay alive. Some are first- timers like me; others are returning patients who had positive results from previous treatments. When we board the van, I sit down next to a woman who looks as if she’s around my age.
“My daughter was her high school’s star basketball player with several offers from colleges when she got so sick that she couldn’t get out of bed,” she tells me. “But after her treatment with Dr. Rader, she was up in two days and on the hotel treadmill. Now I’m here for myself.” This calms my nerves about the total madness of going with a bunch of strangers in a crowded van to cross over the border into Tijuana! It’s a mind-blowing experience, and for what we paid, I should be flying in and out of Mexico by private helicopter. After driving for about an hour, we pull up to what looks more like a hotel than any of the clinics that I’ve been to. Then I realize that it is a hotel and that Dr. Rader’s office is hidden in its basement down a long hallway with old, peeling paint on the walls. How did I get here? Have I lost my mind? I doubt my decision for a split second, but when there are no answers to your chronic illness, you become relentless and desperate. When you’re desperate, you do crazy shit that, in another frame of mind, you might even call irresponsible. I’ve become part of this down-low community of people who practice underground medicine that is not approved by the FDA. I’m in do-or-die mode.
After thirty long minutes with too much time to debate my decision to come here, I’m brought in to meet Dr. Rader, a mysterious but very kind man with pasty white skin. He asks if I have any questions and, after a brief exchange of words, he orders his nurse to give me an IV. After a lot of poking and prodding, she can’t find a vein that works in either of my arms. My veins are tired and overused. Is my body telling me not to do this? Is this a sign? The nurse covers my arms in heating pads, which is a trick used to dilate the veins. I’m also dehydrated, so after I drink a couple of bottles of water, the nurse finally finds a vein and runs some IV fluids. The actual treatment is a simple intramuscular injection of stem cells in my butt. Then, along with other patients, I’m placed in a hyperbaric chamber that almost looks like a sauna. I gaze around the room, stunned and overwhelmed at the number of sick people here. Why is everybody sick these days? And why so many sick children and babies when they’re supposed to be healthy and living life? Is it our water? Our food? Our toxins? Our air?
The whole experience feels very secretive and strange especially as we’re led back to the van and dropped off close to the Mexican border. One of the patients asks the driver why he’s leaving us here.
“This is as far as I can go,” he tells us. “From here, you have to walk back into the United States.” Walk across the border? I didn’t even know that you could do that from one country to another.
From Believe Me by Yolanda Hadid. Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted by permission of St Martin’s Press.