Mother helps her son, 8, battle ailment

NEIGHBORS

May 23, 2001|By Donna Koros Stramella | Donna Koros Stramella,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PAUL WEILAND JR. looks like a happy, healthy 8-year-old. With sandy blond hair and a gap-toothed, ready smile, it's difficult to tell that the Glen Burnie boy's normal look belies a life-threatening secret.

Paul has mercury toxicity.

It's been a long two years for Paul and his mother, Peggy Weiland.

In the spring of 1999, Paul began exhibiting unusual symptoms. "He started exhibiting motor and vocal tics," his mother said. "He started with major sensitivity to foods."

A neurologist diagnosed Paul as having Tourette's syndrome, but when the treatments made her son even more ill, she continued to look for answers.

After examinations by a half-dozen physicians, a nutritionist made the first headway to a diagnosis. "She was trying to make Paul healthy on the inside. But when she gave him things like potassium, calcium and magnesium, his symptoms would get worse," Peggy Weiland said.

At the nutritionist's suggestion, Paul was tested for a metal imbalance. "His numbers were off the chart," she said.

"The way it was described to me was that the amount of mercury Paul has would be excessive for a 240-pound man. At the time, Paul was about 48 pounds."

For all the experts who have been consulted since then, no explanation for the mercury's presence has been found. Environmental testing has been negative.

Paul's father, Paul Weiland Sr., was found to have a slightly elevated mercury reading. "He works in construction, so he may have had a completely different exposure," Peggy said of her former husband, adding that his level of mercury was nowhere near that of their son.

"People ask me if Paul swallowed mercury from a thermometer. The hardest part is not knowing how, what, why or where this all came from."

Through research on the Internet, Peggy Weiland began searching for doctors who specialized in environmental health.

In November, she took her son to the Environmental Health Center in Texas. For four weeks, Paul went through chelation therapy, employing the intake of a chemical to bond with molecules of mercury in his body for removal through urination. Paul has continued the treatments through a physician in Pennsylvania, and now at home.

He and his mother periodically make a 2 1/2 -hour trip to the doctor for checkups.

Paul is tutored at home, because of a sensitivity to mold he developed - perhaps from the mercury toxicity. "He had to leave because Glen Burnie Park Elementary has a problem with mold in the basement, and that's where Paul's classroom was," she said.

In the midst of the treatments, he had a setback. In March, a tumor was discovered behind his left eardrum. The ailment that produced the tumor is unrelated to the mercury, but before a recent operation removed the tumor, Paul had lost half of the hearing in his left ear.

Despite the setback, the treatments are slowly working, his mother said.

Most of the medical care is not covered by insurance. The cost of the treatment in Texas was $8,000, and as a single mother - a day care provider who also works part-time evenings - she says the bills are mounting.

Her family and friends are holding a basket bingo June 2, at the Moose lodge at 1911 Crain Highway, to raise money for Paul's medical care.

Doors open at 12:30 p.m. and bingo begins at 2 p.m. Tickets for the event, for ages 18 and older, are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For tickets, call Nicole Meleney at 410-969-7201.

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