Sudbury boy is coming up for air

Posted on Jun 24, 2008 in Autism, Chronic Disease, Health & Wellness, Heavy Metals

“Unfortunately, many, many of our friends who have autistic children have not been able to afford the medical treatments,…because of the expense. This is heartbreaking…all children deserve the chance to recover. It is possible. …Our son Zack is proof.”

Jennifer Barsamian and her son Zack, 8, have tried myriad treatments to fight Zack’s autism, including building a hyperbaric chamber in their home.

By Kathy Uek/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jun 14, 2008 @ 11:25 PM

SUDBURY ‚ÄîDuring most of his early childhood, Zack Barsamian sat quietly under a table lining up his toys; he didn’t understand how to properly play with them. Often his hands covered his ears. The Sudbury native, alone in his world, didn’t like noise and he didn’t show typical child-like expressions of joy or happiness.

When Zack was 3 years old, doctors diagnosed his condition as “mid-functioning” autism. He also suffered from liver dysfunction and had difficulty digesting food.

Five years later and after his parents spent more than $400,000 out of pocket for Zack’s treatment, the boy smiles, relates and enjoys other children in his second-grade class at Peter Noyes School in Sudbury. He plays on a Sudbury soccer team. He even has a best friend.

“This is everything we ever wanted for our son,” said his mother, Jennifer McInerney-Barsamian. “He is almost completely recovered. He no longer needs assistance in school and is not on an education plan.”

The $400,000 paid for conventional autism treatment including speech, occupational and behavioral therapists; neurologists, testing and unconventional treatment to remove heavy metals from Zack’s body; expenses to travel to New York, North Carolina, Texas and Mexico to see specialists; and the cost to build an in-home clinic.

Recently, the Barsamians, along with 8,500 other parents of children with autism, participated in the Green Our Vaccines Rally, in Washington, D.C., with celebrities Jenny McCarthy and comedian/actor Jim Carrey spearheading the cause.

The participants hoped to raise awareness and push for elimination of toxins in vaccines, and to change children’s vaccination schedules. Some people believe the mercury-based preservative thimerosal found in vaccines is the main cause of autism.

The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no link between vaccines and autism after examining the results of 19 major studies.

Jennifer found the rally validating.

“I got the satisfaction of being there with all different parents – most of them are treating their children for a vaccine injury and seeing the improvements,” she said. “It makes you realize, we’re not crazy. Thousands of people and their kids are getting better.”

McCarthy’s son, Evan, has seen improvements with treatment since his autism diagnosis, said Barsamian, who stresses “the cure” is not a quick fix.

“The kids getting better started treatment four or five years ago,” she said. “And it does not work for every child.”

Jennifer and her husband, Paul, a software consultant, tried a variety of treatments on Zack.

“We had heard that there may be a link between autism and the childhood vaccines so we decided to take a medical route and try to reverse any vaccine damage Zack may have sustained,” she said.

They began with IVs for nutrition and chelation to remove heavy metals from the blood.

“We continued to have Zack tested for the metals (he had high levels in his blood and urine) and as the metals came out of his body he started to smile, relate, enjoy other kids and many other good things,” Jennifer wrote in an e-mail.

“But the frustration was unbelievable,” she said. “To see him get better and then take a dive – and try and figure out what was wrong…We were constantly doing blood tests to see what he needed. Each time he got worse, it was not as worse as the last time. Then Zack got better.”

In a recent interview on “CBS The Early Show,” Zack’s physician, Dr. Kenneth Bock, suggested that environmental factors and nutritional deficiencies trigger the conditions in children who are genetically predisposed to them. He said intervention can be effective in treating those youngsters – intervention involving detoxifying them and changing their diets, among other things.

The detoxifying treatment removes toxins in the body caused by internal factors such as diet and external factors such as vaccines, the air we breathe, and the water we drink, Jennifer said.

Zack’s treatment also included oxygen therapy, which increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Twice a year Zack and his family travel to North Carolina where Zack receives treatment in a chamber of 100 percent oxygen.

“Zack doesn’t like to go, because he misses school and his friends while he’s away,” said Jennifer. “But after a few days of treatment, he gets more color in his face and says he feels better.”

To supplement that treatment at home, Zack does one to two hours of daily supplemental oxygen therapy in a special chamber his parents built in their basement.

“He doesn’t mind,” his mother said. “He goes in and reads a book or plays with his Legos. Sometimes he falls asleep and we carry him to bed.”

The cost the Barsamians pay for treatment is high – between $3,000 and $7,000 each month because it is not covered by insurance.

“We are tapped,” said Jennifer. “We have spent the college fund, the 401(k), taken home equity loans and maxed our credit cards. We are as deep in debt as you can probably get, but our child is better.

“Unfortunately, many, many of our friends who have autistic children have not been able to afford the medical treatments,” she said. “Though these parents see their children improving, they are often not able to do as much chelation, (hyperbaric) oxygen therapy, nutrition and medical tests necessary to accompany these treatments because of the expense. This is heartbreaking…all children deserve the chance to recover. It is possible. …Our son Zack is proof.”

More and more kids are recovering from autism, according Wendy Fournier, president of National Autism Association, a parent-run advocacy organization located in Missouri.

“Doctors are realizing it’s medically based. If you treat them medically – treat them with what’s going on in the body, they get better,” she said. “The problem is the medical community looks at them like they have some incurable mental illness. Autism is thought of as a mysterious mental illness.”

But Vincent Strully Jr., chief executive officer and founder of The New England Center for Children in Southborough, said he has not seen any credible evidence that there is a cure for autism.

“To my knowledge, I don’t know of any qualified medical or psychological professional who said there is a cure,” said Strully. “It’s widely accepted there is no cure. While anything is possible, you have to see real evidence in public journals.”