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Open wide — a report from the shadowlands of amalgam poisoning

by Ulla Hilding & Mauritz Sahlin

(på svenska)


Summer 1993

Ulla explains:

It is June 1993. We are preparing to depart for our beloved Spain. It was a little chaotic during the days just prior to our departure. Broke a tooth crown while chewing and had to endure difficult treatment. After receiving six anaesthetic injections I was finally able to let the dentist touch the tooth. This was the third time in two years that the same tooth has caused problems. And I have been experiencing pain ever since 1989. In any event, after a week I received a new crown. The day after, I came down with a serious cold with a capital C. Perhaps it would be unwise to embark an airplane?

In any event, on June 26 we finally got underway. Upon arriving, the heat hit us and the sun shone down from a cloudless sky. Wonderful. On the morning of June 27, I put on my swimsuit and went down to the pool to take a morning swim. On the third step it hit me. An earache. Never before had I experienced anything like it. A pain that came without warning.

After breakfast I went to see Dr. Burgos.

"An ear infection," he said and gave me penicillin, a cough medication and a painkiller.

On the night of June 29, something strange happened. I couldn't lift my head from the pillow. I actually got quite worried, but didn't say anything to my family.

Mauritz was leaving for Asia and I was going to drive him to the airport. Charlotte did not want to come with us. She wanted to play with Lina instead.

”I was sitting at the dining room table and had just taken my medications. Suddenly, my vision went dark ...”

I was sitting at the dining room table and had just taken my medications. Suddenly, my vision went dark, a headache struck and then it felt as if waves of electricity were moving through my body  - it felt like burning pinpricks. My heart rate was racing at 170 beats per minute. My first thought was  - now I'm dying!

I tried everything  - drinking water, taking deep breaths, getting some fresh air, resting on the bed. Nothing helped.

In the middle of this attack, we had to plan the next few hours. We decided not to change any plans. Mauritz left for the airport and would await a report from me before making the decision to go ahead with his trip. Charlotte went to be with Lina and her mother Ingela. Lina's father, Johnny accompanied me to Dr. Burgos.

Poor Johnny. He is used to seeing me as big and strong and independent in everything. Now all he saw was a person paralyzed with fright.

I'm burning up, I'm burning up, was all I could say repeatedly.

Dr. Burgos did not understand any of it. Was it allergic shock? Did I not tolerate my medications? He tried everything.

"This seems similar to a poisoning," he muttered. What had I eaten? We suspected perhaps the chicken from the night before.

"That does not manifest itself exactly like this," said Burgos.

Dr. Burgos' verdict:

"Stop taking all medications. Take your allergy medication instead and go home and rest, and then we'll see what happens."

He offered me the option of going to the hospital for a complete exam, but I declined. I wanted to get home to Charlotte, I was worried about how she would be affected. I wanted to get home and be close to her.

The rest of the summer was difficult. Attacks came and went. Not as intense as the first time, but sufficiently severe that I remained extremely worried. What was happening to my body?

I couldn't be out in the sun, I had a difficult time with sunshine. My whole face would feel prickly, and my eyes had a hard time adjusting to the light. My face had developed a strange rash. It looked like a butterfly. The butterfly's wings consisted of a line from my temple down to the corner of my mouth, with my nose forming the body of the butterfly. The entire butterfly was red. It became more and more red every time there was an attack. We had actually started noticing the butterfly a couple years before the first attack.

I tried to find a pattern. I created a flow chart from the first attack and then day by day, what I ate, what I drank, when I menstruated, what sort of activities I performed, etc. All in an attempt to find a pattern and to help the doctors with the smallest pieces of the puzzle.

There was a definite imbalance within my body  - deafness, continuous pains in my left ear, heart palpitations during attacks and occasional irregular heartbeats, pain in my teeth, pain in my head, "electrical" waves and pinpricks throughout my body, strange skin rashes, especially on my face, and a hopeless stomach  - eventually I was hardly able to eat anything. I had swollen and tender lymph nodes in my armpits, sensitive gums, hands and arms, legs that grew numb with increasing regularity, constant pain in my back, pain in both muscles and joints.

We returned home in July. I sat down at my computer and started working. Then it happened again! Just as intense of an attack as the first one. My regular doctor was on vacation so I went in to the hospital. Oh, how nice, I thought  - finally Swedish doctors.

Autumn 1993

The visit to the hospital (Östra Sjukhuset) resulted in numerous tests with a follow-up doctor's visit scheduled for 40 days later. I could hardly believe my ears. Forty days later! That was unacceptable. So, I immediately went to my ordinary doctor as soon as he was back on the job again. Dr. Bo took very good care of me and left nothing to chance. I immediately received antibiotics against a suspected intestinal infection. I received beta-blockers to restore an even heart rate. Dr. Bo remitted me to various specialists throughout the autumn.

In the middle of all this, I had a hard time identifying myself as someone who was sick. I like speed and action. I've always been active in sports. That's why I continued to live "a normal life" as much as possible. During our detective work, we went for walks in Skatås.

Psychologically, that was my salvation. I could walk ten kilometers without a problem. I was able to handle rolling terrain without any difficulties. The fact of the matter was that I felt "almost normal" out in the fresh air. It was just as heartening as it was perplexing. I constantly consoled myself with the idea that if it had been a life-threatening illness that I was carrying, I probably would not have had the strength to complete our walks.

Encouraged by my experience with the walks, I made the decision one September evening to participate in a local aerobics class. After a half-hour, the first warning signals appeared. My hands grew pale and started to itch and my heart began beating irregularly. I left the class and went home to lie down. I awoke after a couple of hours with what was probably a worse attack than before. My heart was racing at 170 beats a minute and lasted quite a long time.

After a phone conversation the following day with one of my friends, I decided to go into the hospital emergency room. She felt that I had acted irresponsibly by staying at home after experiencing the kind of attack I had just described.

"Go to the hospital for heaven's sake woman!"

They decided to keep me overnight with a heart monitor in an observation room, with a number of devices connected to my heart. Results could be read on devices in an adjacent room.

That was an unforgettable experience for me. During the night, my irregular heartbeats had been recorded, but nothing else.

In the bed next to me lay a retired female product demonstrator, twenty years my senior. In the morning, the team of doctors came in. There were eight people standing around her bed. I observed how she struggled to sit up, pulling her thighs up against her chest. She then said with voice trembling:

"It's unfortunate that nothing happened during the night. Now you won't believe me, but the fact of the matter is that I actually have quite a lot of pain in my chest."

The doctor stood up, leaned over her, patted her on the head and said:

"Of course we believe the little lady, but we can't find anything wrong so we'll be sending you home today."

I could hardly believe my ears. Such arrogance and completely devoid of human warmth. And then the team proceeded on to the next bed. My bed. And of course, the same thing happened to me.

I explained to the doctor that I felt terrible and that I was very worried about what was going on inside my body. I pleaded with her to refer me on within the system.

But "that is not how we do things." This was Emergency ward # 40 and there was nothing else she could do. All of my cardiac readings were normal, except for the irregular heartbeat, which was nothing to worry about.

"Almost everyone has irregular heartbeats."

Unit 40 had done what it was designed to do. I was even lectured about the fact that I had paid a visit to two different hospitals.

"That's not the way to behave!"

On a strictly formal level, she no doubt did everything correct. What disturbed me was her inability or unwillingness to deal with her patients' worries and requests. I repeatedly tried to explain that my system was out of balance and that I was experiencing problems in my ears, head, heart and intestine, and that it had been like that for three months. Help me now, I'm here - but without result.

This attitude was alarming. If I had treated my customers in this manner, I wouldn't have remained in business very long. Patients are not, however, generally viewed as customers. My journey to see various specialists that autumn could provide enough material to write a whole book about.

Findings from these various visits showed that:

  all blood test readings were normal, except for the white blood cells which showed elevated levels of eosinophilic cells, which indicates an allergic disposition

  the EKG was completely normal, although my heart was beating with a "harmless" extra beat

  all hormones including stress hormones were normal

  three different ear checkups showed healthy ears

  the EEG (brainwave activity) showed completely normal activity

  computer tomography showed that everything was as it should be inside the skull. An x-ray of the jaw showed that everything was normal

  an analysis of my occlusion showed that I had "a disastrous bite", which was corrected over a number of visits to a dentist at the University School of Dentistry

  an endodontical analysis showed that a tooth in the lower left gum needed to have a root canal

  a neurological study showed that everything was normal in the brain

  allergy tests showed a number of allergies, most of which were known to me: cats, dogs, horses, sheep, mugwort, cod etc. Allergies that were new to me included all four types of grain: wheat, rye, barley and oats. The allergist gave me cortisone and advised me to continue eating as usual, which seemed a little strange. I could hardly eat anything without getting a stomachache and diarrhea. They discovered an allergy to all four types of grain and yet I was not supposed to make any dietary changes.

Receiving the news that I could rule out all known dangerous illnesses was of course a great relief. What worried me, however, was that all of my symptoms remained and actually got worse. Everything didn't add up.

The doctor attempted to get rid of the pain in my ear by prescribing two different kinds of antibiotics, without result. In December I had a root canal performed on my lower left jaw  - the tooth next to the one that gave me a problem last summer. By Christmas I could barely get out of bed. I was admitted to the emergency ward at the Sahlgrenska Hospital.

Spring 1994

Beginning around Twelfth Night and until April a new series of tests were conducted. The results were as follows:

  heart was normal, although "harmless" irregular rhythm was present, for which I received medication

  lungs were normal

  my ear problem was judged to be a "touch of trigenimusneuralgy?" - a kind of neurological facial pain - which would disappear of its own accord

  the skin rash on my face was rossacia and "could be easily treated with a skin ointment"

  abdominal x-rays were normal

  all blood levels were normal, except for the white blood cell count, the eusinofila?. Testing encompassed every conceivable possibility: all of the internal organs, hormones, lymph nodes, immunicological illnesses, autonomous illnesses, viruses, and bacteria of all kinds, etc.

I got the advice to stop taking my heart medication. During that period I only took an allergy pill when needed.

The symptoms continued to manifest themselves approximately four hours after I would eat.

One night, I experienced a violent attack after eating a warm sandwich with strong cheese, tomato and salami combined with a glass of beer.

One doctor concluded I had food allergies, or rather, hypersensitivity to certain foods. His advice was to avoid eating food rich in histamines such as cheese, mackerel, pickled fish, tomatoes, chocolate, wine and beer. I take a Clarityn allergy pill every day.

I detected some improvement after switching to this diet. Later I found that pork was also bad for me.

During the winter sports school break we traveled up to Storlien to go skiing. Wonderful! Out on the ski trail I experienced the same thing that I felt during my walks in Skatås. I felt good from being out in the fresh air.

On the other hand, my bad tooth in my left jaw began to act up again. It turned out that there was a hole going right through the enamel and through the entire tooth. It was almost as if a tooth fairy had drilled completely through the entire tooth?! Strange. Charlotte's dentist was staying at the same hotel. She took a look at my tooth.

"Come in and see me on Monday. I need to take a closer look at that."

I showed up on Monday. She concluded that she did not want to deal with this tooth. It was a case for the University School of Dentistry, she believed. Since I had been there in December I made an appointment myself at the School of Dentistry's department for endodontics (root-canals).

At the endodontics department they came to the conclusion that actually the wrong tooth had been given a root canal in December. The bad one was still there. A very strange tooth. "A chronic ailment," in which the tooth, they explained, had undergone a form of cellular growth process during which it had swollen up in a sickly manner. So that one was also given a root canal  - the tooth that had been causing problems since 1989. Now it would get its fourth crown. Just imagine if everything would be fine now! The root of my bad tooth has now been filled. Killed! Unfortunately, there is no improvement. During the spring I begin to suspect a gluten allergy. Blood tests show that I am a borderline case. The search continues. Next in line are gastroscopy and colonoscopy tests. We're now up to June 1994.

Having one's amalgam fillings removed without appropriate protective measures and without the assistance of dentists experienced in removal is associated with significant risks.


The summer of 1994 was a difficult one. We decided to seek a second opinion. Through our friends in Stockholm we got into contact with Dr. Erik, a prominent cardiologist. Erik received my medical history partly through me and partly in medical terms from Dr. Bo, who actively supported my wanting a second opinion.

Erik did not find anything unusual about my heart. On the other hand, he said forcefully:

"You have to get to the bottom of this problem with your pains in your ear and the prickly sensations in your head. This is not normal. We'll start with an MRI scan."

I completed two MRIs. The first was performed, at my own expense, in Stockholm and showed that everything was normal.

During an MRI, you are placed into a tube and your head is imaged by a magnetic camera. The resulting images should allow a neurologist to see everything.

My second MRI was conducted at the Sahlgrenska hospital and this time using contrast medium. The moment the medium was injected into my arm I began experiencing an attack.

Yippee, now something's finally happening while they're taking the pictures. Now I'll get an answer!

The results of the MRI scan showed nothing out of the ordinary. Everything was as it should be. Obviously, such news was an incredible relief. But unfortunately I did not get any better. Later I attempted to find out what the medium contained, but nobody wanted to tell me what the ingredients were. Some sort of metal...?

We had now come to the point where I could rule out all illnesses that are checked for in the Swedish health care system. That in and of itself was a major step forward. No cancer, no tumors, no serious infections, no auto-immune diseases.

Now there were no more tests left to be performed. But I was still just as sick!

"No," I said to Mauritz. "Now I'm doing things my own way. There is one question that has not been satisfactorily answered!"

Ever since last summer I had asked virtually every doctor the same question:

"In 1988 and 1989 I had my amalgams taken out. Could that be the cause of everything that is happening to me?"

"No," said all of the dentists and doctors unanimously.

On July 20 I called the telephone directory service.

"Do you have the telephone number of anything with the name Amalgam in it?

"Yes. The Amalgam injury fund, 018-15 55 00."

"Excellent! Can you please connect me?"

Copyright © Ulla Hilding & Mauritz Sahlin, 2003.

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