We met with Garin, from Worm Therapy at a particular parking lot, on the US side of the US/Mexican border. It was easy to find the lot, and easy to find the place he suggested we meet.
Garin was fantastic! It was obvious that he is very passionate about his study of hookworms, and he is totally dedicated to learning all about them and sharing potential benefits with people.
So, we met up with Garin, and he walked us across the border. It took about 2 minutes. As we walked across, he asked me what I thought about J getting worms, and I told him it seemed like it made a lot of sense, so I'm interested to see how it goes. He was excited that I was supportive of J getting hookworms.
After we were about 15 or 20 feet into Mexico, Garin spotted our driver. Andrew came up and said hello, and we followed him to the car, which was on the other side of the street. Andrew is the doctor's son, we learned, and he will be going to medical school next year. His English was very good. (So was his driving, thankfully!) As he drove us to the clinic, we all talked. Andrew has worms, and he shared his experience of how they worked for him. Basically, occasionally there are people who have incredible, fast results from the worms, and just have an all around excellent experience. Andrew is one of them. Garin warned us that Andrew's results were not typical, and that we shouldn't get our hopes up. Andrew was obviously really excited about them, though, so it was fun to hear his experience.
The clinic was not far from the border. It probably took us about 10 minutes to get there. We went inside, and Garin went upstairs to let Dr. Llamas know that we had arrived. J and I went in and sat down on some sofas to wait. Andrew offered us something to drink, or something to eat. We had water. Then, we were invited upstairs, into the doctor's office.
Dr. Llamas was really great! He talked with us for, oh, probably an hour or more. We went through J's whole medical history. We talked all about J's family members, and their medical histories. We talked about J's lab results.
Dr. Llamas talked to us about Vitamin D, and how it has been proven to prevent many diseases and cancers. He had a chart that showed all of the ranges of Vitamin D levels that you needed to prevent different things. You could look across the top, find what amount you have, and bring your finger down the chart to see everything your level of Vitamin D was enough to prevent. J's vitamin D level is high enough to prevent...rickets. LOL! And that's it. It's kind of funny, because you don't need much vitamin D to prevent rickets, so almost everyone would be safe from that, but then the ranges of Vitamin D that you need to prevent all of the cancers are quite a bit higher. Dr. Llamas strongly recommended that J and I each take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D every day. He said that there is another study that is being done, where people take a huge dose (50,000 IU? I don't remember anymore) of Vitamin D once a week for 8 weeks, and then once every other week thereafter. He said the results of that study look promising, but that for now we should stick to 5,000 IU daily. Dr. Llamas said that we needed to take Vitamin D3 that was not with other vitamins. Older women can have problems if they take too much Vitamin D because they also need to be taking calcium, and high levels of Vitamin D with calcium can cause problems. But doctors can help older women manage it; it isn't hard, he said, but it just depends on how much calcium they are taking, and so forth.
We both loved Dr. Llamas! We wished he were practicing here in Utah because he actually listened when we talked to him. It was really neat, because we talked about J's experience with raw goat milk curing most of his allergies overnight. We also talked all about how J had been diagnosed as bipolar, and used to take a ton of different drugs for it, and he couldn't keep a job, and he couldn't handle relationships, until 3 years ago when he eliminated processed foods and artificial stuff from his diet. His bipolar symptoms totally disappeared. J is not bipolar. After a little bit of experimentation, he learned that he is extremely sensitive to MSG. When J accidentally has some MSG, the same symptoms come back. He can tell within a few minutes that he's had some, and then he starts having rapid cycles, which gradually get better over a few days. In the past, when we've talked to doctors about these things, they think J is crazy. He isn't. His whole family saw him stop taking allergy medications after he started drinking raw goat milk. His whole family knows what he used to be like before he realized he was sensitive to MSG, and now his whole family knows he's just a normal guy. Dr. Llamas was fascinated. He said he'd never heard anything like it. He said that since we know MSG causes those reactions, it is an auto-immune response, and he believes the hookworms will likely be able to help with that. Dr. Llamas is very interested to see what results J has with the hookworms.
Dr. Llamas also talked with us about how many worms J should have. The standard starting dose is 25 worms. Unfortunately, there are some side effects at the beginning of having worms, so some of the people who come in can't start with that many because their intestines are in pretty rough shape, and a worsening of symptoms would make things much worse for those people. Those people often have to start with 10 worms. You don't want to go over the number of worms you can handle, because if it's too hard on your body and you end up needing to get rid of them, you have to start all over, and you lose a lot of time. So it's better to start low and add more later. J is in good health, though, so the doctor recommended he start with 30 worms. We decided that sounded all right.
The doctor suggested J pick a target item. It needed to be something that would cause a reaction for him. He said a lot of people use a cat. Basically, he wanted J to have something pretty measurable to use, to gauge how the hookworms are working. J is extremely allergic to cats. We have my cat, Paley, but she is an outside cat now. If I hold Paley at all, or pet her, I have to wash my hands and change my clothes, because J will have allergic reactions to me after I've been with the cat. Usually after about 3 minutes, J's eyes become red and puffy, and he gets dark circles under his eyes. He starts feeling blah, and needs to lie down. So the doctor agreed that Paley was a good target item. I said, "Oh, she'll love that!" Paley always wants to be friends with J, and he likes her, but he just can't touch her. So. That should be fun.
Usually the doctor does a physical examination, too, but he didn't feel it was necessary in J's case. (I think this would probably be more useful for things like psoriasis.)
After our interview, we went into a different room where J was going to get his worms. Garin met us there. Garin explained the procedure. The hookworms were in tiny vials (they put them in different increments so that they can give people different numbers of worms. J tried to look inside one of the vials to see them, but of course, they're too tiny to see without a microscope.
Dr. Llamas put the worms on a bandage, which he put on J's arm. Garin started a timer, and we all chatted while we waited for J to feel the worms going through his skin. (What hookworms do is, they burrow through your skin. They travel through your bloodstream into your lungs, and then you cough them up and they go down your throat, into your digestive system. When they get to the spot they want to be, they latch on in your intestines, and hang out. Hookworms drink blood, they don't eat your food, so they stay tiny--they're not worms that grow to be 15 feet long or anything!) After a few minutes J started laughing because I guess it felt pretty weird for the worms to go in. (Garin said it's hard to do placebo studies with worms, because it's hard to mimic the feeling of the worms going through the skin. So if people who get placebos have a chance to talk at all with people who get worms, they can always tell immediately who actually got the worms and who got placebos.)
When the worms go in, they shed their little casings, which they leave right beneath the skin. It's a trick on the immune system, because the immune system sees the casings as the invaders, and it responds to those while the actual worms go along their merry way in your bloodstream. So Garin warned J that where the worms entered he would get red bumps. They are itchy, kind of like mosquito bites.
Anyway, they wrote down how long it took for J to begin to feel them going through his skin. They had us wait 30 minutes for observation, just to be sure J didn't have any really weird reaction (but they said nobody ever does). J gave the doctor a cashier's check, and the doctor gave J a box of medicine that kills worms, just in case J wanted to get rid of them ("but please talk to Garin first, unless it's an emergency!") and a prescription for the medicine, in case he needed it at the border (but nobody ever does).
I took several little videos as J was getting his worms, and some pictures. Then, Andrew drove us back across the border. The line to go through on foot was longer than the line to go through by car. Andrew said people were going across to buy stuff for Thanksgiving. A lot of people there celebrate Thanksgiving, I guess! While we were driving, and waiting to get across, we chatted some more with Garin. We talked about his experiences working with Jasper Lawrence, and we talked about his experiences in medical school (he attended 1 year and then decided it wasn't for him), and I asked what his parents thought of his hookworm stuff. We talked about what his hopes were for hookworms, and what challenges he was facing. We talked about his hookworms, and what they did for his psoriasis. It was all very interesting. It was fun talking with Garin. He has a lot of personality!
Eventually we got to the border. The border guy talked to Andrew in Spanish about who we were and why we had been in Mexico (to visit a doctor). He looked at all of our passports and looked to be sure we were the people on our passports. And then we drove through.
Andrew dropped us all off at our parking lot, and J and Garin agreed that they would be in touch at certain times about how J's progress was. With worms there is a certain timeline for different symptoms.
That was about it. Our families had been quite concerned about us visiting Tijuana because of the violence that has been going on near the border. Actually, though, most of our time in Mexico was at the clinic, and there were no portions of our visit where we were walking down Mexican streets, or trying to go through crowds, or anything like that. We felt completely safe for our entire visit. We were escorted to and from the clinic by Andrew, who is Mexican, so it wasn't just a group of Americans bumbling around. I wouldn't hesitate to go back.
J was to leave the bandage on for a few hours, just in case one was a little slow, or something, but it usually doesn't take that long. When J took the bandage off Wednesday night, he had a bunch of red spots.
Now, it's a few weeks later. The spots got bigger, and a little swollen, and they're starting to disappear. J's had some allergic symptoms which we attributed to the worms. He also began feeling a little nauseous about a week ago. He hates nausea! For the past two weekends, he's spent bunch of time resting. Supposedly weeks 3-6 are the worst (as far as symptoms go), and he's in week 3. He's hoping he doesn't feel this way for the next couple weeks. He's kind of wishing he would have gotten 25 worms instead of 30.
We have seen some positive improvement with allergies, though! Every morning J used to wake up with a stuffy nose, but for the past week his nose hasn't been stuffy in the morning. Also, last Saturday he pet Paley. Yesterday he pet his parents' cat, and touched his face afterward. He had no allergic reaction! His eyes weren't even a little bit red...until like 3 hours later, when he had a very mild cat reaction. So, now he has a delayed cat allergy that is not nearly as bad. It's an improvement, for sure, and we're eager to see how things continue to improve (since this is the very beginning).