Silent Death

Posted June 6th, 2008 by webadmin

Guest Blog By Lynn Philip Hodgson

Mr. X died of natural causes at age seventy-eight; sounds reasonable, that’s basically the life expectancy of a man living in Canada today. But was it natural causes? After all, he had never been sick a day of his life. Over time, he began to experience strange symptoms; strange because it wasn’t like him to be so tired all of the time. He suffered with joint pain due to arthritis, but everybody his age has some type of arthritis, don’t they? He had mood swings, memory confusion at times, loss of libido, the odd bouts of abdominal pain and a strange bronzing of the skin; the latter he didn’t mind as it gave him an all year round tan. Nothing at all to be concerned about, he thought. Mr. X had worked hard all of his life and was enjoying retirement, golfing in the summertime, heading south in the winter; life was grand until that fateful day when his heart became erratic and caused his death. Heart failure they said, as they moved his lifeless body onto a gurney for the short distance to the elevator, which would take his remains down to the morgue. A trip taken so many times before him by people with similar conditions. But was it heart failure, or some other hidden set of circumstances that could have been avoided?

My story started with a routine check up; the doctor suggested a series of blood tests based on symptoms that I had described to her. The blood work came back abnormal and she had recommended a treatment for me. After a follow-up appointment a number of months later, a further blood test was done with similar results; there had been no change. The doctor was puzzled, what could be causing these results? About a month later I received a phone call from the doctor’s nurse, please come in right away for a further test; did the doctor know what was causing my symptoms or did she simply have a hunch? Several weeks after the test, I was once again summoned to the doctor’s office. The results were in; I had Hereditary Hemochromatosis. What was that I asked? To make a long story short, and to put it in laymen’s terms, I was suffering from iron overload. It doesn’t sound ominous, certainly nothing to worry about, I mean, you can’t die from it; or can you? In 1996, a California doctor discovered through DNA testing, a defect in C282Y and H63D on the HFE gene. This is Hemochromatosis, an iron overload, which can cause disease in vital organs, as it accumulates in the organs, joints, and tissue of the body. In fact, 1-300 Canadians are walking around with the disease and in most cases they are totally oblivious of having it. Even more shocking, 1 in 8 people from a small section of the U.K., specifically, approximately 100 miles on either side of the Scottish/English border, have the disease. For this reason, both my wife and I have Hereditary Hemochromatosis. If you are tested positive for HHC, your family should be tested, as there is a likely chance that some of them will be positive as well. In my case, just one of my daughters has been tested and she is positive. The facts are hidden in simple numbers; my Ferritin count (iron) was 2,769; what should it be I asked? It should be below 300, she replied. The normal Ferritin count for a woman is below 200 ng/ml and 300 ng/ml for men. Damage to major organs can occur in people with counts above 1,000 ng/ml. I was sitting at 2,769; what can be done about it I asked? The answer, “phlebotomies”, she replied. A phlebotomy is the technical name for bloodletting or the purging of blood. The treatment will be determined by your doctor but could range from once a week to once per month. In my case, my age was a factor so I was put on a once a month regiment for the first year, with the procedure being done at our local hospital. After a year, my numbers had come down, but not enough. In fact, they started going back up! My schedule was switched to every three weeks and that resulted in an immediate improvement. The following is my actual chart numbers. With what you now know about HHC, scary isn’t it?

Date Count Range

April 26, 2006 2,769 Abnormal

Sept. 13, 2006 1,804 Abnormal

Nov. 21, 2006 1,127 Abnormal

Jan. 24, 2007 902 Abnormal

Mar. 31, 2007 982 Abnormal

May 19, 2007 748 Abnormal

Jun. 23, 2007 952 Abnormal

Oct. 13, 2007 585 Abnormal

Dec. 7, 2007 229 Normal

Feb. 23, 2008 90 Normal

Apr. 4, 2008 79 Normal

It’s ironic that the last test showing a normal result, April 4th, was exactly sixteen years after the date of my father’s death; a death that I believe was a result of a lifetime with the “Silent Death” disease. The above chart is based on test results of follow-up blood work, which should be done regularly in order for the doctor to properly analyze your progress, to determine whether or not you need to decrease or increase the number of phlebotomies. In conclusion, I am certain that HHC took the life of both my father and mother, prematurely. I will need to have regular phlebotomies for the rest of my life. Others in my family, including all grandchildren, will have to be tested. But thanks to this particular doctor who had the foresight to look further, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she caught it in time and the “Silent Death” will not strike me. For more info on HHC see: