Personal Testimony

Testimony: For Better or Worse, A Flight Attendant’s Fight with Toxic Fumes

Written by Anna Denney-Sandefer

For 27 years I was an International Flight Attendant for a Major Airline. Things seemed normal, although as my seniority increased, my health problems increased also and I had more difficulties. Then one day in June of 2006, while at work on a plane, that was at the gate ... waiting out a storm, I was asked to open up the rear cabin door. After a long hot day, the air was thick with the tarmac fumes. As I was standing there by the door, I breathed in what I thought was a bug. After a few minutes a headache started, on the right side of my head, above my ear. It was as sharp intense pain. Flu like symptoms started. My eyelids seemed hot and I had a sore throat. I became nauseous feeling and sick to my stomach. Soon after that lightening strikes started and,for a then unknown reason,I felt light headed to the point of giddylaughter at the lightning whilestanding next to an open door. In an hour or so, I felt worse. I felt weak and had some difficulties breathing when I pushed the cart up the isle. I thought I had developed a very bad flu.

I continued on the flight, feeling badly the entire trip. When I returned home I reported the incident. I was in bed for days with no energy and flu symptoms and felt depressed. I went to my doctor. I know now that he was not familiar with what had happened to me, and at the time I did not realize what had happened. They treated me for breathing problems and gave an inhaler. After two weeks of treatment from my primary care doctor, my Doctor told me to go the industrial company doctor. This “flu” went on for weeks, and continued to get worse. Then other problems started which frightened me. At times I would get uncontrollable shaking in my left hand. It would last for fifteen seconds to about a minute. I did not know what was causing it. When I went to the company doctor he said, after an exam and chest x-rays, that I was fine, and I could return to work. The symptoms were changing, I was now dragging my feet and having difficulties completing sentences, and even thoughts. My husband noticed immediately, I was not thinking clearly and was just getting frustrated at my inability to think and comprehend.

“There were times when mentally I did not think I would make it through another day.”

Then I heard about TCP, and toxic fumes on airplanes. TCP is a chemical found in Hydraulic Oil and engine oil. Hydraulic oil is in every airplane engine and some APUs. When this hydraulic oil is heated by the engine it becomes very toxic. I found out that leaks can cause these burnt fumes to be able to get in to the cabin through the air intake system. I then discovered there was a leak in the rear APU on the plane I was on the day of the lightening storm when I had thought I had breathed in a bug and then gotten the flu. I later found out that hydraulic oil was coming out of it at a rate that caused the company to replace the whole APU weeks later. I now know that this toxic burnt hydraulic oil went though my digestive system, neurological system, and parts of my brain. My energy disappeared. Most days I became very tired early in the day. I was taking naps all times of the day and night. I did not feel better. My hand continued to shake on occasion. I could not carry on conversations. I began avoiding social contacts because it was frustrating and I felt embarrassed. I went to the emergency room one day with severe digestive problems. One day about two weeks later, my shortness of breath became so bad and my chest hurt that I found myself on the floor about to pass out. I called my husband at work and he called the neighbors and paramedics. Later in the day I was hospitalized I was in the cardiac unit for four days. Again at the time the doctors were unsure of the cause. I later found that the toxins can cause problems with internal systems. After several days in the hospital I was diagnosed with pleuro-pericarditis. It was caught in time. Again, later, I was told that the toxins in my system could cause the body think it is being attacked and cause the pericarditis.

After MRIs and PET scans, and many visits to doctors, I was diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, a brain injury. My head would feel like it was tingling on one side for no reason at times, it usually was accompanied by headaches. My neurologist prescribed nitroglycerine paste to open up the blood vessels in my head. He hoped that the physical damage to the vessels and the brain could be repaired or improved with increased blood flow. The toxins had caused vessels in my head to shrivel.

For over a year and a half, I fought these and other symptoms. There were times when I could not form a sentence, or I would start talking and get frustrated and angry. There were times when I hurt so bad all over like I had been beaten up. There were times when mentally I did not think I would make it through another day. Some days I would sleep for six hours in the middle of the day. Some days I felt I was going crazy, because I could not remember what I was doing, or why. I continued to search for answers, and the right medical advice. Some medical doctors told me I had everything from Lupus to MS to forms of Dementia and Fibromyalgia. My neurologist told me on the right side of my head it looked like the veins of an eighty five year old. The brain scans (MRI and PET) showed brain injury. A neurophysiologist told me I had permanent brain damage and would have to ‘retrain’ part of my brain. Walking down my steps at home I would shake like I had MS. The prescriptions were so many, they were filling up a large wastebasket. As I read more and learned more, I discovered this has been an ongoing problem in the airline community. It was not publicized. In my situation, because of the large dose of heated hydraulic oil I inhaled, there were immediate, and serious results. But these symptoms can be cumulative also, and they can be just as devastating. My husband and I spent many hours searching the web. All of my symptoms fit toxic poisoning from TCP.

“… I felt an almost miraculous improvement.”

After more than 20 months of looking for a solution, I found the following has helped me the most. My neurologist sent me to a doctor that treated many people with different types toxic exposures. I was told that the body will heal itself if you give it a chance under the right conditions. The basic conditions being no stress and plenty of rest. The place I went was True North Health, in Santa Rosa, California. This is where, under Medical Doctors supervision 24 hours around the clock, I underwent an extended distilled water fast. I stopped all prescription drugs, before the fast. One important point to remember, toxins such as TCP are carried in the fat cells of the body, and that includes in, and though the brain. If the fat cells leave, so do many of the toxins, but unfortunately not all. The fog in my head started lifting on the 4th and 5th day of the fast. I called my husband daily. He told me he could tell the difference within several days. He felt that he was beginning to get me back. After I returned from the fast he told me that it made a huge difference in me. I could tell I could think much better, I felt better and was not as tired. The shaking of the left hand has stopped.

In the 20 months after the exposure and after doctors and treatments, and after the 12 day distilled water fast I felt an almost miraculous improvement. I felt better than I had in a very long time. I am still not 100% but I am feeling that I on the road to 100%. I still can not communicate as well as I once did. I still get extremely frustrated and often angry at not being able to make what used to be simple decisions. In the end of this year, I will be doing another fast.

I have changed my diet dramatically also. I try to stick to a diet that consists of basically raw and some steamed fruits and vegetables, beans and rice, and that is it. Some herbal teas and lots of water each day. When I do, I can tell it has an effect on me. The opposite is true also, if I do not stick to this diet, I feel more frustrated and physically I feel more fatigued. There are numerous books out there on the subject and many natural nutritionists to help guide you. The basics are easy. Greens are very important to wash the body of toxins. Steamed Kale is one of the best greens to clean out the whole system of toxins. Wheatgrass shots are also very good. I stay away from Dairy products of any kind. Dairy is a big no. Just remember when you are tempted by dairy products, where dairy comes from, and how cheese is made.

Walk and or workout as much as you can. Any form of exercise to get the blood flowing helps move the TCP out of the body. After a year of being ill, and not doing much physical activity, I started walking. At 7:00 AM every morning I would walk with a neighbor friend, and sometimes on my own. Some days I could not walk but a block or two, seriously, and some days I could walk a good 3 miles. Then I tried 2 times a day. It is a great feeling once you do it.

To sum it up there are ways to get better. There are doctors that will help you. Start with Doctor Alan Goldhammer at True North Health. The water fast is the fastest and the most thorough way to remove TCP, and other toxins. Read what you can on the internet so you will understand what has happened to you. If you can understand why you feel the way you do, and why you have mental and communication problems, it will at least help you get through it and motivate you to try to get better. I may never be the same, but I know I am better, and my husband knows I am better. He has had to be very patient with me, and he still does. But he has made it a project of his to read and understand what happened to me. It has helped us both move forward. Please pass the word on. Do not think for a nanosecond that this is not effecting the flying public and most crew members. Also, I had major help from my husband in organizing my thoughts and writing this article. I still have some trouble with phrasing thoughts correctly. He is my ghost writer. Please educate yourself by going to the below websites and linking to sites internationally where pilots have spoken out about it. Recently articles and research have indicated possibly more serious effects from a combination of TCP and other toxins in the air on airliners.

Please keep informed. in the USA in the UK Those sites reference many more sites. PLEASE take the time to research them. Thank You, Anna Denney-Sandefer 29 April 2009

Anna's testimonials on two health spas she visited for water and juice fasting The Regency Health Spa is good for the Juice Fasts and getting back on track for eating healthy.

I did a juice fast at the Regency Spa. It was every good and enjoyable for the time I was there. The ocean front rooms and the staff are there for you. The food is the best Vegetarian food I have had on the East coast. Chef John Nowakowski worked as an executive chef with the Marriot Corporation for 24 years. His passion turned to Vegetarian cuisine, and his food is excellent.

The spa has a workout room, and all kinds of classes. It needs some more renovation. Dr. Sabitino's lectures are very informative on the health issues and food problems around the globe.

I know the True North Health Health Spa in Santa Rosa California did not get in touch with you on advertising on your website, but if you are going to advertise for water fasting, True North Health is much better equipped to do that sort of fast. The staff there will look in on you twice a day and the doctor is there 24 and 7, with a bell by your bed. So if some one is very ill, then they need to go to True North Health to get better. Dr. Alan Goldhammer has been doing over looking water fasts for over 25 years: some as long as 40 to 70 days in length. The cost between the 2 spas is surprising. The True North Health is less than the one in Hallandale Florida. The distilled water fast is serious business. If someone is in serious bad health I would recommend the True North Health in Santa Rosa California.


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