On this night, she bathed her son and was applying a cream ointment that seemed to be working well at stopping the itching. Drew lay snuggling in his mother's lap, lulled by the bath; dry and warm. Leitao began rubbing the ointment on her son in gentle, circular motions, something unusual happened. A fiber-like substance came from Drew's skin. She collected a sample of the fibers and got her son's $8 Radio Shack microscope and looked at the fibers. Since that night, she's examined those strands-and others-under various microscopes at the University of Massachusetts and, later, as a medical researcher at a Boston hospital.
The fibers now obsess her completely because what she sees in people with Morgellon Disease-a name she coined based on her research of the research done by Sir Thomas Browne of a medical malady he discovered in 1690-are at odds with the American medical community which says Morgellons does not exist.
But if you ask former Oakland Athletic relief pitcher Billy Koch or his wife Brandi, they will assure you it exists.
When Morgellons struck Koch, he was transferred from the Toronto Blue Jays to Oakland, and from Oakland to Chicago; and finally, from Chicago back to Toronto. He developed the mysterious illness-Morgellons Disease-in 2004. So did his wife Brandi and their three children. The mysterious illness? According to Brandi Koch, it consisted of strings and black specks coming out of their skin. "[Billy] freaked out," she said. "He wanted to ignore it. I wanted to, too. But when it comes to your kids, you gotta stop ignoring it." In two years Koch was out of baseball. The fans couldn't understand the illness, because his body didn't twitch and he showed no signs that he was sick when he pitched. Except, he stopped winning games. And the teams that owned his contract wanted to dump him.
When it first struck Brandi Koch, she said she began increasingly forgetful and detached. Her doctor diagnosed her as having Lymes Disease, "Then," she said, "the horror really started. I noticed there was some kind of matter coming out of my skin, not just where I had sores." Prior to the illness, she worked regularly and competed in 10K runs. Then her legs and arms began to swell, and, for no reason, she got lesions on her back. Doctors decided she had an autoimmune disease, perhaps arthritis. Then they decided it was probably scleroderma. Doctors had no idea what was wrong, and chose to ignore the fibers, which she insisted were coming out of her skin. The doctors decided the threadlike substance was fibers from the clothing she wore, and refused to associate it with her illness.
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