In an unlikely collaboration with Amazonian shamans, medical researchers seek a cure for autoimmune disease.
Ten years ago, Mark Pischea, then a 42-year-old political consultant and father of five from Williamston, Michigan, was rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pain.
Pischea was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon, also called the large intestine. Common conditions of this disease are fevers, rectal bleeding, extreme abdominal cramps and pains, fatigue, night sweats, and persistent diarrhea to name a few.
For the next decade of Pischea's life, a once healthy husband and father lived an unending cycle of flare-ups, surgery, and recovery. His fight surgery left him bedridden for six weeks. He had reached a point where his doctors told him his only remaining options were either a sixth surgery or the removal of his stomach all together. Through the agony and pain he said he felt ready to die.
There was however one more option outside of Western Medicine. His wife insisted he board a plane and journey into the Amazon in Peru to a healing center in the tiny village of San Roque de Cumbasa.
Pischea spent most of the next three weeks in isolation, following a strict dieta of rice, plantains and specially prepared plant teas. Several times a day, he met with a shaman named Antonio, who prescribed him local plants known to induce vomiting, also known at a vomitivo, a way to cleanse the body and "reboot" the immune system. The shaman's recommendations also included Ayahuasca, a potent hallucinogenic brew, and kambo, the venom of a rain forest tree frog.
Now four months later, Pischea is not only free of his Crohn's disease but the process had freed him from the depression he had developed from being sick.
“For me, being symptom-free is nothing short of a miracle,” he told The Huffington Post. "I'm thankful for each day that I'm feeling well."