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    Monday, December 06, 2004

    Ukrainian Medical Mystery Update: Saturday's New York Times had an detailed synopsis of Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's illness:

    He arrived first on Sept. 10, severely ill and unable to walk, after five days of terrible abdominal pain. Initial testing showed that he had a high white-cell count and elevated liver and pancreas enzymes, suggesting inflammation of those organs. His tests were negative for all the obvious possibilities, like hepatitis caused by a virus.

    Scans showed that his liver, pancreas and intestine were, indeed, swollen. Internal examinations of the intestine using an endoscope found he had ulcerations - essentially bleeding abrasions - of the stomach and throughout his intestine and bowel as well. Ulcers are typically not spread out in that way.

    The doctors gave him supportive care, like intravenous fluid and a restricted food intake to rest the digestive tract. As he gradually recovered strength, he opted to get back to the campaign trail. Already, doctors noticed that he was developing odd lesions on his face and trunk.

    Ten days later, the candidate returned, after three days of what he called excruciating back pain. Its source was again a mystery, since related lab tests and scans were normal.

    The pain was so severe that doctors had to place a large intravenous line into Mr. Yushchenko's chest and essentially nearly anesthetize him with huge doses of opiates. Because opiates depress respiratory functions, his breathing rate slowed, and his vital signs had to be constantly monitored. More medicine would have required that Mr. Yushchenko be placed on a respirator, Dr. Zimpfer said.

    ....The issue has persisted because of the obvious disfigurement and discoloration of his face, which is swollen and pocked with large bumps and cysts, and is a dusky grayish color. The left eye is bloodshot and sometimes waters.

    ...The candidate refused a biopsy of his face - which doctors suggested to try to narrow down the causes - because he did not want to campaign with stitches. But dioxin and related toxic chemicals are detectable in the body years after exposure. Ms. Gerashchenko said tests for such substances had still not been performed.

    High-dose exposure to a chemical would seem to be a reasonable speculation. His photographs are suggestive of chloracne. Too bad he's been too busy to get an adequate diagnosis. He must be a Type A+ personality.

    posted by Sydney on 12/06/2004 07:47:00 AM 0 comments


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