CLEVELAND - It's a mysterious illness striking thousands of women, causing terrible pain, horrible skin lesions and crawling sensations all over the body. Doctors struggle to figure what really causes this bizarre condition, if it's even real or just in the victim's head.
Stacy Hillman's face looked like it was infested with something -- it had large bumps and sores. For her, it felt like there were microscopic bugs or parasites living inside of her skin.
"To have thousands of those, hundreds of thousands of those crawling on your face, that's what it feels like," said Hillman. "Its hard to even think about doing laundry or going to the grocery store because you're consumed by this feeling on your face," said Hillman.
The crawling sensation was so intense that she wouldn't leave the house for four months.
Her husband, Jeff, watched as his wife slipped into a life of constant crying and constant pain.
"The thought of living my life the next month, week, two years... I couldn't do it," said Stacy Hillman. "It was not fun," said Jeff Hillman.
She went to doctor after doctor. All of them told her the same thing.
"They all kept telling me there was nothing wrong and there was nothing they could do for me," said Stacy Hillman.
After months of tests and about $50,000 in medical expenses, Stacy reached her breaking point.
"There was a time she wanted to die," said Jeff Hillman. "You know you fight to protect your wife, you'd fight, but i couldn't do anything."
Doctor's call the syndrome Morgellons. The illness affects mainly women in their 50s. In January of 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a shocking study. Doctors can't figure out what's causing it. The report suggests, to some degree, the patients are delusional.
"It had me wondering, is my wife crazy?" said Jeff Hillman.
"How can you look at someone's face, a beautiful person with unusual looking skin, and tell them they're delusional," said Dr. Omar Amin, the Director of the Parasitology Center in Scottsdale. He's been studying Morgellons for several years.
"We examine every single piece of tissue in the body and there's no parasites," said Dr. Amin.
He said, no, there aren't any bugs crawling on the skin. But there is no doubt it feels that way. He said he believes the patient's nerves are damaged, poisoned by a toxin and the toxin is spreading.
"It sounds like science fiction, but we have a 100-percent recovery rate," said Dr. Amin.
Dr. Amin said Stacy is part of a small group of people who have a highly allergic reaction to certain chemicals. In this case, he said the poison that was attacking Stacy's body had actually been there for decades. Mercury was leaking out of a cracked filling in her tooth.
"There's something in common, there has to be, and I think the doctors found it," said Stacy Hillman.
Stacy replaced her fillings with a different substance and life suddenly became good again.
"It's been almost a year since she laughed and to know she's getting better, it's worth every penny," said Jeff Hillman.
The CDC said people should be cautious about getting treatment for something that's not medically proven. And people who claim they have the answer are going out on a limb. But Dr. Amin said he knows the truth.
"The CDC has referred Morgellons patients to me, which to me only means one thing. They know we have the thing that works," said Dr. Amin.
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