These four (4) posts -- The Lambs and
the Lions Series -- were posted
to a several internet newsgroups in early September 1999.
2/4 THE LAMBS AND THE LIONS:
The SBU "Questions of the Heart" PETITION and BOYCOTT
PART 2: Cindy Duehring: Held Captive in Her Own Home
Held Captive in Her Own Home But Locked to a Mission
DEENA WINTER, For the Bismark Tribune
Sunday, November 9, 1997
Cindy Duehring hasn't been outside for eight years.
She hasn't been in a vehicle for nine years.
She hasn't watched a television for seven years.
She hasn't used the telephone since this spring.
Slowly, Cindy Duehring has had to abandon such devices, because they could kill her.
She is confined to her house along Lake Sakakawea 23 miles from Williston, unable to leave because her body has steadily deteriorated since pesticides nearly killed her 12 years ago. Her immune, respiratory and central nervous systems were irrevocably chemically damaged, and she is now one of tens of thousands of people in the United States who have disabling multiple chemical sensitivities, or MCS.
But Cindy's situation is far more severe than most. Even seemingly harmless things like air, drinking water, noise, and sunlight make Cindy sick. She is a prisoner inside her own home, but rather than nurse her many wounds, she devotes herself to her work, and has become widely respected as an expert on chemical injury issues -- so respected that she was recently one of five people in the world selected to receive the Right Livelihood Award. The award came with $60,000 to use toward her work -- work that is done despite incredible obstacles and painstaking procedures that must be performed every day, just to keep her alive.
Life as she knew it
Hardly a sickly child, Cindy's parents say she was an active, athletic, intelligent girl.
'I don't think she even had a problem of any kind, health-wise,' said her father, Don Froechle, a 71-year-old retired commercial contractor who lives in Bismarck, where Cindy was born and raised.
He said she had a sunny disposition, even when she was hurting.
'As a child, you wanted to hug her all the time,' he said.
As a teen-ager, Cindy was 'an all around person with a whirlwind of activities,' Don said.
He proudly recalls how she quickly learned to ski and operate a pontoon boat. The 5-foot-11 girl enjoyed tennis, church activities, singing in choirs, skiing, swimming and people.
'She needed to be around intellectuals because her mind was always going 60 per (miles an hour),' Don said.
Cindy wanted to be a doctor -- and there was no reason to believe she wouldn't: In 1980, she was a valedictorian and the top student in Bismarck High School's graduating class of 423. Four years later, she had one year left of pre-med studies at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., when fleas invaded her apartment.
The bank she was working at in downtown Seattle also had a chronic flea problem, and over the course of a year, she used 20 flea bombs before calling an exterminator. He sprayed her apartment twice in two months, but the fleas persisted. When the exterminator returned, he decided Cindy was bringing the fleas home from work with her, so he sprayed and fogged all of her clothes.
'I'll make sure you never have another flea in here as long as you live,' he assured her.
He killed the fleas alright. And he almost killed Cindy.
Cindy was suffering flu-like symptoms and neurological problems (numbness, tingling, tics), but didn't connect her problems with the pesticides. Eventually, an occupational physician specializing in chemical poisonings figured out what was making her sick: She absorbed the pesticides through her skin, and they accumulated in her tissues, damaging her immune, respiratory and nervous systems.
The pesticide residue on her belongings was triggering the convulsions and neurological problems, so she got rid of everything she owned and moved out of the apartment.
She later learned the exterminator illegally combined two pesticides, one of which wasn't even registered for indoor use. (She never sought legal recourse.)
Toxicologists and researchers told Cindy the amount of pesticides she absorbed -- the highest her doctor had ever seen -- should have killed her. Five years after the pesticide incident, Cindy's blood tests still showed extraordinarily high levels of extremely toxic industrial solvents and propellants commonly used in pesticide formulations and jet fuels. Several doctors who regularly tr