How A Mother’s Anguish over Her Son’s 2nd Degree Burns Led to the Creation of a Natural Age-Defying Skin Care Line for Women Over 40
by Sharon Gnatt Epel, CEO/Founder La Ishá Inc.
The La Ishá Story began in June of 2005, when Aaron, an American teenager, left home to participate in an exciting six-week summer rainforest study program in Costa Rica.
After several days in group orientation, Aaron and his peers were taken on what should have been a fun excursion - white water rafting along the border of Panama. The night before the trip, a heavy rainfall saturated the soil causing significant runoff from local area fruit plantations. Unbeknownst to the campers or their parents, highly toxic agricultural chemicals that were being used by the banana and pineapple growers had seeped through the soil and into the river where they sat undetected on its surface like an invisible oil slick. Among these chemicals was paraquat: a quick acting herbicide that is rain-fast within minutes of application and highly toxic to human beings and animals.
Paraquat is the number one cause of pesticide poisoning in Costa Rica. It is on the World Health Organization’s “Dirty Dozen”: a list of dangerous pesticides whose use should be prohibited. It is banned in the EU, Switzerland, Scandinavia and a handful of other nations. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified paraquat as possibly carcinogenic for human beings. "Stop Paraquat", a citizens' action campaign coalition, has been demanding since 2002 that this highly toxic herbicide be universally banned. Paraquat poisoning can cause damage to the skin ranging from reddening and blistering to severe burns. It has been implicated in Parkinson’s disease and brain damage. In worst case scenarios, absorption of paraquat through the skin or via inhalation can lead to lung damage and death. If accidentally swallowed, it can also cause heart failure, esophageal holes, kidney and liver failure, seizures and coma. When it comes into direct contact with the eyes it can cause blindness. There is no known antidote to or effective treatment for poisoning from this product. Symptoms after exposure do not always manifest immediately: they can appear days after contact and persist indefinitely.
Aaron and his fellow campers waded into the river where they came into direct contact with the pesticide-laden water. Within 2 hours of exposure, small blisters formed on his skin. The photographs posted on this site are of his hands only, but several other areas of his body were affected as well. Here is his left hand, and here is his right hand. Six hours later, the tiny blisters had grown so large that they hung over the sides of his hands like heavy water balloons. Please be forewarned: these pictures are graphic and can be unpleasant to look at. Here is My son's left hand six hours later and His right hand six hours later.
I received a telephone call from one of the camp's group leaders telling me that Aaron was experiencing a ‘minor allergic reaction’, most likely to the sunscreen he had used earlier in the day. The symptoms they described to me made this sound quite unlikely and I insisted on speaking directly to my son. Because the blisters were still growing in size and becoming increasingly painful, I insisted upon immediate medical intervention – not an easy request to fulfill given the location of the camp. Several staff members accompanied Aaron on the long journey by foot from the base camp deep in the rainforest back to civilization and the hospital in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. There, a surgeon diagnosed my son with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. She cut open the huge blisters, removed the hanging skin, administered oral antibiotics and applied a petroleum-based burn ointment to the gray, oozing, bloodless areas where the skin had been cut away. Because the wounds needed to be kept clean, the bandages changed frequently and medication applied regularly - something that would have been almost impossible to carry out while living in a dirt hut on the rainforest floor - I insisted that my son be sent home.
While I waited for Aaron’s arrival, I consulted with several physicians for guidance. After viewing pictures of his injuries, the general consensus was that the burns were of unknown origin and that traditional therapies, however good at preventing infection, would leave the boy scarred for life and his dexterity impeded by thick, inflexible scar tissue. Only one doctor - who specialized in integrative medicine - concluded that the burns were caused by toxic chemicals, something that he had seen during his extensive medical career with the U.S. Army. He suggested that the burns be treated with clinical essential oils: natural concentrated plant extracts that I had never heard of before. Aaron and I agreed to go ahead with this course of treatment mainly because we felt there was nothing to lose by trying it, given the alternatives. The decision to use the essential oils was a huge leap of faith, but one that paid off better than we could ever have imagined.
We took dated pictures to document treatment and recovery. When Aaron first returned home wrapped up like a mummy, the skin under the bandages was gray in color, dull and unreflective like cadaver skin, and completely void of surface blood. After 3 weeks of applying essential oils to his hands twice a day, blood flow was restored to the injured areas. Although the bloody skin certainly didn't look very pretty at the time, we were assured that bleeding was a good sign and an indication that healing was underway. See pictures of his left hand: and his right hand here.
Miraculously, one short month later, only a red discoloration of the skin remained where the injury had once been. Here are pictures of his left hand and his right hand. The entire healing process took approximately four months from start to finish.
Here are unretouched pictures of Aaron's hands as they look today. I've posted two separate views of his left hand, the first one here, and the second one here and a picture of his right hand. I personally took these pictures outdoors in bright sunlight so that every little imperfection would be visible. Please note that both hands are fully healed. There is no residual scarring whatsoever. None of his finger or joint movements are impeded by scar tissue. His fair skin is supple, the pigmentation even and the natural color fully restored.
Nothing other than essential oils was ever used on his skin. The pictures you've seen here were submitted to the American Medical Association to document this impressive recovery. They are a testament to the expert knowledge and care of our wonderful doctor, Raphael D’Angelo, M.D., and were recently included in a comprehensive textbook written by Robert Tisserand - one of the world's leading authorities on aromatherapy and essential oils.
By the way, the leader of the rafting expedition eventually admitted that the camp had known for some time about the toxic chemicals seeping into the river but swore he would deny having told me about it if I forced him to give testimony in court. I agreed not to litigate in return for detailed information about the chemicals in the water so that we could get appropriate treatment for Aaron. Shortly afterwards, the fruit plantation was sued by its workers who won the case and were awarded financial restitution. Unfortunately it came too late for many of the people who became blind, sterile and cancer ridden from daily exposure.
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Aaron's ordeal inspired me to learn more about essential oils and how they can be used to safely treat a variety of skin issues. As someone who grew up near the beach and spent a great deal of time baking in the sun, I wondered what these oils could do for skin like mine that had cumulative sun damage, wrinkles, age spots and reduced elasticity. After three years of supplemental studies, intense research, product development, and extensive testing on me, my friends, family, and an assortment of volunteers, La Ishá Natural Skin Care made its debut with 2 products: Breast SOS and our Pomegranate Moisture Booster. We now have an extended line of skin care and aromatherapy products that are based upon clinical essential oil therapy. La Ishá is the 1st all-natural and ‘green’ company to formulate products exclusively for women over 40 – the group statistically at highest risk for developing environmentally caused cancer and other serious illness. Dubbed the "holy grail" for beauty junkies who care about their health, we are proud to be setting new standards for the beauty industry. By combining eco-friendly, sustainable practices with safe organic ingredients documented to support good health; we are able to achieve visually stunning results without resorting to the use of synthetic fillers, artificial colors, chemical fragrances, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, petroleum derivatives, or known cancer-causing agents.
I use our formulations daily to combat years of serious "sun abuse" and help prevent future free radical damage. Now in my sixties, I am living proof of the efficacy of our products. I invite you to try La Ishá and experience the benefits of clinical essential oil therapy in an easy-to-use, daily skin care routine. We have taken the guesswork out of safely using essential oils for long lasting, age-defying results and skin that glows with health and youthful vitality.
May you enjoy the blessings of good health and timeless beauty always!
Sharon Gnatt Epel
Founder/CEO La Ishá Inc.