Aspartame Case Histories

How would you feel if you were dying and no one knew what to do about it? In 1992, four deaths were associated with aspartame. How many more deaths are linked to aspartame today, but no one knows enough to make the connection.

Eight out of ten of my clients have health symptoms that disappear when they stop using aspartame. Hundreds if not thousands of children are suffering aspartame reactions but don’t know how to tell their parents or teachers why they are feeling sick, disoriented, confused, and emotional. The case histories are piling up, and people are now sharing their personal experiences with others to help educate those unaware of the reality that aspartame is harmful to health and wellness.

Currently, the number of deaths from seizures has substantially increased. There are more seizure-related emergency transports now than ever before.

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Four deaths have been associated with aspartame. How many more deaths are linked to aspartame today?

The following is a case history taken from Sweet Poison.

Katrina had been complaining of an earache the very day she went for her three year check up, Wednesday, January 5, 1994. Her pediatrician checked her ear. "Well, Mrs. Carradine," the pediatrition stated as she tore a sheet of paper from a rubber-lined pad. "Katrina appears to have an ear infection. Take this prescription for an antibiotic."

"Katrina has had ear infections before," replied Katrina's mother, Carmen. "But, she's never complained of so much pain. Why this time?"

"I really can't answer that question, Mrs. Carradine." the doctor said somewhat unconcerned. "I'm sure it's nothing to get worried about."

"Odd things have been happening to Katrina, lately." Carmen added, sharing her concerns with the doctor. "Especially Katrina's complaints of a stomach ache almost daily over the past six to eight weeks."

"Well, if she doesn't improve in a few days," the doctor responded. "Bring Katrina back in, and we'll run some tests."

Carmen was worried.

Katrina was becoming clumsy, particularly compared to other children her age. Sometimes, she acted blind, literally running into things. Occasionally, she fell. At times, she was hyperactive. Her speech more slurred. She never acted in a reliable manner. Her mother wondered if this was typical three year old behavior.

Katrina commonly had loose stools, but over the past several months was experiencing diarrhea and cramping. The doctor suggested Katrina see a neurologist regarding her blinding falls.

Two days later, her ear pain worsened. She continued falling, once bumping the back of her head quite severely. She kept complaining her head was hurting where her ear was infected. Carmen called the pediatrician, who guessed the antibiotic must not be working. He prescribed Vantin®, an antibiotic she had used before, and Tylenol® with codeine. She vomited several times that night. The Tylenol never had a chance to get into her system. She couldn't keep anything down. Her parents waited until morning to start the Vantin, and tried a second dose of the Tylenol.

Carmen was not convinced Katrina HAD an ear infection. She believed this time her ear was sore because it was swollen and red at the ear; not the other way around.

By Saturday, Katrina was lethargic. Carmen held her most of the day, when she was not sleeping. She would not eat anything. Her mother managed to get some sugar-free yogurt down her. Katrina liked yogurt. Carmen hoped she would keep it down. She vomited several times that day. She'd sip on a cold diet coke.

Sunday, January 9. The next morning, Katrina was still very lethargic. Her parents decided to take her back to the doctor the next morning if she did not improve that day. At 1:15 pm, Carmen was leaving for work. Katrina had not gotten out of bed for lunch like normal. Rather than bothering her sick child, Carmen let her sleep. She almost left without checking on her, but changed her mind, checking to see if she was sleeping. Katrina was lying on her side. As Carmen passed over her, she saw Katrina staring at the wall. She called her name, but Katrina did not respond. She said a little louder, "Katrina?" She still did not move. Carmen called for Katrina's father, Jay, who had just sat down to give a bottle to their three-month old baby.

"Jay," she said in panic. "I think something is wrong!"

She turned Katrina over onto her back. She will never forget what she saw. Her three year old daughter lay unconscious. Eyes open and glaring. Lips and finger nails blue. The right side of her face covered with mucous and saliva from a puddle still pooled on her bed.

Jay rushed to her side, saying, "She's not breathing, Carmen!"

She picked Katrina up. As if in slow motion, they discussed what to do next. What do they do with the baby? Where do they lay Katrina? Who was going to give her CPR? "Carmen, call 911!" screamed Jay.

Within one minute, two policemen ran through the front door without a knock. Within two minutes, an ambulance and a fire truck idled outside the house. There were people everywhere asking questions. Carmen was still on the line telling the 911 operator what was happening. The paramedics identified Katrina's left side as totally paralyzed. They asked Jay and Carmen if they had any idea why. No one knew what was wrong with Katrina.

Katrina had a seizure while being transported in the ambulance. She had stopped breathing again. Once in the emergency room, Katrina was heard saying, "Mommy, Mommy." Carmen's heart was breaking.

Katrina sat up in her temporary hospital bed, arms extended for Carmen to hold her. Carmen held her tightly, fighting tears that would frighten Katrina. As Carmen lay her back down, Katrina slipped unconscious again and had to be resuscitated, again. Carmen was asked to leave as they intubated Katrina. She was given Valium®, Dilantin®, and Versid®. They performed a CAT scan. After four hours, Katrina was transferred to Riley Children's Hospital at Indiana University. She remained there for six weeks. She was on life support for two weeks, in ICU for four weeks.

Jay and Carmen received an incredible education during that six weeks, as well as a new home. The baby went to live with friends.

Katrina continued to have seizures and apnea the first day in the hospital. Doctors performed an MRI without a contrast, but saw nothing. They did a spinal tap. Nothing. They thought they had her stabilized with anti-convulsants. They extubated her the next day, moving her to the toddler unit.

Her seizures were not blatantly obvious. Jay and Carmen had never seen them. Katrina had no jerking of limbs or any physical effects common to seizures. That night, she complained of another bad headache. She could get no relief.

By 6:00 am the following morning, Katrina started acting strange. Her hands began to twitch. Carmen held her while she summoned the nurse. The nurse arrived, but just stood in place watching Carmen hold Katrina. Carmen grew angry. "Why don't you do something?" she questioned. She found out later that the nurse was watching and timing Katrina's seizure. There was nothing more she could have done. She was unaware that Carmen had never seen Katrina have a seizure before.

Within fifteen minutes, Katrina had another seizure, this time with more arm and mouth movement. Again, fifteen minutes later, another seizure. This continued until 7:30 am. Back in ICU, Katrina slipped into status epilepticus. She stopped breathing. They re-intubated and performed an MRI with a contrast. This time, they finally saw something. No one knew what it meant, however.

Katrina was put into a Pentobarbital® coma for one week to stop the status epilepticus. Otherwise, Katrina could die from the damage to her brain by the constant seizing. The doctors wanted her brain wave to be as flat as possible, referred to as 'burst suppression.' During this time, Katrina was on complete life support and a constant EEG monitor. She had an arterial line in her ankle to draw blood hourly to check for blood gases and drug levels.

She required a blood transfusion to replace what was being continuously drawn. She had two central lines; one in her neck and one in her groin area. Each central line had two lines leading into it. One for feeding, three for various drugs. Her urine was collected hourly.

Katrina was put into isolation as they suspected she was contagious. Jay and Carmen were required to wear masks and gowns to stay with her. What a horrible sight for her parents to see. Their daughter was almost gone; gone from them forever. Her soul was floating in space, somewhere out in space. It was a long, long time before she came back.

Jay and Carmen wanted answers! They asked the doctors WHY their daughter was sick. WHAT suddenly caused this? They complained of being kept in the dark. No one offered them any explanations. As if disruptive children, they were beratedly told, "Look, we have a live child to work with here. She could easily be dead. You're lucky. Don't complain. All you can do for Katrina is support her. You'll just have to wait and see what happens."

At this time, they were informed that 60% of the children that come to Riley for diagnosis never get one. "So, don't get your hopes up."

For the two weeks in a coma and on life support, Katrina's family didn't know whether she would live or die. If she did live, could they keep this from happening again? No one could give them any answers.

When Carmen was not at the hospital, she was searching for the answers. She went to the medical library, continuously reading articles, books, and research trying to help her daughter. Like the doctors, she found nothing.

Jay drove to Chicago late one night to have a friend run a test on some of Katrina's blood. He thought she may have lead poisoning. Nothing.

They had their furnace checked for carbon monoxide leaks. They checked her blood for that, too. Nothing.

Chocolate. A friend mentioned an article she had recently read on theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate. She knew Katrina had an unsatiable, almost embarrassing, craving for candy. Another friend suggested a possible carnitine deficiency. Nothing.

Test upon test were run on Katrina. Jay and Carmen lost tract of them all. And, the cost! Katrina had a CAT scan, three MRIs, three spinal taps, and so many EEGs, Jay and Carmen lost count.

Katrina soon developed problems with her liver. A liver biopsy was performed. A muscle tissue biopsy was also done. An opthamologist was called in to check for a Kayser-Fleischer ring indicating Wilson's Disease. Nothing.

A cytogenetic test was performed, an abdominal ultrasound of her liver and gall bladder. A VER and BSER were performed. The list goes on and on and on. Nothing.

Katrina had an infectious disease specialist diagnose her with non-infectious encephalitis. Her pediatric pulmonologists agreed she had encephalitis, but believed it to be viral. The three spinal taps did not support that opinion, however.

Katrina was then followed by a gastrointerologist and a neurologist. The neurologist's final impression on April 15 was "Status-post status epilepticus of unknown etiology with evidence of a meningo encephalitis on MRI scan."

After Katrina came out of a coma, Carmen rocked her, talked to her, read to her, played music for her, and waited days upon days for her to 'come back' from the deep sedation. Just to hold her again....

The time at the hospital spent waiting for Katrina to get better flew by quickly thanks to the constant flow of friends who came to keep Jay and Carmen occupied. No one could offer answers, only support and love.

Answers. Who knew the answer to why Katrina was suddenly fatally ill? What caused this to happen in the first place? Katrina was always healthy. Other than ear infections and the unusual symptoms over the past two and one-half months leading up to her hospitalization, she was a model baby. Who or what's to blame?

Jay and Carmen pondered the fate of their child. What do they do next? What's the fate of their second child?

Katrina was finally released from the hospital after eight weeks. Over $300,000 of unanswered care. Her parents brought her home with little to go on. They didn't know what caused her near-death experience or if it would ever occur again. The doctors never determined what really happened.

The doctors wanted Katrina to remain on anticonvulsants for a lack of anything else to do. After being on life support for two weeks, six weeks at Riley Children's Hospital, being transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for another two weeks, no answers.

Six weeks of tests, including three lumbar punctures, constant EEGs, a liver biopsy, a muscled tissue biopsy, Echocardiography, Genetic Screenings, Abdominal Ultrasounds of an enlarged liver and high enzyme readings, four MRIs, tests for Wilson's Disease, Herpes and Hepatitis, hourly blood tests, daily blood tests, lead poisoning tests, carbon monoxide poisoning tests, cytogenetic tests, and countless others the Carradines didn't even know about: NOTHING. An infectious disease specialist saw Katrina for a while, but found NOTHING.

Katrina's final diagnosis was meningo encephalitis of unknown etiology. No virus found. No bacterial infection discovered. The doctors talked of a possible toxin, but it was never pursued.

Katrina was finally home. But, for how long?

In July, 1994, the Carradine's moved to Dallas, Texas. A new friend and neighbor suggested Katrina's symptoms were reactions to aspartame. She gave Carmen an article published by a consumer group concerned about NutraSweet safety, the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network. Handing her the ACSN's telephone number, she said, "It couldn't hurt to check it out."

Jay and Carmen were interested in all the information they could get. For the first time since Katrina's illness, they found some answers that made sense.

Katrina occasionally had Kool Aid® with aspartame. Carmen fed her yogurt with aspartame when sugar-sweetened was not available. Katrina took sips of Jay's diet drinks. Carmen used aspartame some during pregnancy. Her OB/GYN said it was fine. None of these foods were given to Katrina regularly, maybe once or twice a week. Where could she have gotten enough aspartame to create such serious symptoms?

Carmen called the NutraSweet Company to ask if they had ever received complaints like hers. They claimed to have no idea what she was talking about. They mailed her brochures advertising all the products NutraSweet is found in, professing complete aspartame safety.

The information told her the answer. She knew how Katrina got ill! Katrina's daily children's multiple vitamins contained aspartame. Carmen never knew they contained aspartame because the chewable vitamins were not labeled 'sugar-free.'

Carmen bought the popular children's vitamin for Katrina in October and religiously gave them to her until January 9. On October 13, a few days after she started the vitamins, Katrina was taken to the emergency room with a concussion. She had 'stumbled' and fallen. She began developing strange repercussions. She had a hard time standing. She'd stand in one spot with her finger pointed out, turning in circles and mumbling. Carmen talked to the pediatrician about Katrina's strange reflexes. To test Carmen's concerns, the pediatrician asked Katrina 'who her mommy was.' Katrina went over to the nurse, pointed, and called her 'mommy.'

Katrina could no longer see well. She began to develop earaches, often. Her mother started Katrina on a children's pain reliever, unaware IT also contained aspartame. Katrina was given vitamins and pain relievers containing aspartame without her mother's knowledge. More vitamins, more aspartame, more earaches, more sugar-free pain relievers.

Home from the hospital, Katrina was on prescribed anticonvulsants. Carmen did not start her back on vitamins until she weaned her completely from the medication. Seizure free for over one year, Carmen started Katrina back on her favorite chewable vitamins. One week later, the same symptoms as before her illness reappeared. Katrina began complaining of stomach pains and diarrhea, she began stumbling and falling down.

About this time, Carmen was first introduced to information concerning aspartame. She began to put two and two together. Was aspartame in Katrina's vitamins? Yes, but why? Katrina didn't need sugar-free vitamins. Carmen took the vitamins away from Katrina, and her returning symptoms disappeared. The coincidence of all!

Katrina suffered from acute toxicity, lethargy, confusion, impairment of articulation, sever headaches, abdominal pain, vertigo, and temporary visual loss. All symptoms of aspartame toxicity. Katrina also had nausea, unsteady gate, and unusually high liver enzyme levels.

Katrina. She has suffered so much, and has a hard life ahead of her. She is in need of speech therapy. Her behavior is unpredictable. She requires special schooling. Her diet will have to be watched very closely from now on. Her parents must scrutinize all her meals and snacks. Eating out is risky; who knows what additives are found in contemporary foods.

Katrina can never have aspartame again. It is hidden in so many things. Her life will never be the same.

April 6, 1995

Mary Nash-Stoddard

Aspartame Consumer Safety Network

PO Box 780634

Dallas, Texas 75378

Dear Mary,

After talking with you a few weeks ago, I felt a kind of excitement and relief because I was FINALLY getting an answer to what happened to my daughter in January of 1994. Just 10 days after her third birthday, she nearly died, and would have had my husband not known CPR, and had an ambulance and medical team not been only two blocks away...

Is my child's life worth nothing? It makes me very, very angry that the FDA has allowed something to be put into my children's food that can harm them and even take their lives. The FDA knows it has already taken lives. Are millions of dollars being spent buying up books and other literature so the public doesn't have a chance to read the truth?

I am very grateful to have been informed, and I know from our prior experience that my child could be dead by now if the ACSN had not chosen to speak out. Katrina had so many symptoms listed on the FDA complaint list, I knew immediately, without a doubt, she was a victim of aspartame poisoning. I knew it, even before I figured out where she was getting her largest, regular dose of it.

It was helpful for me to be able to put down the words, kind of like therapy. I will remain in contact and will do what I can to help you in your efforts to let people know the dangers of aspartame. Thank you for your help, and advice, and for listening!

Yours very truly,

Carmen Carradine

In 1998, Janet Starr Hull approached Carmen Carradine to help in the organization of Children Harmed By Aspartame. If you or someone you know has a child who has been permanently damaged by the artificial sweetener aspartame, please contact Sweet Poison's web site: for information on how to receive assistance, or write:


PO Box 239

Melissa, Texas 75454.

The following is a case history taken from Sweet Poison.

December 7, 1987. Patty Crain was a beautiful girl. She enjoyed a normal and healthy life until she mysteriously dropped dead at age twenty-three. Cause: Death Unknown. Patty's mother, Betty Hailand, witnessed the tragedy evolve.

Patty was Betty's adopted daughter. She was the 'All-American girl.' Suddenly out of nowhere, Patty developed eye problems, experiencing blurred vision accompanied by bad headaches. Betty took Patty to have her eyes examined. The doctor found nothing wrong with her eyesight. Patty and Betty were frustrated because they knew something was wrong.

One day after work, Patty returned to her apartment complaining that her vision was intolerably blurred, and she was experiencing unbearable head pain. She progressively grew worse through the night and willingly admitted herself to the hospital emergency room early the next morning. The E.R. doctor diagnosed Patty with a common case of the flu. He routinely ordered medication for her nausea, immediately prescribed IVs to be administered to her while in the E.R. for severe dehydration (she required three IVs), and sent her home after they had done all they could for her. She was told to drink plenty of liquids, which she always did - plenty of diet drinks. She went home and drank countless diet colas to sate her dehydration.

Two days later, Patty's health was returning to normal. Two days after that, Patty was dead on the floor of her apartment. Apparently, she died while home from work around 4:00 P.M. Her hands tightly clinched and her tongue sharply bitten. Empty diet drink cans scattered throughout her apartment.

There was no official cause for the grand mal seizure that ended Patty's life at age twenty-three, but Betty knew what killed her daughter. She always maintained Patty died from the aspartame found in NutraSweet diet products.

Betty charged that her daughter was addicted to aspartame. Patty incessantly drank no fewer than six diet drinks every day and perpetually added in excess of five packets of Equal® to one glass of iced tea.

Betty never stopped believing her daughter's death was connected to her heavy consumption of aspartame. In the memory of her daughter's 'cause of death unknown' as stated on her death certificate, Betty devotedly battled The NutraSweet Company and fought the suppression of information concerning the dangers connected to this chemical sweetener. As a mother fighting for her child, Betty never gave up the battle to prove she was right.

In 1991, Betty was found shot to death in her Vista, California home. She was taking a bath when her assailant broke into the bathroom and shot her while she was in the bathtub. To date, the L.A. police have not apprehended her murderer.



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