MONTVERDE — Silas Harger gets to try one new food every month. In November, it was an organic sweet potato, plain, of course, but the 8-year-old Montverde boy was thrilled. And his body tolerated the vegetable, which is a huge deal for him and his family.
When The West Orange Times published a story on Sy in September 2010, he had just been diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, a relatively uncommon inflammatory disease that causes an allergic reaction to all food. At the time, he was surviving on water and a special amino acid-based formula; anything else triggered swelling in his upper and lower esophagus.
Four-and-a-half years later, in addition to sweet potatoes, he can also eat apples; broccoli; vegetable soup with onions, tomatoes, celery, leeks and potatoes; and quinoa oatmeal. He drinks an abundance of carrot juice and green juices with lettuce, chard and green pepper. He can drink apple juice, too, “but he likes to eat (apples) solid,” his father, Jordan Harger, said. “We encourage that because we don’t want him to lose his ability to chew.”
When the family received the official diagnosis nearly five years ago, the Hargers spent two years doing traditional treatment. Sy and his parents, Jordan and Heather Harger, traveled to Cincinnati four times a year, and Sy endured endoscopies and biopsies.
“In-between those periods, he was doing food trials,” Jordan Harger said. “They would introduce about a food a month, and we would go back about every three months to see how he was doing with the endoscopy.
“He was failing every time,” he said.
So, all foods were removed from his diet, and he received his nourishment from an elemental nutrient formula — for a year.
But Sy’s digestive tract was still reacting negatively.
“We thought, ‘Where do we go when your kid isn’t even responding to anything at all?’” Harger said. “Doctors in Cincinnati said, ‘We don’t know what to tell you. Nothing we’re doing is working.’”
One alternative was to put Sy “on a ridiculous amount of steroids,” his dad said. “But there were too many risks, and it wasn’t even a cure. We came home absolutely devastated.”
Then God intervened, Jordan Harger said.
A friend told Heather Harger she had heard about a therapy that is usually used for cancer patients. Could it help Sy?
“At this point, you’re willing to do just about anything,” Jordan Harger said.
THE GERSON THERAPY
In 2012, the Hargers visited the Gerson Institute in San Diego to learn about this new therapy option. After asking all the questions, dedicating hours to researching the therapy and saying many prayers, they decided to try it.
Financially, they didn’t know how they were going to manage it — he’s a firefighter; she home-schools their four children — but their faith has seen them through. A $2,500 juicer was needed for the diet, and one appeared on their doorstep. Members of their church, Mosaic in Oakland, also organized a fundraiser that brought in enough money for more than a year of therapy for Sy; the Hargers stretched it out for 22 months.
“The only explanation is that we have a God that loves us and loves Sy and takes excellent care of us,” Jordan Harger said. “We look back on that in awe.”
The Gerson Therapy is not for the faint of heart, Heather Harger wrote in her No Muck Media blog.
“Although it’s intense, time-consuming and costly, it has been worth it to so many to see their loved ones recover from serious or fatal diseases,” she wrote. “I have to say that I’m very thankful for it, and it’s worth all of the work to see our boy eat again.”
Every day, Heather Harger spends eight hours detoxifying, cleaning, preparing and juicing the foods her son will consume. The juices must be consumed fresh, and Sy must drink the green ones, especially, within two minutes. He drinks 10 to 12 juices a day, and his mother spends three to four hours daily cutting his food: 20 to 25 pounds of produce. The Hargers spend an average of $1,000 each month on Sy’s food.
The full-time commitment to this therapy comes with great sacrifice — “How reduced our lives have become socially, recreationally, relationally,” Jordan Harger wrote — but the Hargers know this and have embraced it for their son’s health.
“If you saw the difference between Sy’s health before the therapy and now, you would understand why we keep going,” he said.
Last November, another endoscopy was done, and doctors were astonished. Sy’s results came back completely normal.
“Once we listened, learned and prayed, we obviously made one of the best decisions we could ever make,” Jordan Harger wrote on the blog. “This decision opened door after door, and we are where we are today because we went all-in on this.”
ENTERING MISSION WORK
One of those doors is the opportunity to share their love of God and put Jordan Harger’s medical knowledge and Heather Harger’s knowledge of nutrition to use in South Africa. The family, which includes three other children, is currently living on the campus of Youth with a Mission in Montverde, a community that specializes in interdenominational missions.
The Hargers started an aquaponic pond to help Sy, but they have used it to share food with people in need, as well.
“We feel like God has directed our path,” Jordan Harger said.
He is taking a trip to South Africa soon to look at what opportunities are available for him to serve medically and for the family to serve a role, too.
“We need a place where we would have what we needed for Sy, in terms of organic and for his therapy, but also to step across the road and serve people in need,” he said. “I believe God wants to use all of our family with our gifts and skills to serve people who need it.
“Sy has been the driving force in this — his desire to share his life and his story and his faith,” he said.
Heather Harger still keeps up with her blog so people whose children have health issues can reach out to her.
And although there is no cure for EE, Sy is in remission.
“Doctors would say he is in remission, (but) we believe that Sy is completely healed,” Jordan Harger said. “We know that this is working. We know that he is healthy. He is doing well.”
WHAT IS GERSON THERAPY?
The alternative dietary Gerson Therapy was developed by Max Gerson (1881-1959), a German-born American physician who originally came up with the idea as a cure for his debilitating migraines. He further claimed it was a cure for cancer and most chronic, degenerative diseases.
This natural treatment activates the body’s extraordinary ability to heal itself through an organic, plant-based diet, raw juices, coffee enemas and natural supplements, according to gerson.org.
Rather than treating only the symptoms of a particular disease, the website states the therapy treats the causes of most degenerative diseases: toxicity and nutritional deficiency. An abundance of nutrients from generous amounts of fresh, organic juices are consumed every day, providing the body with a super-dose of enzymes, minerals and nutrients. These substances then break down diseased tissue in the body, while coffee enemas aid in eliminating toxins from the liver.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].