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Trapped behind a mask; United Kingdom
Contamination level: Severe illness! Forced to abandon a home.
Author: Cathleen Turner Created: 22 Aug 2006 Updated: 25 Aug 2006 Viewed: 5055 time(s)
Meet the woman whose 'Ninja suit' has allowed her to re-enter a dangerous world of mobiles and microwaves after 18 years
This case file has 1 entry and has been commented by 8 people

SHE may be a bizarre sight dressed in a silver- coloured balaclava and matching gloves. Created: 25 Aug 2006
'It was my first encounter with all these "new" gadgets.' As technology advanced, her condition worsened and in 1988 she was forced to give up work.
SHE may be a bizarre sight dressed in a silver- coloured balaclava and matching gloves.

But this odd outfit has allowed Cathleen Turner to re-enter the world after an 18-year exile.

Since 1988, she has been allergic to technology. Hypersensitive to the massive electromagnetic field created by computers, mobile phones and electronic appliances, she has lived as a recluse from the 21st century.

As one of a highly vulnerable minority of people, the proximity to appliances the rest of us take for granted rob her of the ability to function intellectually and physically.

Electromagnetic waves from mobiles and computers even supermarket scanners hit her with the force of a physical blow and can literally knock her down.

'Someone passing within a few feet talking on a mobile can completely debilitate me,' says the 55-year-old former teacher, whose home is free of the electronic equipment that is so much a part of everyone else's life.

But now, thanks to her 'Ninja suit' a less than fashionable ensemble of balaclava, top, trousers and gloves Catherine is a liberated woman. The recently developed suit is laced with pure silver wire thread, which deflects the electromagnetic field around her body. 'It looks strange, but you can't know the joy of going to a supermarket without ending up in a wheelchair,' she said.

'Or your legs turning to rubber as you pass a microwave oven or come in contact with someone on a mobile phone.' Cathleen, a former teacher who began showing symptoms of electrosensitivity (ES) as far back as 1977, suffers from its severest form. Doctors say it is a growing problem.

Dr Jean Monro, a specialist in the field and medical director of London's Breakspear Hospital, has treated 500 patients who suffer to some degree.

She said: 'Every living cell has what is known as a "perception" of electromagnetic frequencies. The problem is that when this reaction to electromagnetic fields is acutely sensitive, it becomes a threat.

'A century ago, there was no such thing. Nowadays, as we use more and more appliances, we live in an electromagnetic smog.' Most people are able to absorb the waves, but some exhibit symptoms of over- exposure such as headaches, altered sleep patterns and tiredness.

Until recently, the syndrome was effectively confined to those working with computers, but as they have become more commonplace, the number of sufferers has increased.

It is believed that 2 per cent of the population may be affected to some degree. Cathleen is at the far end of the spectrum.

Rod Read, director of Electro-Sensitivity UK, said: 'Her case is very severe, but we know of at least 300 people who exhibit symptoms. In the past it may have been dismissed as something like flu, but the pathology is now established. It has a huge detrimental physical effect.' Cathleen, who lives in Argyll, said: 'When it started, I had no idea what it was, but it seemed to hit me at lunchtimes. In hindsight, I now realise it was caused by the computer in the staffroom at my school.

Cathleen, who is one of the longest sufferers of the rare condition,
said: 'I lose the use of my legs when I'm around mobiles, microwave cookers, computers, scanners and videos.' She can just manage to use her oldfashioned TV but her house is otherwise empty of electronic appliances.

'Anything modern plays havoc with me,' she said 'A neighbour installed an alarm system some time ago and it was so bad I couldn't walk past it.' She blames her ailment for never having married. 'It has severely damaged my social life,' she said. 'When it strikes, it effects my motor system. I get a brain fog. It's not painful, but I can't think and my brain can't tell my body what it should be doing.

'And I can't visit my family. They have to come and see me and switch off all their mobiles before they arrive.' Cathleen also suffers from extreme fatigue and digestive problems when she is hit by the electromagnetic waves and it can take her a week to recover. Even the ships, packed with navigational equipment, on the river near her home affect her.

She says: 'Every time one goes past with all that equipment, I can't even move around the home. And once I was walking down the street when a fleet of helicopters flew overhead. I nearly ended up on my knees.

'And when I had to visit my sick mother in hospital, I had to go in a wheelchair because of all the scanners and computer equipment.' Partial salvation came when Cathleen discovered that Hitek, an English firm, was manufacturing suits that can be worn by sufferers.

'They have been fabulous,' she says.

'Though, oddly, when I contacted them, they asked if I had an email.' But the suit has changed her life.

She said: 'It's opened up so many doors for me. When I did my first trip around the supermarket I was jumping up and down for joy. I am now looking forward to going on holiday.

'Before, I had to choose remote spots like the Lake District out of season, when no one else is around.

'Now I'd like to travel abroad. I don't know if the suit would allow me to get on a plane because until now airports were a no-go area. I've only had it a short time so I don't know exactly how much it can protect me.' Jim Lawson, the operations director of Hitek, says: ' With the silver thread, the outfit acts like a suit of armour.' The suit, which costs Pounds 125, has only been sent to seven people in the UK.

But Cathleen gives it her backing.

'Thanks to it, I'm on my way back to some sort of normality,' she said.
BYLINE: JIM MCBETH
Daily Mail (London)
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