This is the story of living with a flesh-eating parasite… on my face.

-Post 1: Hello my name is Adam Spencer, and I have a flesh-eating parasite called Leishmaniasis

For over a year now, I’ve been battling a flesh-eating parasite… on my face. My girlfriend and I went on a volunteer trip through South America, and our decision to live in the jungle determined my fate. Despite our vigilant efforts to avoid bullet ants, bot flies, poisonous snakes, malaria, and yellow fever, but when I let my guard down for a mere ten minutes at the end of our stay in the Peruvian Amazon, my life would change completely… CONTINUE READING

-Post 2: Traveling through the Salt Flats of Uyuni: I first noticed the parasite

My first step on this nightmarish journey through Leishmania began in a fittingly surreal location: the Salt Flats of Uyuni. Shalynn and I left the jungles of Manu in early January to travel on through Lake Titicaca and La Paz, and on to Cochabamba, where I had set up a volunteer position working as a documentary producer for Sustainable Bolivia… CONTINUE READING

-Post 3: Kisses on the Cheek

Some how we made it back from Uyuni. It wasn’t easy – that’s for sure! Our train that was supposed to leave at 1AM didn’t leave until 10AM the next morning. Not that I’m a haughty gringo that expects everything to be on time, but we all boarded the train at midnight and expected to be woken up by the lurch of it starting up… CONTINUE READING

-Post 4: ¡Carnaval! Party! Parasite! Purloined!

Carnaval in Oruro is THE Place to be for the beginning of Lent in Bolivia. After we finished our volunteer projects, we went with 50 others from Sustainable Bolivia to the gem of Bolivia. Oruro is a beat up town of 400,000 people that hosts another 200,000 or so for 22 hours straight of dancing and drinking…CONTINUE READING

-Post 5: La Paz Again: The Low Point of our Journey

After getting robbed in Carnaval, after exposing an infection on my face to booze, cold, crowds, and open air at Carnaval, after having the time of my life at Carnaval, the repercussions of our blended fortunes fell heavily upon us…CONTINUE READING

-Post 6: Our Inglorious Return from the Trip of a Lifetime:

My sister and brother-in-law picked us up from the airport. As we walked up to them at the luggage return, wearing our alpaca sweaters, the worn jeans that had been our daily pair for the journey, and me with a large hat and a large bandage on my face, Kyle turned to Shalynn and said, “Well its good we recognize you because he looks like a crazy man!” CONTINUE READING

-Post 7: Medical Mud on the Tracks: Finding a Nickname for a Flesh Eating Parasite

By the time I got home to Oregon it was obvious that the injections I got in Bolivia were not winning the battle. I met with my travel doctor and brought the drugs I got from Bolivia: the bactrum pills I got at a pharmacy and the 4derm ointment and prescriptions for the injection from the doctor in La Paz. Soon I realized I would have to force action to get this thing taken care of…CONTINUE READING

-Post 8: Leishmaniasis: Inception

After struggling with an open wound on my face for nearly three months, I found out that I had a flesh-eating parasite called Leishmaniasis. I had visited several doctors, contemplated empty theories, had chunks ripped off of my face in biopsies, and in the face of the growing realization of the situation I was in, I was actually relieved to learn I had Leishmaniasis…CONTINUE READING

-Post 9: Leishmaniasis: an unpleasant guest.

Development of a parasite (and all those gross pictures you’ve been waiting for).

Leishmaniasis is a flesh-eating parasite common in tropical areas all around the world. It is a protozoa that lives within sand flies, which are one-third of the size of mosquitoes and very hard to trace. The protozoa enters the skin when a sand fly carrying the parasite bites a warm-blooded animal. The white blood cells attack the foreign body but then are not defeated…CONTINUE READING

-Post 10:  Parasite Treatment with Ambisome

In order to treat my Leishmaniasis Brazilienses parasite, I had to begin a 21 day, daily, infusion of a toxic anti-protozoal anti-fungal medicine called Ambisome. The day after I got the official results from the CDC I went in to the hospital to get a PICC line inserted into my arm so I could get the medicine pumped into my body and rapidly diffused by my heart…CONTINUE READING

-Post 11: Becoming the face of leishmaniasis

On a grumpy day in May, 2011 Shalynn began clicking around on the Animal Planet website. A friend had told her that I should submit my story to the show “Monsters Inside Me.” I didn’t think it was that funny, having a tennis ball of oozing scab stuck to my face and a scrape down my throat caused by the monster inside me at the time. But Shay took the initiative and sent a testimony to the generic comments form on the Discovery website… CONTINUE READING

7 Replies to “LeishMan”

  1. Hi adam, first off, thank you for sharing your experience. I returned from costs rica this past February and was diagnosed mid may with leishmaniasis viannia braziliensis. I too have been on amBisome treatments and am about to have my final dose Tuesday. Unfortunately, although the lesions (under my eye) began to heal (scabs falling off) I have noticed one of them flaring up again. Also, because they are so close to the nerve in my upper cheek bone I actually feel sensations of them eating my flesh at times. I appreciate being able to read your story and see your videos because I have a lot of concerns about both the disease and the medication. Which leads to the reason for contacting you… Questions of course!
    Do you feel that your last set of infusions (assuming still amBisome) has killed all the parasites?
    Have you had any negative side effects to your kidneys, liver, of renal function from the amBisome?
    I saw in a video (discovery) that you were diagnosed with mucotaneous leishmaniasis, did this result from the cutaneous form originally?
    If you are healed now, which I certainly hope you are, did the skin heal well? Meaning, are the scars significant or minor?
    Adam, I commend you for your apparent patience through this ordeal. I know how frustrating and aggravating it can be to deal with it and the system sometimes! I live in BC Canada and no one has treated it before (which concerned me quickly!) so everything seems to be a guessing game of wait and see. Another reason I was so happy to see your story because I realized I wasn’t be only person being treated for it in North America!
    Anyways, thanks again and I wish all the best for a total elimination of the little !#%!’s if you have an opportunity to respond I would appreciate it. Of course I understand if you are unable.

    Jodi Barnes

  2. Hey Adam I just watched monsters inside me on animal planet and your story was so crazy I had to follow up with some googling! Thanks for sharing your story and congrats to you and your wife for overcoming such obstacles! Its very inspiring! My boyfriend and I met during a year of volunteering with AmeriCorps and are looking forward to some international traveling together! Yayy for volunteers! Best of luck in the rest of your adventures!

    1. Hi Angelina! Thanks for reaching out and for your work with AmeriCorps. I can only hope more people go out and volunteer and see the positive aspects of my bad luck. Best of luck in 2013!

  3. Adam, I just watched Monster Inside Me, something I rarely do b/c the stories are my worst nightmare over anything that could happen in life – a foreign body infestation feeding off a human body – me. You are very blessed to have a lovely gal inside and out to be there for you and to have survived the horrendous Leishmania. I can only imagine this experience has deepened your bond. Anyway, I’m a serious hobbyist photographer and thought those photos from Bolivia, for your sake, should be some stellar photos, but you haven’t uploaded any photos from Bolivia! From your uploaded photos, I see passion in your life, both yours and capturing cultures from other countries through your lens! Thanks for the inspiration not only in your photos, but your life story! Btw, you also are a gorgeous soul inside and out! Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Hi, Adam. Thanks for sharing your leishmaniasis story. I, too, contracted the disease while travelling.

    I would really appreciate hearing your ordeal with the CDC and the drugs. I have called them from overseas, where I am now, and it hasn’t been too informative.

    Thanks so much.


  5. Adam, You are not alone. I have been informed that a good percent of the Gulf War Syndrome is caused by Leish (middle eastern strain). I have also been informed that it is sexually transmissible. Therefore, if any returning vets that got a sandfly bite from an infected fly (I was told anyone who stepped in the sand did.) had sex, there are a whole lot of people with this in the United States! I was also told that this is a government coverup. The government did not want to pay for the treatment so they would not acknowledge the problem. That is probably why the US has not approved the simple Montenegro skin test to diagnose Leish. You have to be cut to pieces in the United States, as you know, to get a diagnosis. A result is that people are getting diagnosed with other things like fibromyalgia, Lupus, Herpes, etc….Interestingly, the increase in Autism cases correlates with the timeline of the Gulf War. Leish is also sensitive to Alcohol and Mercury I have read online. Alcohol and Mercury have been suspected culprits of Autism! Eureka.

  6. Your story is amazing! I am left wondering how you two are in 2016 . Did you heal enough to get married? You two definitely deserve to have this happy day and celebration!

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