Teenager Alex Visker suffers severe allergic reactions when he eats all solid foods. One bite can cause food allergy sufferer Alex to experience extreme headaches, bone and muscles aches, stomach convulsions, brain fog and anaphylaxis.
He is also allergic to environmental elements such as perfumes, paints, car filters, freshly cut grass, latex and car fumes.
He stopped eating solid foods in 2013, and has been using a feeding tube ever since.
At one point Alex, 6ft 2in, weighed only 155lb. The 19-year-old has gone to dozens of doctors and specialists who have been unable to pinpoint his illness – leaving him undiagnosed today.
Alex, from Lehi, Utah, says, ‘I got to a point where I was just basically starving myself to death because food made me hurt and feel so sick.
‘If I inhale certain perfumes, I get what’s called brain fog which is literally the equivalent of not sleeping for like two to three days and not being able to think.
‘If I eat tomatoes I actually get a high temperature.
‘It’s changed a lot of things for me – I’ve had to rethink how I do a lot of things to make it work for me.’
Alex has been experiencing health problems his whole life – starting with a common peanut allergy.
Alex’s mother, Jodie Visker, 45, says: ‘From the time he was really young he had a lot of symptoms. He had really bad headaches, so bad we had an MRI done when he was 5.
‘He’s had such a wide variety of symptoms it’s one of the reasons why it was so difficult to pinpoint what was happening to him.
‘It’s heartbreaking. It’s been so hard to watch – as a parent you want to fix it, you want to take it away and find answers,’ continues Jodie.
‘We have had many doctors who didn’t have a clue what it was – they would throw up their hands and say, “We don’t know how to help you.”
‘People don’t believe you, teachers, doctors, neighbours, people just think you’re crazy or making it up.’
Most recently, under the care of Dr Gleich, Alex has received some relief after being prescribed Xolair, a mast cell stabiliser injection he gets twice a month.
‘It overall makes me feel better – it’s mainly used to treat asthma but with my allergies it seems to help a lot,’ says Alex. ‘It helps me get out of bed and not go down into anaphylaxis.’
Because eating foods makes him severely ill, he gets his nutrients from a protein-free formula through a feeding tube that he utilises every day around meal times.
‘I sit down at the dinner table with my family and I have my tube out and I put food in and join in conversations. I’ve never wanted my family to feel bad about me not being able to eat food,’ he says.
The illness has caused Alex to miss more than 300 days of school in two years. He also had to quit playing the saxophone and clarinet because he was allergic to the reeds.
However, Alex managed to graduate high school with high grades and plans to further his education from home.
‘When things are taken from you you realise how blessed you are to be able to do certain things,’ says Alex. ‘I am grateful that I have what I have and it’s a whole new perspective.
‘My hope is that I can do computer programming, get a job from home, and one day start a family.’
It cost Alex’s family $7,000 (£4,500) every month for Alex’s medications and formulas.
Donations for Alex’s medical costs can be made here.