INA – Those who find Rend Lake College Math Professor Cindy Caldwell to be an extremely unique individual now have documented proof.
Caldwell suffers from xerostomia, otherwise known as chronic dry mouth. Millions of people have it, but her case happens to be among only two percent of those for which specialists cannot pinpoint a cause.
Taking her battle one step further, Caldwell has enlisted in a case study with Dr. Juan Yepes at the University of Kentucky to get to the bottom of why her body isn’t producing enough saliva and hopefully reverse that misfortune forever. It’s an investigation that has Caldwell hanging her hat on modern science from halfway around the world.
“I am going to be a human ‘guinea pig’!” she stated. “I have had this dry mouth since the beginning of December, 2007. Yes, almost a year. The dry mouth is 24-seven. Some days are better than others, but it definitely makes life miserable. I do take medication but the side effects are not good.”
On Tuesday, impressions of her upper and lower teeth were taken and prepared for shipment to Israel. There, specialists will use those impressions to fit her for a device designed to stimulate her body’s salivary production. She should get the finished product in mid-January, at which time Yepes will teach her how to use it.
The device is the Saliwell GenNarino, a totally non-invasive option for sufferers of xerostomia. The salivary stimulation electronics are embedded inside a mouth-guard- like device and can be taken in and out at the patient’s will.
Caldwell admitted to being a little skeptical of a curing device arriving in the mail from Israel.
“I did tell the doctor, ‘I hope it’s not a placebo.’ He said it’s not. During the first or second month, there are times the device will be inactive … to test if it is truly helping me or not. But, I won’t know when it will be inactive. That’s where I am so far. Once I put that in, he said he will give me more details on what I need to do.”
One thing she will do is keep a diary for her doctors to use in the study.
Tests have shown Caldwell only produces about one-fifth the spit of a normal person. It’s a problem many find comical, but one that is very real and very uncomfortable for the 49-year-old teacher from Christopher. Those antagonists might not find it so funny if they were told to give up their morning coffee or their after-meal cigarette. To them, and everyone else, Caldwell says, “Don’t take your saliva for granted.
“You couldn’t smoke cigarettes,” she said. “I can drink coffee somewhat and water helps at times. I can’t drink tea at all. It just dries it up. As far as soda goes, I can drink a little, but if I drink too much my tongue starts stinging … I have a burning sensation. It feels like someone has come in with cotton and taken the saliva out. My lips are dry all the time. I’m constantly putting ChapStick on.”
The tests confirmed that she had xerostomia. But, much to her relief, they also confirmed it is not caused by cancer or any other disease, therefore Caldwell was placed in that rare two percent eligible for the case study.
“That’s a good thing,” Caldwell said about the tests ruling out a contributing condition. “But then, I’m thinking, ‘Gee whiz, I’m going to have to live with this the rest of my life?’ So, when this study came up, he asked if I wanted to be a study patient and I said, ‘Yes.’
“It gives me hope,” she said. “I’m very optimistic that it will work. At least, I’m praying to God that it will.”