Feeling Blue Over Skin Color

That's how Rosemary Jacobs of suburban New York became a victim of argyria. She remembers when her own family doctor prescribed it when she was just 11 years old. She used it for about three years.

"He wrote a prescription for nose drops," she said, "and I took them when I had a stuffy nose."

Not everyone who took silver got argyria, but Jacobs was one of the unlucky ones. Ironically, as a white woman, she often suffered discrimination based on the color of her skin.

"I was facially disfigured when I was a teenager," she said. "And that made it difficult to get jobs, to get apartments, and to get dates."

No Cure

But unlike Karason, Jacobs tried everything -- including dermabrasion -- to get rid of the blue-grey. But she says the results weren't pretty.

"As a result of the dermabrasion, I went from being a solid grey to being a spotty grey," she said. "Now I've got all these pink patches. Originally I was all grey or grey-blue."

Jacobs said that makeup wasn't a solution either.

"I've gone to the people that sell the makeup that covers skin blemishes," she said. "And they apply the makeup. But I go from one unnatural color to another unnatural color."

Jacobs said argyria has changed her life completely.

"I've been very, very depressed, and angry," she said, "because I've been called names in the street, by strangers who don't like the way that I look."

Jacobs said that even well-meaning strangers, seeing her ghostly color, assumed she was going into cardiac arrest.

"I was leaving Germany on the plane once. And suddenly, I had the stewardess running over, wanting to know if I wanted oxygen! I'm like, 'No, no, I'm fine, thank you!'" she said. "And I know they're afraid I'm going to drop dead."

Never married, Jacobs lives alone in rural Vermont. And her lifetime of anguish turned her into an activist. She's outraged that, although mainstream medicine mostly rejected colloidal silver decades ago, it's still being advertised and sold as an alternative therapy for everything from HIV to polio and even the common cold.

But it was those very types of health claims that attracted Karason to colloidal silver. Until last year, he too lived alone.

But at age 57, he fell in love with a woman named Jackie Northup. It began as a telephone romance and it was seven months before they actually met face to face. Jackie remembers her reaction on seeing Paul for the first time.

"I kind of went, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!' But I was already in love with the man," she said. "And so [his face] didn't really matter."

Karason later moved to California to be with her and they recently got engaged.

And he's decided to embrace his blue-ness. He regularly goes out in public, enduring the stares of passers-by. And though he used to be shy, even reclusive, he now enjoys his local celebrity status as "the Blue Man." When he went recently to the Farmers Market in Clovis, Calif., several people stopped and asked to take a picture with him.

Blue No Longer a Favorite Color

Karason is so popular that a young relative of Northup's invited him to visit his sixth-grade class, where the students bombarded him with questions like:

"Do like people make fun of you?"
"Do you ever feel comfortable like going out to places and knowing that they're talking about you?"
"Are people scared of you when they see you?"
"How long does it take for you to turn blue?"
"If there was a cure for you would you wanna take it and go back or stay blue?"

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