Being blue was never a problem for Paul Karason, but since the story about the medical condition that turned his skin almost purple went national, he’s actually feeling pretty good.
“I’m drawing these little crowds everywhere I go,” the California man told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Wednesday. “It feels good. People are pretty positive.”
During a January appearance on TODAY, the 57-year-old Karason had described himself as reclusive and shy. But his fiance, Jackie Northup, told Lauer that the way New Yorkers have embraced him has wrought a change in his personality.
“He’s not such an introvert anymore,” she said. “He’s willing to come out. He loves New York.”
Video shot by NBC of Karason, whose bushy auburn beard is a sharp contrast to his singular complexion, showed people on the streets of the city stopping to talk and encourage him. He’s even getting unsolicited hugs.
When Karason was on the show last month, NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, urged him to get a medical check-up to make sure the silver solution he takes that has caused his skin to permanently turn blue has not damaged his organs. Silver is a heavy metal and can cause liver and kidney damage.
Distrustful of doctors, Karason had started drinking the silver solution 14 years ago after seeing an ad for it in a magazine. He claims it cured several chronic conditions he had, including sinus problems, arthritis and acid reflux. When he put it on his face to treat a severe case of dermatitis, his skin turned blue.
Karason, who moved from Oregon to the Fresno, Calif., area last year, told Snyderman he’d consider seeing a doctor. He returned to the TODAY Show after taking her advice, getting a check-up from Dr. Seth Uretsky, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
“I would say that Mr. Karason is in good physical and medical condition,” Uretsky reported.
Tests showed that his liver function was ‘within normal limits. The doctor noted that a report on the silver levels in his organs isn’t completed, and, he concluded, “Final judgment should be reserved until the blood silver level results are available.”
Karason, who wore a blue denim shirt and suspenders, admitted he was nervous going into the examination. “If they did find something wrong, what was I going to do about it?” he explained. But, he said, “The results were very gratifying.”
He found he even liked Uretsky, a member of the medical establishment that Karason distrusts.
“I like people,” he said.
Karason and Northup had moved to California in search of more acceptance – and a job. He’s still looking for a job. Asked by Lauer what type of work he does, Karason said, “I’ve done all kinds of things; done everything from maintenance to landscape construction. Particularly since I’ve turned blue, janitorial is easy to get into.”
Karason’s conditions is called argyria, and Snyderman said in January it’s caused by the silver that Karason used to treat his dermatitis and continues to drink in a liquid form called colloidal silver.
Colloidal silver is a suspension of silver in a liquid base – in this case distilled water. Karason makes it himself by running an electrical current through water with a piece of silver in it, a process called electrolysis.
Silver has antibacterial properties and has been used to fight infection for thousands of years. But it went out of use when penicillin, which is far more effective, was developed.
It continued to be used in some over-the-counter medicines until 1999, when the FDA banned it because it causes argyria, which is a result of the silver reacting with light the same way it does in photography. The silver collects in the skin and other organs and does not dissipate. Silver is a heavy metal and doctors say it can collect in the organs and cause kidney and liver damage and even brain seizures. But it is still sold as a dietary supplement.
Snyderman had said she would not endorse anyone taking colloidal silver. “It’s not something I recommend because there’s no science behind it,” she said. “I worry about the safety, and the FDA has been very strong in saying there’s no reason to take it.”
But Karason continues to drink his daily cocktails of colloidal silver. During his first appearance on TODAY, he joked that if he stopped, “I might not be able to levitate anymore.”