An Encinitas woman was behind bars Wednesday for allegedly practicing medicine without a license, leaving a Lyme disease patient severely ill.
Federal agents and detectives with the California Medical Board arrested Kathleen Ann Helms, 57, late Monday afternoon, according to the FBI.
Authorities began investigating Helms, also known as Catherine Bright- Helms, based on complaints to the state Medical Board accusing her of falsely representing herself as a doctor of naturopathy in Encinitas and Oak Park, Ill.
Helms, who operated a business called BrightHouse Wellness on North El Camino Real in Encinitas, allegedly had been diagnosing Lyme disease patients and advising them to undergo a treatment plan that involved the infusion of dimethyl sulfoxide, injections of animal cells and taking vitamins, the FBI reported.
According to an affidavit in the case, Helms diagnosed a patient with the inflammatory illness after examining a sample of blood under a microscope, then prescribed a treatment plan that included shots of bovine stem cells from Germany.
Helms directed the patient to go to a Tijuana hospital to have a peripherally inserted central line put into one of her arms so Helms could give treatments intravenously. The patient agreed to pay $300 for the insertion of the line and $30,000 for the treatment Helms recommended.
The patient suffered multiple complications with the insertion of the line and had to return to Tijuana three times to make the line functional.
The patient subsequently returned to Helms' office, where she was hooked to an IV and infused with four bags of dimethyl sulfoxide, an experimental medicinal solvent, and two stem-cell injections in the stomach. The treatment session took about seven hours, according to the FBI.
The patient returned to Helms' office three more times and underwent a similar regime of care that included infusions and injections. On the evening of the last treatment, the woman became seriously ill at home and was taken to an emergency room and immediately placed in an intensive-care unit.
The patient initially was told she only had hours to live because her organs were shutting down, but ultimately was hospitalized for six weeks, then placed into a skill-nursing facility and later an assisted-living facility.
Investigators believe there are other victims in the case.
Helms was booked into Las Colinas women's jail in Santee. She was scheduled to be arraigned in downtown San Diego on Wednesday afternoon.
-City News Service