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It was during the bankruptcy, Hudson says during a July 1995 lecture, that an uncle handed him a book about alchemy, the ancient science whose practitioners seek to turn common metals into gold and discover "white powder gold," a mythical elixir of longevity. Hudson became convinced that his material was this same elixir.
"Basically, what I have done is create a basic analytic breakthrough," he says during one lecture. "What it means is, you can fill yourself with light."
This light, Hudson says, actually corrects faulty DNA, restoring perfect health to all who ingest it. During a May 1994 deposition with Robert Q. Hoyt, a Tucson attorney representing Leslie Burroughs' survivors, Hudson waxed poetic about his miracle substance.
Hudson: "Think for a minute if all of us could read the hearts and minds of everyone in this room."
Hoyt: "We would be like gods."
Hudson: "That's right. We don't need attorneys, we don't need courts . . . because all of us already know the truth."
In 1983, about the time David Hudson was launching his quest to determine the makeup of his miracle substance, Leslie Burroughs was checking into University Medical Center in Tucson, filled with hope.
Unable to conceive a child with her husband, Bill, Leslie had turned to the hospital in the hope that artificial insemination would allow her and Bill to start a family. She would, in fact, conceive, but lose the child to a miscarriage.
She was inseminated several more times, without success, her mother, Martha Krupp, says.
Several years after losing the baby, Leslie learned she was HIV-positive, and that she had contracted the virus during the first artificial insemination. The sperm donor, it turned out, had the disease. Of the 13 women to receive his sperm, though, Burroughs was the only one who tested positive for HIV. She received an out-of-court settlement from University Medical Center.
In hindsight, Krupp says, there were indications that all was not well with Leslie.
"I just figured she was under a lot of pressure from work, from not being able to have a child, those kinds of things," Krupp says. "I had no idea what those pressures really were."
Though infected with HIV, Leslie continued to put in long hours at the thriving Tucson nursery in which she was part owner.
She applied the same vigor to the fight against her illness, making every effort to stay on top of the latest breakthroughs in treatments. Despite her efforts, the disease was beginning to wear her down by 1992. Growing progressively weaker as her immune system shut down, Leslie sold her share in the nursery and sought refuge in the cool climes of Flagstaff.
It was around this time that Leslie tuned in to a television show featuring discussions with doctors who were at the forefront of AIDS research. Leslie called the California office of one of the featured doctors, and was referred to Dr. David Payne of Mesa.
Krupp says, "She had heard that he was one of the best."
Despite the dressing down he took last month at the hands of the Board of Osteopathic Examiners, Dr. David Payne remains defiant and unflappable.
The embattled doctor says he has agreed to an interview because there are issues that have been overlooked in the rush to vilify him as a quack. Mainly, he says, those issues have to do with a patient's right to choose alternative therapies.
"Patients basically have two options when they're at the end stage of HIV disease," Payne says. "They can sit around and say, 'Woe is me.' Or they can say, 'Maybe there's something out there that will work for me. If it works, I'll have bought myself some time. And if it doesn't, at least I'll have added to the pool of knowledge.'"
Payne lists several common AIDS treatments that once were viewed as ludicrous. One of them is a treatment for a type of pneumonia that, early on, was among the most lethal infections accompanying AIDS. In desperation to stop the pneumonia, a group of physicians, including Payne, began having patients inhale a mist containing small amounts of a drug. Until then, the drug had been administered intravenously.
"Everyone said, 'You can't do that--you'll rot their lungs out,'" Payne says. "Well, we didn't rot their lungs out, but what we did manage to do was drastically cut down on the incidence of that type of infection."
As for Leslie Burroughs, Payne says that her death was unfortunate but inevitable. When she came to see him, he says, her T-cell count--a tally of infection-fighting white blood cells that is used as a barometer of the disease's progress--had already plunged to nine. T-cell count in a healthy person is in the thousands.
"By the time the T-cell count drops below 200, a person is considered to have mature AIDS. By the time it's at nine, the patient is usually dead," Payne says, adding that Leslie Burroughs likely would have succumbed to an opportunistic infection within a month.
Payne says Burroughs was grasping at straws by the time she came to him in early 1994 "or else she wouldn't have sought me out in the first place."