Sandra and Max Desorgher
Sarah travelled with us around the world as president of 'World Community Autism Program' which was a charity we founded in 2001 while we were in South Africa. Sarah always played a full part in our work. She was as much a part of WCAP as we were, talking to the families about her life and experiences with autism and the struggles she went through. Sarah was one of the first people to recover from autism using dietary intervention, and the first to use the special diet that came to be named after her – Sara’s Diet is now spoken of all over the world, and Sarah is famous for her miraculous recovery.
When I first met Sandra and Sarah was in 1997, when I travelled to America to find out more about these people who were already legends in the autism world. We asked her one day while we were coming back from Charlotte, NC from visiting a family with an autistic child: ‘do you want to stay in Morganton, or do you want to travel with Max and I and teach people about autism', she said she wanted to come with us, and that is what happened. She has been with us ever since.
We first went to Africa in 2002, with a holiday in Tunisia and then a flight to Johannesburg. We rented a small house near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal province and lived there among the local population for nearly two years. Sarah made a lot of friends there including Connie, who we met in an African village in Limpopo province. We stayed for two weeks with her family, and during that time, Connie travelled with us to the borders of Zimbabwe to witness the total eclipse of the sun at Musina. All night we listened to South African music at the Eclipse Festival.
In 2003 she came with us to Malaysia. Our visit was organized by the ‘parents for autism’ group who became our friends, including Hin Yue Peng, a journalist on the Star of Malaysia paper, who wrote two articles for the national paper.
Sarah loved the shopping and the many restaurants and the travelling, but above all she loved the people we met, who all treated her with such admiration. She gave such hope to so many families. It was her work as much as ours that helped us to reach out to so many families around the world because she was always so positive and relaxed and happy always wanting to reach out to people, she showed that you can experience these conditions, go through so much suffering, and yet come out of it with a greater love for humanity and a greater passion for life.
The autism was no longer a problem for her, but the epilepsy remained a handicap, yet she never complained about it, and got on with living her life to the full. Above all she loved to go to school and later to college and the freedom that gave her. Wherever she went to school she was loved because she was such a positive student. Her general knowledge was amazing. She studied endlessly, and was particularly interested in reading about countries around the world, so it was especially wonderful for her to get to travel to some of the places she had been reading about since she was at school.
Sarah emerged from the conditions of autism to become an intelligent, positive and delightful person with a great sense of humor who loved life and was loved by many people. She loved swimming, eating out at restaurants, reading, travelling. She liked to watch the food and travel channels on TV as well as going out to the movies.
She remembered everything we ever did. She would say: ‘We haven’t been to a Thai restaurant in a while’ and would remind us of the Thai restaurant in Georgia that we went to on our anniversary. She would remember everything we did on that day, what we ate at the restaurant, what we were wearing. She remembered everybody we met, their names, even their phone numbers. She had a phenomenal memory but not in a mechanical way – it came from a real interest in people’s lives, wanting to know how people lived, what their cultural heritage was, what food they ate.
She had friends on every continent, from Scotland, England, South Africa, Malaysia, India and Arabia as well as America. In that way she was an accomplished world traveller in the absolute sense, equally at home in a temple in Malaysia or a Pentecostal church in Southern Africa. She was no longer dependent on us, travelling to college with her escort, and out with Michael every weekend, and on outings with college friends. She went to Paris with us in 2002 and with Michael in 2005. Still some part of her always yearned for North Carolina, and the people who had first taken her in and rescued her from her horrendous early life, and where she had first seen the world clearly through glasses instead of through a haze.
That place was Glen Alpine in the foothills of the Appalachians. We also lived for a while in a cottage right up in the mountains in a place called Spruce Pine. The area was Cherokee and Sarah once met Chief Two Trees, a Cherokee medicine man. We also had a close friend called Fred Eppely who sold Indian artefacts at the local flea market and had a healing centre called Rising Star. Sarah was baptized in a lake in N. Carolina, and in 1998 she was a witness to my baptism in fresh water before we left for India. Sarah was also a witness at our wedding by the Gazebo in the square in Decatur, Georgia, where it rained and she read ‘There’s always Pooh and Me’ by A.A. Milne.
The Power of Exile, autism, a journey of recovery