There was no time to lose. This could not happen again. I refused to lose another son to opiate addiction. I had to do it differently this time. I had to get it right this time.

For my oldest son Seth, there was no practice round. He died of an accidental opiate overdose three months after leaving his first time in rehab in 2012.

Four years after Seth’s death, I learned that my youngest son, Michael, had started using heroin. He said he just wanted to find out why Seth used it, and now he knew. He said he would stop. A month later, a family road trip to Phoenix revealed that not to be true. He spent the weekend going through withdrawals. Again, he said he would stop. I believed him.

Perhaps he was telling the truth and he wanted to stop. Perhaps he was just saying what I wanted to hear. It didn’t matter anyway. Over the next three months, I saw my son transform into a liar and a thief. He could barely attend college classes. He became harsh and uncaring. I didn’t recognize my son anymore.

Michael’s lies and theft were discovered when he had asked me to help his dad (Lou) pay a utility bill. I agreed to do so. I had helped his dad in the past. However, a discussion with Lou revealed Michael had told his dad he paid the bill with his dad’s bank card. The truth was Michael had emptied his dad’s bank account to buy heroin.

Dealing with Heroin Withdrawal

This was the moment I knew that if the drug use didn’t stop right then, I would lose another son. He had been injecting two grams of heroin daily. His next fix could very well be the end of his life. I asked Michael if this was the life he wanted, Did he want to be a slave to a drug that would result in the loss of his family, college education, and any hope for a meaningful future? He sincerely said no. He wanted to stop.

I needed to hear that. I knew it wouldn’t always seem that way on this journey we were about to begin. I knew there would be times he would want to use again. But I felt that if somewhere down deep, he really did want to have a life that would enable him to get a bio-engineering degree, restore his health, and take this relentless monkey off his back, then I would do everything I could to get him the help he needed.

Michael had been living in Santa Monica with his dad and his half-brother Ryan. After finding out about Michael’s interest in trying heroin, Ryan encouraged his use, to the point of physical dependency, Michael and I immediately departed for my ranch in central California the day I found out about the lies surrounding the utility bill. I needed to get him away from the influence of his brother and easy access to heroin.

heroin-withdrawal-symptomsNot long after we arrived, the withdrawal symptoms started. I had to find a solution quickly. Michael had previously obtained Suboxone to ease some of the symptoms until we figured out what to do. It was Friday, and we couldn’t get an appointment at a Methadone clinic until Monday. It was going to be a long weekend.

I called my husband’s pain management doctor for advice since he deals with patients who get addicted to prescription opiate medication. He recommended going to the local emergency room, where Michael could get some temporary relief of his painful withdrawal symptoms: headache, nausea, back pain, sweating, restless legs, insomnia. The doctor also urged me to consider avoiding Methadone altogether. He said that Methadone was a dreadful drug for addressing opiate addiction and would likely cause further problems down the road. But he didn’t have any answers other than some prescription drugs to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

We spent all day Saturday in the emergency room. They gave Michael an IV, a relaxant, and anti-nausea medication and prescriptions of the same to take home. We hoped this would help him until Monday when he would go to the Methadone clinic.

Michael was hanging in there, doing the best he could. At least I knew he couldn’t get any heroin, and he was in my care. But the doctor’s words about avoiding Methadone stayed with me. I thought there must be a better solution. I felt uncomfortable settling for Michael to be enslaved to another drug, even if this one was legal. So I did what any mother facing a family medical crisis would do: I went to that strange and wonderful place called the internet.

For hours, I looked for an alternative to Methadone. I did find a local MD who administered NAD intravenously, claiming that it relieved opiate withdrawal symptoms. This sounded encouraging. NAD (Nicatinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) is a simple metabolic coenzyme of Niacin, which is a B vitamin that restores energy to mitochondria in the body. I started searching for more information about it. Then I hit the jackpot.

I Had Never Heard of Ibogaine

That fateful search led me to a website: TheHolisticSanctuary.com. It was a treatment facility that addressed addiction using a holistic methodology. It came up in the search because part of their protocol for treating opiate addiction included NAD. But this place was different than any rehab facility I had ever encountered. For the first time, I saw a reference to plant medicines, ibogaine, and the Pouyan Method. I had no idea what they were talking about, but clients said there were no longer addicted to drugs in a very short time. I also found there were other clinics that worked with this strange substance called ibogaine.

It was almost midnight on Saturday. I was getting very tired, but I was on to something. For an hour, I looked for everything I could find about ibogaine. Fortunately, I found a Youtube video, so I went off to bed with my tablet in hand and watched an hour-long documentary about this unknown substance. When I finished, it was 2 a.m., and I was intrigued. I considered waking up my son so he could see it, too, but I decided to get some sleep so I would be rested for the journey I was about to embark upon.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I immediately went into Michaels’s room. Sadly, he had been up most of the night going through withdrawals. I told him that I had found something that I wanted him to see. We went downstairs to the family room TV, loaded Youtube, and watched the ibogaine documentary together. Michael had never heard of ibogaine, but after seeing the video, he said he was willing to try it.

Ibogaine comes from the root of the Iboga plant, which grows only in West Central Africa. It provides a psychedelic experience that also seems to reset the nerve receptors to a pre-addictive state. When the treatment is properly administered, the sensation of addiction is gone. It also often involves an introspective experience, which usually has a positive emotional effect on the user. Ibogaine itself is not addictive, but it is considered a Schedule I drug due to its psychedelic properties. Ibogaine is illegal in the United States.

It became immediately clear to me why US pharmaceutical companies are not interested in developing ibogaine for addiction treatment. It is often only administered once. Addiction treatment drugs like methadone are usually taken for years. Little money would be made in ending drug addiction in one treatment. With the pharmaceutical companies against it, the FDA followed along. Hence, the Schedule I designation – and it was made illegal, for good measure. Ibogaine is legal in Mexico, Canada, and various other countries.

Finding a Clinic

The process to find a treatment facility began. I made a list of ibogaine clinics in Baja California, Mexico. We were fortunate to be in California, so the trip to Mexico would not be burdensome.

But how does a mother choose an ibogaine clinic for her son? It was not as easy as it may seem. I called almost every clinic on my list. The prices varied from $3,000 to $25,000. They all offered different levels of service and amenities. And most importantly, would they keep my son safe?

In searching for a clinic, I posted a message on a closed Facebook group for Ibogaine, asking for recommendations. It seems there is a lot of animosity between the clinics, and some clinic owners say negative things about others. This was very disconcerting. I was sending my son to another country to take a drug that requires medical supervision, and there were clinic owners bad-mouthing other clinics. It was so difficult to know what to believe. My head was spinning.

In speaking to several clinics, getting private messages from former patients, and doing what I thought would be best, we decided on a clinic. This one seemed to provide good medical supervision and looked like a safe, clean environment. It was also one of the less expensive options. Price was a factor because I did not have much available in the way of funds, and insurance does not cover ibogaine treatment.

Suboxone interferes with ibogaine treatment. Because Michael had been taking small amounts of it, we needed to wait at least a week before entering a clinic to ensure it was out of his system. Most people are on Suboxone for a long time, so we were told that Michael’s brief, intermittent use would not be an issue. Normally, people on Methadone or Suboxone need to wait at least 30 days before an ibogaine treatment.

Buying Heroin for My Son

So I asked the clinic owner what we should do to help Michael’s withdrawal symptoms if he had to wait a week to come to the clinic. I REALLY did not like the answer: He needed to stay on heroin. As a mother, this was one of the most difficult things I would have to do for my son.

On Monday morning, Michael cancelled the Methadone appointment, and I took him to his father’s house in Southern California. I gave him money to buy enough heroin for minimal daily doses until we left for Mexico the following week. Michael seemed to enjoy the irony of his mom knowingly paying for his heroin. But I did not have the same appreciation. I was afraid something terrible would happen before we even left for Mexico.

Finally, the day came to take Michael to Mexico. He took his last dose of heroin, and off we went.

The clinic owners offered to meet us in San Diego and take Michael from there. But I decided to take him to the clinic myself so I could see the location and make the final decision on leaving him there. I didn’t really have a backup plan, but I was hoping for the best, and I was feeling confident about the clinic I had chosen.

After crossing the border and driving to Rosarito Beach, we arrived at the clinic. It actually looked nicer than the photos on the website. The owner and staff were very welcoming. It seemed that Michael was in good hands.

I was now excited about the idea of my son being relieved of his addiction to heroin. I was counting the days and hours before he would have his ibogaine treatment. I was also excited about the experience he was possibly going to have – the introspective journey during the psychedelic trip that may help Michael realize how his behavior had affected other people and appreciate the gifts he had been given in his life.

I paid the $4,000 fee and returned to California.

You Get What You Pay For

Thursday evening was set for the ibogaine treatment. He already had the necessary blood and heart tests to make sure he was a good candidate. Doctors were present to monitor Michael during the administration of the drug. I was anxious to receive a call telling me things had gone well and that I had my son back. That call came from the nurse. He said everything went fine and Michael would be not ready to talk until the next day.

When I spoke to Michael on Saturday, he told me that he didn’t have a psychedelic experience and he was still experiencing withdrawal symptoms. I was very concerned and asked the nurse about Michael’s condition. He assured me the symptoms would be gone by the next day. Michael called me later in the afternoon Saturday, and said nothing was improving. He said the treatment was a waste of time. My heart sank.

I called the owner of the clinic, and I told her that Michael had not slept for two days, his back still hurt, he had a headache, and his legs were terribly restless. She said Michael was lying about his symptoms, they all say that, and he would be better tomorrow. I was put off by such a response because Michael had no reason to lie. He was looking forward to being free of withdrawal symptoms. I encouraged Michael to hang on and wait until the next morning.

On Sunday at 4 a.m., I received a desperate call from Michael. He was in full-blown withdrawals and still had not slept. Things were getting worse – not better. I sent the clinic owner an email, stating that Michael wasn’t any better. I also urged Michael to talk to the nurse. He was unable to do anything for Michael. This all started to feel like a nightmare. My son was in Mexico and no one was helping him.

Another Rescue – Back to Square One

I knew I had to do something, but I was in Central California. I quickly packed a few things and started heading south. I promised Michael that I would get him help that day. I reviewed my list of clinics to see if there was some place I could take him immediately. Previously, I had been in contact with a person who ran an aftercare facility in the US, so I messaged him early in the morning to see if he had some ideas about what to do.

The aftercare owner returned my message and was making an effort to address our situation. The clinic he often works with was closed for the week, so Michael was unable to go there immediately. I also felt that Michael needed more than an aftercare facility. He needed to have the ibogaine treatment administered properly.

Additionally, I was growing more uncomfortable with the aftercare owner. He was sending some irrelevant and inappropriate messages. Also, Michael had a conversation with him and said he sounded like a used car salesman. Then I realized that this was one of the people who had been bad-mouthing other clinic owners in the Facebook group. I am a business owner, and I consider rude and negative comments about competition to be highly unprofessional and of questionable integrity. While I did appreciate his efforts, it was becoming clear that he was not going to be part of the solution.

I promised Michael I would arrive at the clinic in the afternoon. He wanted me to bring heroin with me. Not a chance that was going to happen.

I knew that if Michael used heroin after the ibogaine treatment, there was a good chance that he would die from an overdose. Michael told me that the nurse at the clinic gave him a Xanax so he could sleep, which bought time to figure out the next step and for me to pick him up. It was clear that he had to leave there. Something had gone wrong with the treatment and the owners weren’t interested in fixing it.

I was now faced with a life-and-death situation. If Michael returned to LA, he would surely die, probably sooner rather than later.

The Text Message That Changed Everything

One of the clinic owners that I had spoken to before Michael’s treatment was Johnny the Healer at the Holistic Sanctuary. I was impressed with his philosophy and facilities, but I wasn’t sure it was a good fit for Michael, for reasons I will describe later.

Before leaving, I sent a text message to Johnny the Healer, telling him about Michael’s situation. He answered promptly with great concern. Then we spoke on the phone while I was driving to Santa Monica, where I was going to meet Lou. While speaking with Johnny, it was clear that he knew what he was doing.

Johnny offered to have one of his staff go pick up Michael at the clinic and take him to The Holistic Sanctuary. With Michael still being in the state of mind of an addict, I knew that Lou and I would have to facilitate the transition. I told Michael that I would arrive at the clinic in Mexico around 3 p.m. I called the clinic and told them we would be picking up our son. I did not let on that I was taking him to another facility. At this point, I had lost trust in them and wasn’t going to chance not being able to retrieve my son.

I want to take a moment to mention that we found out that two patients at the clinic had ties to the drug cartel. These clinic owners exposed my son to people with very dangerous ties to a murderous crime organization. I was horrified.

We arrived at the clinic. Michael was just waking up. We acted very cordial and said we would be managing his care from that point. Michael had been scheduled to go home the next day, so it wasn’t a stretch to treat it as a slightly early release. Michael was feeling a little better, but I knew his withdrawal symptoms would return once the Xanax wore off.

Once we were off the clinic grounds, we told Michael we were going to check out another facility. He was already feeling his withdrawals coming back, and we explained that if he were to go back home now, he would start using again. We would not allow that.

Reviving Hope

We arrived at The Holistic Sanctuary. Michael was already defiant about being subjected to holistic methods. Even though Lou and I have always been very holistic minded, over the past few years, Michael had developed a mindset that anything to do with holistic medicine was not scientific nor worthy of his time. We suggested that he keep an open mind.

Johnny had brought his staff in especially for Michael. They were enjoying a brief hiatus until the next group of clients arrived. The facility was absolutely beautiful, very peaceful.

Johnny’s main concern was getting Michael comfortable as quickly as possible. He was working with a compromised situation and had to fix a botched ibogaine treatment. He promised he could get Michael into a physical condition that would provide the optimal ibogaine experience.

Lou and I stayed with Michael for several hours. We weren’t going to leave until he was comfortable.
I was taken by Johnny’s compassion and humble confidence. He explained the basic concept of the Pouyan Method. This time, I knew we were in the right place.

Johnny said he was going to create a treatment protocol specific to Michael, as he does with all his clients. Each person arrives with a different history, physical condition, and several other considerations that affect the treatment protocol. I will give more details about the Pouyan Method later.

Lou and I left Mexico at 10 p.m. Even though Michael was still highly skeptical, he wanted badly to get sleep and relief from his increasing withdrawal symptoms. Johnny did not discuss finances that night. His only concern was Michael’s comfort. He trusted that we would work out payment arrangements at another time.

The First Treatment Could Not Have Worked

Michael’s blood analysis revealed issues with his liver and other indications that showed that his body was not ready for an ibogaine treatment. It is crucial to prepare the body in every instance. Johnny said it was unlikely that any ibogaine treatment would have worked.

Clinics rarely state their own success rate. People who have a meaningful ibogaine treatment in other clinics just get lucky, which is about 20%. For another 20% of the population, ibogaine just won’t work. The remaining 60% are left with an unstable outcome and don’t typically experience long-term sobriety.

Johnny claims a 90% success rate for people in the two-week Pouyan Method program. For the four-week program, Johnny claims 99% of clients will become fully functional and free of withdrawal symptoms. He doesn’t quit on people.

Due to the botched treatment and Michael’s blood results, it would take approximately nine days to get Michael’s levels to ensure a successful treatment. During Michael’s stay, he was always skeptical of the holistic methods being administered. Thankfully, he was cooperative and friendly to the staff, but not so easy on me and his dad on the phone.

Michael was always trying to negotiate and create deadlines. At one point, through a text, he threatened to jump off the balcony. I was terrified and felt helpless. He had never been suicidal before. He later told me that he was trying to scare me. It worked. I was scared out of my mind, but I also knew I was dealing with “Michael the Addict.”

While waiting for the ibogaine treatment, Michael was still experiencing some withdrawal symptoms since he wasn’t receiving the high level of opiates he had been using. Michael has always had a very fast metabolism, so during pre-treatment, it was very difficult to maintain a consistent comfort level. This made Michael very anxious and skeptical.

Sometimes I lied to him, so he would do the protocol. This was about saving his life. He never made a deal with me when he stole from me, lied to me, and said terrible things to me. I had no issue with telling him what he wanted to hear. This was not the wonderful son I knew existed somewhere within him. I would never lie to THAT Michael. I knew my “misrepresentations” wouldn’t matter after the treatment. At some point, I stopped answering my phone and texts. No more drama. I just wanted Johnny to do his work.

Ready for Treatment

Finally, the day came for Michael’s ibogaine treatment. I was excited, but cautious. Johnny told me Michael was now physically ready for the treatment. The ibogaine treatment itself can be a long, grueling experience with vomiting, insomnia, headaches over a 36-hour period. However, by using the Pouyan Method, the experience is much more tolerable and often more emotionally profound.

On Thursday, while Michael was taking the treatment, I was thinking about him all day, sending loving and protective thoughts. I didn’t want to build up any expectations about him being remorseful or having some profound awakening. My main desire was for Michael to free of opiate withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Anything more would be a bonus.

A Phone Call to Remember

On Saturday morning, I received a phone call from Michael. This was my first contact with him after the treatment. I walked outside, among some redwood trees on the grounds of my ranch as we spoke. Michael said he was free of withdrawal symptoms and feeling very good. I noticed the tone in his voice. He sounded kinder and gentler. He told me that during the treatment he had a strong urge to call me and tell me that he loves me “to the number only God knows.” This was a phrase he had once said as a child, and I had always treasured. My eyes welled up, and my heart warmed.

We talked for a long time about our family. He said he realized he needed to be nicer and more supportive of his brother, Jack. We also discussed his future, and he was now on the path to returning to college. Not only did I have my son back, but a new and improved version of him. This was everything I had hoped for, and more.

Return to Mexico

Johnny said Michael would be ready on Monday. He ensures there are no residual withdrawals for 72 hours after the treatment. Sometimes a client will need an ibogaine “booster” to address any discomfort. Michael needed the boosters, but overall the symptoms were mostly gone and dissipating. The previous clinic had no plans for residual withdrawals. They just let him suffer.

I made plans with Lou so we could both go to Mexico to pick up Michael. We couldn’t wait to see him. We arrived at The Holistic Sanctuary at 1:00 p.m. This was now my third trip to Mexico, and I was becoming very familiar with crossing the border and making our way down to Rosarito Beach.

It was so wonderful to see Michael not under the influence of opiates or agonizing withdrawal symptoms. His demeanor was different. He hugged me like he meant it. I felt like we had all been on some horrific roller coaster ride, and now we were walking away from it, reminiscing about the tumultuous twists and turns. It was now behind us.

We stayed for a couple hours, chatting with staff and making sure Michael had packed all his belongings. He was happy to get his cell phone back.

We met a man who had come to The Holistic Sanctuary a week before. He had been a heavy heroin user and in seven rehab facilities previously. He told us this was the best he ever felt one week into rehab, and he hadn’t even done the ibogaine treatment yet.

Back in America

We arrived back in Santa Monica and stayed overnight, so we could make the long drive to the ranch the next day. Johnny had given Michael three booster pills in case of any difficulties. He seemed to need one on Tuesday, as he was uncomfortable while laying down in my apartment. However, Michael said once he was up and moving and busy, he felt much better.

I was extremely nervous for Michael to have any contact with his brother, Ryan. I didn’t know if Ryan would offer any drugs to Michael, and I didn’t want to take the chance. But he saw Ryan for a couple hours. I had to trust Michael that nothing would happen.

I wanted to get to the ranch as soon as possible, so Michael could transition into a drug-free life with little exposure to the previous unhealthy environment. The holidays were coming, and it would work out well for Michael to stay there until the end of the year since he wasn’t currently in school. We left for the ranch late in the day. Michael’s brother Jack also decided to come along. It was great to have my two sons with me.

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, the gratitude was overflowing at our Thanksgiving table. As the cook, it is traditional for me to ask my guests, one by one, what they are thankful for each year. Michael has always disliked this tradition and is much more interested in the delicious mashed potatoes. This year, when I brought up the question, I was surprised when Michael asked to go first.

Michael gave a very thoughtful and heartfelt speech about how much he appreciated me and my persistent efforts to help him and that he loved me very much. I will never forget his sincerity and the way it made me feel. This was the best Thanksgiving ever!

Remembering Seth

mom-sethThroughout this ordeal, I couldn’t help but think about my oldest son Seth. If we had known about the Pouyan Method, including the ibogaine treatment back in 2012, I truly believe he would be alive today.

I understand so much more about withdrawals now and how agonizing they can be, which leads to cravings, and ultimately to using again. I now see that Seth never had much of a chance after being in a conventional rehab facility. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

However, it was the pain of the loss of my son that drove me to find a solution for Michael. I knew life with Methadone and rehab facilities would be like a prison.

Michael has only gotten rid of the physical aspect of addiction. The journey is not over. He still needs to stay out of environments that are not healthy and do some emotional work to have tools to use when he gets into a tough time. He needs time without drugs. The treatment he underwent was not the whole answer. But to not have the physical addiction working against him at every turn, is a gift and a blessing.

Why I Didn’t Pick the Right Clinic the First Time

While making calls to clinics before Michael went to Mexico, I had spoken to Johnny the Healer at The Holistic Sanctuary. I have extensive experience in holistic medicine and agreed with his philosophy. I would have loved to have sent Michael there first, but I chose another clinic for two reasons. First, I felt Michael wasn’t ready for the holistic approach used by Johnny. He would have opposed going to a clinic with holistic philosophies. Michael’s attitude about holistic methods are if a double-blind study had not been performed on any holistic idea or method, then he could not be convinced it was valid.

Secondly, the fee for two weeks at the Holistic Sanctuary was $25,000. At that time, I thought I couldn’t find a way to afford it, and that the ibogaine treatment could be performed effectively for less money elsewhere. Well, I paid $4000 to find out that was not true.

I was a concerned mother trying to do the best I can. In looking back, if I had chosen the Holistic Sanctuary, it would have saved me a lot of time, money, and stress. No other clinic guaranteed that the client will leave with no withdrawal symptoms.

I often hear about people attending 5 or 7 … or even 10 or 20 conventional rehab clinics. It’s hard to believe they haven’t already spent much more than the treatment cost at The Holistic Sanctuary. Hopefully, more people will find out about the Pouyan Method earlier in their recovery journey. The cost of the treatment method practiced at The Holistic Sanctuary is well justified. I saw firsthand that Johnny spares no expense in developing an effective protocol designed specifically for each client.

As a mother emerging from an extremely difficult experience with no guidance on where to go, I can see now that The Holistic Sanctuary was always the best option. No amount of money that could buy what I received in such a short amount of time. It was a bargain, and for me, there are no acceptable alternatives.

About Johnny the Healer

When I first learned about Johnny the Healer, I was somewhat skeptical about his name. Who calls themselves that? Later, I found out his clients gave him the name. When someone heals a person, and does it over and over, a name like that sticks and is well deserved. Now I endorse it.

Johnny is the real deal. His name is John Tabaie. He has a self-admitted sordid past. Johnny had a rough childhood, fell into drugs, jail, 20-plus rehabs. His only brother committed suicide in a rehab facility. He transformed himself and is truly a healer, a guide, and an inspired human being. He talks the talk and walks the walk. He is passionate about saving lives. He is Johnny the Healer.

The Pouyan Method

Over the past ten years, Johnny developed the Pouyan Method for treating addiction, PTSD, and many other conditions. His protocol demands individual assessment and treatment.

The Pouyan Method is a systematic and methodical healing system. It’s a proprietary technique that is only performed at The Holistic Sanctuary. I describe it as an extensive set of tools, combined with an inspired knowledge of the human body and cause and effect. Johnny has formulated when to use certain tools or therapies, how much, and when to stop. Some of the tools in this tool box include organic, non-GMO diet, supplementation, NAD IV drips, hyperbaric chamber sessions, and many more therapies.

For people with significant underlying health conditions that may interfere with addiction recovery, such as heavy metal toxicity, candida, etc., there is a 12-week program at The Holistic Sanctuary. Johnny develops a protocol specifically to deal with these conditions along with addiction therapy. His success rate is unmatched by any other clinic.

Compelled to Tell My Story

I feel as though I was given a gift, a miracle, and a duty. I got my son back, and it pains me to think that mothers are losing children every day to drug addiction. I encourage the safe and legal use of ibogaine included in the Pouyan Method at the Holistic Sanctuary.

It is my wish for no one to deal with drug addiction, whether it is a family member or yourself. However, the epidemic of heroin and prescription drug addiction is on the rise to levels of a national health emergency. It is my goal to let as many people as possible know about the Pouyan Method as a solution to this health crisis.

I lost one son to opiate addiction. I saved another from heroin addiction through love, strength, persistence, and trust in the Pouyan Method. If you find yourself in my situation, my best advice to you is to seek out The Holistic Sanctuary.

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