Come this summer, I will have been retired for two years. I’ll be 65 years old. When do I start to fall apart? Hopefully not for a few years yet. And in my desire to stay as healthy as I can for as long as possible, I have found that the last place I want to look for help is Western medicine, especially in Canada.
Canadians feel that they are well served by the medical establishment. I read last week that 90% have great faith in their family doctor.
Over the years, I have heard people complain about doctors, and I thought they were crackpots. A woman I once knew who had MS raged about them, partly because they misdiagnosed her for years, prescribing tranquilizers and telling her it was all in her head. Another woman, a vitamin sales person, said they were all stupid and killed people.
May I take this opportunity to apologize to both of them.
And, oh yes, color me a crackpot.
Let me tell you why:
Last fall, I had a bad accident in which I sustained a compound fracture of the humerus – not that there was nothing funny about it. The bone was broken in seven places and poking through the skin. The surgeon said it was the worst break he had ever seen, that it was as if the bone had “exploded”. According to him, nurses in the operating room, who you would think had “seen it all” were saying, “Poor guy.” It touch him four hours to clean me up and put me back together again – for which I am most grateful.
That’s the kind of thing at which Western medicine excels, but chronic conditions . . . ? That’s another thing entirely.
I spent months in physiotherapy, trying to get the full range of motion back, but my elbow was stubbornly stiff. The physiotherapist hinted more and more frequently that it wasn’t getting better in any kind of hurry. Finally, she said, “I think that’s the max.” Along the way, she cut my appointments from three per week, to two, to one (over my objections), but there was nothing I could do about it.
A normal elbow yields a range of 0º to 150º. Mine was about 20º to 120º – not bad, I guess, but I wanted better. When she told me it wouldn’t happen, I said, “I’m not ready to give up yet,” and when she repeated herself, I added, “Well, then I guess I’ll have to have faith for both of us.”
You see, I had been through something like this twice before, but not as bad. I cracked my left elbow twice, and the second time, the physiotherapist said, “Since this is the second time you’ve done this, you probably won’t get the full range of motion back.” I looked at her, and I said, “You. Just. Watch me.” Then I asked the head of the clinic for a new physiotherapist because I wanted to keep my attitude positive. He said that he understood completely, and arranged it.
I got my full range of motion back.
Anyway, the last time I saw the more recent physiotherapist, she told me five times that I would not get any better. I told her that I needed to believe that I would, and that irrespective of what she believed and however many sessions she would or would not give me, I was going to soldier on. When she kept harping on it, I finally told her that she was welcome to her opinion, and I wasn’t going to argue with her, but I didn’t want to hear it anymore: I wanted to stay positive. Apparently that was too much for her, so I had to say that if she didn’t stop, I would go elsewhere, even though a private physiotherapist would cost me money that I could ill afford. She said that was my decision.
So I did find someone else, a man who was an orthopedic surgeon in China but could not practice here because of the language barrier and the time it would take to requalify. I decided to trust him with my elbow, and I feel that I never made a better decision.
The Chinese method of regaining range of motion is different than the Western. It involves a lot more dynamic movement and stretching, and it hurts, really hurts: half an hour at a time of pain that I could barely tolerate, and I have a pretty high threshold of pain. He warned me that it was painful, and he wasn’t kidding. At the end of the first session, that left me panting, I growled, “Is that all ya got?” And we both cracked up laughing. I had to get something out of my suffering.
And now, my range of motion, when I’m fully stretched out has increased 5º in extension and almost 10º in flexion.
I told my Canadian physiotherapist the story of Glenn Cunningham, hoping that it would inspire her not to give up on me, but to no avail. If you’ve never heard his story, you should. Here, in summary, it is.
Glen Cunningham was in a fire when he was a boy. He lit the stove in his one room school house every winter morning to get it warm enough for study. One morning, things got out of hand, there was a terrible fire, he got caught . . .
The doctors wanted to amputate his legs, but his mother said no. The doctors warned against gangrene, but she took him home, changed his dressings, and his legs were saved. He even had some sensation and a little movement in them.
The doctors were amazed, but they said he would never walk again.
But the boy and his mother were not quitters. She massaged the wasted muscles every day to keep them from atrophying completely. Together they did something that resembled physiotherapy (this was a long time ago), and guess what?
He walked. And then, he decided he wanted to run.
The doctors? As usual, they were amazed, but of course they said he would never run.
Guess what . . . ?
Yes, of course he ran, competitively, an athlete. And he decided that he would be the first person to run a four minute mile – something that had never been done, something that everyone said was impossible.
I guess he was tired of hearing what was impossible.
The prevailing wisdom was that the way to run a mile was to really pour it on during the first half of the race and ease off a bit for the second, maybe because you had no choice at that point. He decided that the way to break the four minute barrier was to pace yourself a bit during the first half and then really pour it on during the second.
Guess what . . . ?
Of course he broke the four minute barrier.
But I guess my physiotherapist was not impressed. I told my new physiotherapist the story and he smiled. Then he started stretching me out, and I wasn’t so sure that I should have inspired him.
But my arm is improving, and I am determined to get back my full range of motion.
So Chinese physiotherapy is superior to Western methods. What about the rest of Western medicine? As it turns out, I have an opinion to express on that subject, too.
Due to the shock of the accident, a lot of stress that I was under, even more bedrest, lots of painkillers (first morphine, then oxycontin, then codeine), I developed high blood pressure. I had it once before due to stress at work, weight gain and so on. At it’s highest, it went up to 195/105, which is pretty high considering that healthy is considered 120/80.
My GP put me on meds which got it down to normal, but I didn’t like the side effects, and I can remember my mother complaining about them for the last twenty or so years of her life. I decided that I was not going to go that route. Somehow, I was going to get off the medications.
I read some books like The High Blood Pressure Hoax, and that doubled my determination to get off them. The long term side effects are nasty: brain shringake, mineral depletion, the need for ever increasing meds, and more.
I asked my GP about what I was reading, and she just stared at me. Not only did she not answer my questions; she did not even acknowledged them. According to her, I would be on medication for the rest of my life, and all I could do was watch how much salt I ate and “walk around the mall” for exercise.
So, I went to a doctor who practices orthomolecular medicine. He put me on all kinds of supplements like magnesium, CoQ10, arginine, and others. He told me to start working out, which I did. I also meditated every morning and got pretty good at using a blood pressure monitor, which was very satisfying when I saw the numbers coming down.
Now, three months after I was diagnosed, I’m completely off the medication. My blood pressure is around 110/65, and my resting heart rate is 54.
Not only does our standard approach to high blood pressure (and a host of other chronic conditions) fail to cure them, it is incredibly expensive. Think of how much meds for life and all the doctor’s appointments are. No wonder the healthcare budget is ballooning.
And so, in my campaign to stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can – maybe even die with my boots on – I’m looking to orthomolecular medicine, the Paleo diet (which is the opposite of the much vaunted “food pyramid” that is making America obese and diabetic), exercising and meditation.
Call me a crackpot.