Many of my patients are unusually ill and their health is significantly compromised. Most have seen many other practitioners, both conventional and alternative, and they are not satisfied with the progress of their healing. How can I be so presumptuous as to imagine that I can make a difference when other talented and caring individuals have not been able to do so? That, dear friends, is the “million dollar” question and one which we hope to explore in this series of blogs we are creating.
I would like to begin by admitting that I am never absolutely sure that I can make that difference. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to do this work. To be in the position of attempting to assist patients whose lives have been turned upside down, assisting families that feel so helpless and find so much difficulty in both understanding and being supportive to their suffering loved ones, whose finances have been decimated by their illness, is not a responsibility that I take lightly.
The primary quality that I bring to the table is that I care. I am not sure that I want to, but I just can’t help it. I leave the office and go home and think about, worry about, spin about, and meditate about my patients, especially the ones that aren’t making any progress. In many ways, it would be much easier for me if I didn’t, but then I wouldn’t be me. We is what we is. At times, caring even gets in the way of objectivity, making it counterproductive. I want my suggestions to work. For the most part, these are good beings I am trying to help and I am almost as disappointed as they are when they do not respond to my recommendations, or, even more concerning, when they take a turn for the worse as they attempt a new treatment. I must keep in the forefront of my mind the fact that I am not the one doing the healing; that is between my patient and God. I am just a catalyst, a conduit. It is imperative that I remain neutral and objective throughout, so sometimes caring too much gets in the way. My hopes as they interface with my patients’ hopes may get in the way of seeing things clearly. So while caring is a vital part of the healing process, there is a very delicate dance we perform in trying to balance that caring with not losing our objectivity, and sometimes we don’t do that dance quite perfectly. As long we can be gentle with each other in this regard, this will not be a problem. We can just come back to the drawing board and start again, hopefully with fresh eyes.
One of the unique aspects of our clinic is that we all share this feeling of immense responsibility and are completely comfortable with turning to one another whenever we feel like we are not making sufficient progress. We either talk with each other about what we might be missing (either one-on-one or more formally at our weekly staff meeting), or go one step further in referring the patient to one of our colleagues so that we can keep from getting stuck.
We know that what we are doing is difficult and complicated. There is no room in this equation for arrogance. I hope and pray that I bring true humility to every interaction, but I know that, being merely human, that this is not always possible. But that is the goal.
What I am about to discuss now is not something I would have been comfortable talking about twenty years ago. As I get older (I have been doing this work for forty-one years now) I am less concerned about what some folks might think, and more concerned with clarifying communication with as much honesty as I can bring to bear. So here it is: this work is so difficult that the only way I can do it is to essentially pray for guidance at every step. At any given visit, I have no idea what needs to be done, or in what area. Does this being that I am with need counseling, spiritual advice, an antibiotic, an herb, a biochemical tune-up, emotional release, or a new perspective? How do I come to any understanding of my role, today, now?
So I start by praying to God for guidance: how can I be of service today?
And I sit back and wait for the answer. It is in the listening that the answers may come, if I am still enough to hear them.
I will readily admit that in the hectic world in which we live, this is not easy. I cannot always hear the message. I do not always know if I am hearing it correctly, or at all. Sometimes the message seems to be crystal clear (I think, or I hope, or I imagine it to be). It other times it is just the faintest whisper, and I do not know if I am truly hearing it or just fantasizing that I do. But it is always the best I can do. I won’t know until weeks later whether what I heard was correct. And then we have to do it all over again.
Many of my perceptions about what an individual needs on any given day is based on what I call resonance. To me this means, in sitting with that being, and attempting to take in the totality of their needs, my years of clinical practice have given me a sense, a vibration if you will, of what that person needs…what they lack…what may be helpful. This can take the form of sensing in them an adrenal, or thyroid, or magnesium deficiency. How can I know that? After years and years of measuring those deficiencies, and paying attention to what that feels like in a patient, one gets that sense. While this may sound a bit flaky, I believe this is the essence of what is often termed clinical experience. This simply means that in the presence of a patient, an experienced clinician can clearly feel whether or not that patient is extremely ill and needs immediate intervention or whether they are just worried and need reassurance. If we take that perception just a tiny step further, it does not seem to me so far-fetched that this same experience allows us to perceive all kinds of more specific imbalances in our patients so that we can begin the process of evaluating and treating them. This process is addressed more specifically in the field of Biodynamic Osteopathy in which the ability to access those energy fields with the art of palpation is specifically taught and refined and includes the perception of structural, biochemical, energetic, and embryological imbalances. (Several of us at gma are trained in this).
When a patient presents to us with great complexity, how do we decide which of the myriad treatments we have available will be helpful?
By visiting with that patient and attempting to be as present and mindful as possible, allowing that information to come through to us. (At least in my own experience, this is much harder to do in a phone consult). When, as often happens, that individual comes to us with Lyme disease and co-infections, superimposed on mold toxicity, viral infections and multiple chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities, sorting through this information to the most useful starting point in treatment is as much an art form as it is science. I believe that it is my experience that guides me here: for one patient, it feels like we must start with helping to build them up and improve their ability to remove toxins and get their adrenal and thyroid hormones working again. For another patient, it feels correct to start with an aggressive antibiotic treatment program. I can only hope and pray that my experience will be sufficient to get us going in the right direction. Usually it is, but sometimes it is not. Every person is different. Even with the same diagnostic label, each patient brings a unique chemistry, a unique history, a unique genetic profile, and a unique response to the table. I do not believe that there is, or will ever be, a single simple algorithm that can be applied to all patients with a given diagnosis. We need to honor that individuality by working with it, studying it, and observing it carefully so that we can find the personal and special road for that patient’s healing process.
One of my patients recently likened this process to solving a Rubik’s cube. At first, it seems almost impossible to line up all of the colored squares correctly. With experience, however, and practice, and a lot of patience, it can be done with increasing comfort. This seems to me to be a very astute analogy.
I confess that as I begin each day, I wonder whether I will be able to help each and every patient who presents to me. I fear that I may not. This pushes me to go as deep inside myself as I can go, to ask anew for guidance, and to wait for the instructions of how to proceed to arrive. I have never gotten to the point that I can take this process for granted. I am always surprised and amazed to discover what new ideas will be provided to me if I can be quiet enough to listen for them. Happily, it is extremely rare for these insights to not appear with each visit. But every once in a while, they do not, and then I know it is time to ask my colleagues for help.
So here it is. I never know, with any certainty, whether I can help someone who is in dire need of healing. All I can do is my best. Some days my best is not good enough. On most days, though, we come up with new strategies, new ideas, and new hope. Most of the time, if we can be patient enough, this will move us down the road of healing and we will see slow but steady progress which ultimately leads to that person getting well. Sometimes, full recovery occurs quickly and this allows me to think that I actually know what I am doing. It is my hope that my optimism is not based on my being delusional, but on having seen so many patients respond beautifully over the years that at every single visit I can’t help but feel why not this individual, too, and why not today? My faith in this process is what keeps me going.