Sunday, June 11, 2006

Acupuncture spans culture divide

One of the things that many of us have a hard time with is patience. We are a culture in which instant gratification is not fast enough, and when it comes to healthcare, people want results . . . yesterday. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is not the instant miracle. While I have had some "eureka" clients who report and physically demonstrate vast improvement as soon as they get off the table, the majority take a few treatments to truly notice a difference. The good news is, since the majority of my clients come to me as a last resort after trying MDs, massage therapists, and chiropractors, they are willing to put in a little more time to see a change. This is a nice story that exemplifies how a little patience can have a lifelong impact.

BENNINGTON — On a cold and dreary day in 1997 in Moldova, Marc Williams woke without the use of his right arm.

Three days earlier, the Akron, Ohio, native felt a tingling sensation that began in his pinky. Over the next few days it spread to his shoulder and eventually became full-blown paralysis of the limb.

At that point, Williams had spent two years in the crumbling former Soviet Republic teaching locals to speak English through the Peace Corps. The village of Cainari had begun to feel like home, but serious illness in a foreign land would scare even the most world-weary traveler.

The weeks went by and every doctor he saw was puzzled by his condition.

"It was just a dead limb," he said. "It was very scary."

He made plans to return to the U.S. and seek the care of specialist. While making his way around the village, saying his good-byes to the impoverished people he was trying to help, suddenly help came to him.

A Soviet trained neurologist and acupuncturist named Natasha found out why Williams was leaving and approached him, asking him to live with her and her husband Octavian until he got better. She said she could treat him with acupuncture. Williams had his doubts. "I didn't really believe that anything was going to happen," he said.

Williams had four days before he was meant to return to the U.S. and figured that one last shot at healing was better than dragging his seemingly dead arm back with him across the Atlantic Ocean. Staying with Natasha and Octavian was the only thing that made sense at the time.

The first treatment yielded no results in terms of his mobility, but he said it provided a deep relaxation. By the third day, Williams woke up, lifted his arm and made a fist. His right arm had been restored to full health. Natasha had really done it.

He canceled the return trip and stayed in Moldova teaching for another year. The experience provided an awakening for Williams, who had planned on going into environmental law after his stint in the Peace Corps. When he came back to the U.S. he attended acupuncturist school and hasn't looked back since.

"Acupuncture is really a miracle to me," Williams said Wednesday at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, where he performs acupuncture once a week at the integrative therapies department.

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