Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Break Time

Hey, Everyday Health is taking a break. Please feel free to browse through the archives in the meantime - they're on the right hand side there. Or use the search bar above to look for something you're interested in.

We'll be back - thanks for your patience!

Swine Flu, Concerned Parents, Western Medicine and Chinese Medicine

Yesterday I got an email from my dad. I've been sick for the past few weeks, but what with finals and the end of school, I only got serious about treating it last Friday, when I went to see Dr. Yuhong Chen at the Yosan clinic (scroll down to read her bio). I had two acupuncture treatments and she wrote a kick-ass herbal formula, and five days later I'm back to 100%.

My main symptom was sore throat, persisting for three weeks, plus fatigue, and at various points during that four weeks I had body aches, slight fever, night sweats, thick sticky green phlegm streaked with blood, thin white phlegm, and probably something else too. It sounds bad when I write it all out, but it didn't bother me too much. All those symptoms didn't occur at the same time, and when they did occur they only lasted a day or so. The only thing that persisted was the sore throat.

In a phone conversation last weekend, my dad suggested that I go get a throat culture and, if it turned out to be strep throat, take antibiotics. I told him that I was fairly sure it wasn't strep, and even if it was, I'd rather take Chinese medicine. Like many Americans, I don't have health insurance, and my last trip to the ER cost me nearly $1000.

Then the swine flu media panic got out of control over the weekend, and I had the email exchange reproduced below with my dad. I guess I was a little defensive about Chinese medicine - after all, I just spent four years studying this completely different, completely effective system of medicine, and now my dad wants me to take antibiotics and Tamiflu? Sheesh.

But I think it's instructive about the way a lot of people feel about Chinese medicine - that's it's good for mild symptoms, but if it's "something serious," then you absolutely have to "go see a doctor," which means an M.D. The fact is, Chinese medicine can treat everything. Let me say that again: Chinese medicine can treat everything.

And now, without further ado...

11:54 AM (22 hours ago)
(My Dad)
to me

Hey Jonah,

Not sure if your symptoms fit this profile, but if they’re in the ballpark I would urge you to go to a clinic or even a hospital ER somewhere to get a test. This has public health implications – the only way the CDC can track what’s happening is by monitoring test results – but more important the health networks are well stocked with anti-virals (tamiflu and another one whose name I forget) that so far have been effective if the result turns out positive. So no need to panic, but also no reason not to be proactive. From the news reports it looks as if this could get serious down the line. As you have probably been reading, the group most at risk from this outbreak are healthy young adults in the 20-40 age range.



From: Lisa
Sent: Sunday, April 26, 2009 7:29 PM
Subject: IMPORTANT UPDATE! Swine Influenza Outbreak.
Importance: High

Fellow Employees:

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) have confirmed an outbreak of the Swine Influenza A/H1N1 (swine flu) in Mexico with now twenty (20) confirmed cases in the United States. Swine Influenza is a respiratory disease found in pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza among pigs. CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Your health and the health of your family is greatly important. Please take some general precautions during this time.

Since influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people, there are many things you can to do preventing getting and spreading influenza:

Everyday actions:

· Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of the elbow. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

· Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

· Limit close contact (within 6 feet) with others when possible.

· Stay away from places where there are large groups of people.

· If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

All offices remain open at this time. However, we would like to recommend that business travel to/from Mexico be delayed/re-scheduled. In lieu of travel, please consider conducting conference calls and/or video conferences.

The following link is the CDC’s Q&A which provides the detail regarding when to contact your health care provider, especially for children or someone with pre-existing health issues. http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm

We will continue to send you updates on any important information as it becomes available. Please contact your HRBP or the Benefits Team if you have any other questions or concerns.


Vice President, Human Resources

1:23 PM (21 hours ago)
Jonah Ewell
to (My Dad)

Hey Dad,

I appreciate your concern! But I'm getting much better. Chinese medicine is much much more effective for any kind of influenza than drugs. When SARS broke out in China, they used herbal medicine. If Chinese medicine were in wider use in the Americas, swine flu would be much easier to contain. Obviously, to treat the root of the problem you need to stop having factory farming and crowding huge amounts of pigs together, which concentrates effluvia (aka pigshit!) and breeds disease. Until that happens, Chinese medicine, handwashing, and rest are the best way to recover from a flu.

I'm currently taking a Chinese herbal prescription which consists of 15 herbs. Some of the key herbs, such as 茵陳蒿 Yin Chen Hao (a type of artemisiae) and 山豆根 Shan Dou Gen (a type of sophora root) have been proven in laboratory testing to have broad-spectrum antiviral and antibacterial actions. No need to worry, Chinese medicine is on the case!


1:53 PM (20 hours ago)
(My Dad)
to me

OK, sounds good. But do you know whether you have the particular virus that’s in the news?




2:35 PM (19 hours ago)
Jonah Ewell
to (My Dad)

In the framework of Chinese medicine, it's unimportant what exact microbe or virus is causing you problems. Western science and medicine is reductionist, always looking for that ONE THING that they can point to and say is the cause of illness. When you find the exact bacteria or virus, all you have to do is kill it, or remove it, or block it, or any of the other things Western medicine does. This is a relatively recent development, hinging on the invention of advanced microscopes. Thanks to these instruments, we have made incredible advances in being able to look at and detect these small microbes and viruses, which has helped the world deal with serious health problems. However, as we are seeing, looking for the one microbe and trying to eliminate it is a textbook case of missing the forest for the trees.

What causes disease? Why do some people get sick and others don't? If the swine flu was really so contagious, why haven't more people become sick and died? According to what I've heard on the radio and read in the newspapers, less than 10% of people with swine flu have died. Over 90% recover. Think of fruit in a basket. If you leave it for awhile, you might find that one piece of fruit has mold on it. Another piece of fruit, sitting right next to it and even touching it, cheek-by-jowl, is unaffected. Why is that?

Louis Pasteur, the father of modern bacteria studies (the process of pasteurization was named for him) was said to have renounced bacteria-based medicine on his deathbed, saying "Terrain is everything." Terrain means our bodies, our immune system, our environment. If you have a strong immune system (what the Chinese call 卫气 wei qi, or defensive qi) without underlying deficiencies, and live in harmony with your environment, you will not become sick.

Chinese medicine has, over the course of 2000-3000 years of recorded history, developed a number of powerful diagnostic systems that, properly applied, can cure nearly everything. Modern medicine has a place, and it adds to the world's knowledge. But it doesn't replace Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine looks at the totality of a person and treats the person, not the disease. The herbal formula I'm taking was written exactly for me, taking into account all my body systems, my constitution and my presenting symptoms. This is what good medicine is. Simply telling millions of people, young, old, tall, short, skinny, fat, to go dose themselves with Tamiflu is ridiculous.

If you have an epidemic situation, in Chinese medicine it falls under the general classification of 温病 wen bing, or warm disease. There are many subcategories within it, but one of note is called 杂气 za qi, or miscellaneous qi. This is a type of qi that arises under special circumstances and is outside the realm of the ordinary system of Chinese medicine, which holds that there are six types of exogenous pathogens. This seventh type of qi was discussed by 吴有性 Dr. Wu Youxing in his work the 温疫论 Wen Yi Lun in 1642 A.D., many centuries after the main classics of Chinese medicine were written but two centuries before Dr. Pasteur made his discoveries in the area of germ theory.

In other words... don't worry!



6:05 PM (16 hours ago)
(My Dad)
to me

In principle I can see your point, but the 1918 flu pandemic killed millions of people in a single year before it ran its course, and the treatments that have been developed since then to combat viruses of this type are pretty specific and pretty effective once the agent has been identified. Not sure of the details, but I think that anti-virals are different from antibiotics, which are less specific and also ineffective against viruses. Also, according to the NYT article on it yesterday, what makes this particular virus so deadly is not so much what it does directly as the immune reaction that it triggers, literally drowning the patient as the body tries to activate its natural defenses to meet a perceived but not well understood threat. Viruses (which are basically small free-floating pieces of genetic code) are tricky, and developing an effective anti-viral agent on the molecular level seems mostly to be a matter of strategy. So maybe the most appropriate medical text for this kind of threat would be the Sunzi…

Anyway, my 2 cents for what it’s worth.




10:03 PM (12 hours ago)
Jonah Ewell
to (My Dad)

Sunzi is used as a medical text, but antiviral medications are a far cry from the wisdom of Sunzi. One of Sunzi's basic tenets is to follow the laws of Heaven and Earth. In medical terms, that means the exterior and the interior, the environment and the body. Viruses are highly adaptable, which is why getting a flu shot is such a crap shoot. They have to guess which flu strain is going to go around, and a lot of times they get it wrong, so all these old folks are immunized against something which poses no threat, and they have no defense against the flu strain that actually does come around.

They would be far, far better off to do the basics: light exercise daily, eat foods in accordance with the seasons, and have a stable emotional life. Add handwashing, proper clothing for the weather, and there's your natural flu vaccine. It's easy to tune out because it's so basic. The basics are hard! Huaching Ni says that having a normal life is actually quite difficult, and that few people ever achieve it. Instead of focusing on the basics, everyone's looking for the magic pill or injection which is going to allow them to continue with their bad habits.

The CDC is doing their job by telling people to wash their hands (http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/), but that doesn't get picked up by the media. Everyone's looking for a vaccine or treatment. As the Neijing says, treating an illness after it has started is like digging a well when you get thirsty, or forging weapons after the battle has begun.

There is an "attacking school" or "detoxification school" of Chinese medicine that concentrates on using harsh, bitter, cold herbs to drive pathogens from the body (攻邪学派 Gong Xie Xue Pai). It's one of the four famous schools of medical thought from the Jin-Yuan period. Most modern western medicine can be thought of as an extreme example of the attacking school. Antibiotics, antivirals, chemotherapy, radiation, are all very effective if used correctly (big if) but they absolutely destroy your body and leave it open to further attack. This mode of thought is just one of many overlapping theories that are used concurrently in Chinese medicine, and certainly not a dominant one.


10:34 PM (11 hours ago)
Jonah Ewell
to (My Dad)

You're correct in that strategy is important, but if the only time you apply strategy is in a quest to find the best anti-viral medication, that's a misapplication of strategy. Everyone is looking through the microscope, which is fine, but if the virus is underneath a microscope that means it's not in a human body. At the same time as you bend over the microscope, you also have to step back and look at what's going on in a real live sick person, and then step back again to look at where that person lives, the state of the environment in which he or she lives, and all the people around them, sick or not. The strength of Chinese medicine is that we deal with living systems in their natural environments.

Modern machinery is great - who wouldn't want an MRI machine to peer inside the body? - but it doesn't replace the basics of the four examinations - palpation, listening/smelling, observation, and questioning. When you add blood tests, X-rays and scopes to that, you have a some very powerful diagnostic tools. If you rely too much on the machines and lab reports, as many modern doctors tend to do, you can very easily be misled. Western medicine, until very recently, made good use of palpation, physical exam, and the verbal investigation to form a complete diagnosis. Nowadays, it's just testing. Some of my patients in the clinic get sent for test after test after test. Some of these tests are very invasive, and at the end of it the doctors say, "we can't find anything wrong. It must be psychological." Well, they're looking in the wrong place, with the wrong tools, and the wrong mindset.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Getting a Grip by Monica Seles

Monica Seles has a new book out. In this interview with the New York Times, she talks about how she dealt with her eating disorder.

I gained another 15 or 20 pounds on top of that and found myself about 37 pounds heavier. I tried to hire nutritionists and trainers. I had trainers travel with me so I wouldn’t eat. I turned to food for comfort. Food became my best friend. When emotionally I got down, depressed and had anxiety, I found comfort in food...

My big “Wow” moment came when I looked at myself and thought, “You tried to look for answers on the outside. You hired the best trainers. You could buy yourself all these books. You know what you need to do, but you can’t do it because your emotions are so wacked.” I realized I needed to figure out my emotions.

Take a look at the whole interview.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Livestock, Chocolate, Health Care

  • From KCRA via the Fooducate blog: California may pass a bill which bans the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Great idea, if it's properly enforced. Why is it a bad idea to give cows and pigs regular doses of antibiotics? It contaminates human food and contributes to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
  • TCM properties of chocolate.
  • Chinese medicine is preventive medicine. Of course, that's not all Chinese medicine can do - in China they are doing incredibly interesting stuff with herbs in the ER.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Back-Shu Points Song

Enjoy! The end is funny.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Myles Spar

I worked with Dr. Myles Spar at the Venice Family Clinic last year, when I was an intern at the Pain Clinic. I just found out he has a blog. Take a look! You can also follow him on Twitter.

From an article he wrote in the L.A. Times, about when he started to get curious about alternative medicine:

At her next appointment, three months later, she was worried about feelings of dizziness. I asked about the abdominal pain, and she seemed to strain to recall it. Then she remembered that the medicines I had given her had made her sick, so she had tried acupuncture. The acupuncturist said something about deficient spleen qi, or something, she said, and whatever it was went away after a few treatments. But, she said, about this dizziness... Read the full article.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Acupuncture at Children's Hospital L.A.

Here's a great article about Yosan's acupuncture program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The highlight:

Although [director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic Jeffrey] Gold was unsure how his colleagues would react when he announced the new program at a faculty meeting on its first day, he admitted to being startled when they all "burst into cheers" and wanted to know when their departments might be able to take advantage of the service. Although the program is currently only affiliated with the pain clinic, there are plans to eventually roll it out to the rest of the hospital. Read the full article.

Anyone who has seen or experienced what acupuncture can do for patients wants more of it. It doesn't surprise me at all that everyone burst into cheers!

Everyday Health blogger Nini Mai was selected for the Children's Hospital externship next semester and will be treating patients starting in May. Check back, she may post about the experience.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Innocuous Tonic

I usually don't blog on the weekends, but having Nicolas Cage at the top of the page is giving me a headache!

Being on Twitter has really helped me connect with other Chinese medicine people from around the country. Many of them have blogs! Here's one by Marguerite Darlington L.Ac, who's lately been seen at the Yosan clinic in a supervisory capacity. It's called Innocuous Tonic, with the understated tagline "Health Advice that Certainly Couldn't Hurt". How very British!

Marguerite is in private practice at the Healing Hands Wellness Center in Los Angeles.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Knowing" Starring Nicolas Cage: A Loud, Bloody, Violent, Creepy Rapture Fantasy for Extremists (Rated PG-13)

***WARNING: spoiler alert if you plan on seeing this awful movie***

My apologies, this is going to be off-topic. Last night I finished all my obligations to Yosan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As soon as grades are submitted I should have my diploma in hand. So, how did we celebrate? Quietly, with dinner at home and then a movie of my choosing. I didn't want to see another quirky comedy, so I chose what I had heard was a sort of escapist action fantasy with possible involvement of aliens: "Knowing" (Had I done my research I probably would have discovered the truth about this movie before going to see it, but I was in a hurry, between work, school, walking the dog, making dinner and cleaning the kitchen, like most busy people I just wanted to squeeze in some big-screen entertainment without thinking about it too much.)

"Knowing" is not a sci-fi action thriller about the end of the world. It's a thinly disguised Rapture story where secular humanists are punished with fiery death on a massive scale and the chosen ones get whisked away to heaven. Besides the dishonesty with which it's presented, it's incredibly, graphically violent, bloody and traumatizing in purposely post-9/11 kind of way.

For those unfamiliar with the Rapture, let me explain. According to extreme Christianists, when "the Rapture" comes, all the people who are truly Christian, saved, however they want to call it, will be magically transported up to Heaven without going through the intermediate step of actually dying. They will be taken suddenly, with no warning. Is the pilot of your plane one of the saved ones? He'll disappear in midflight, and down goes the plane. What about those who aren't saved? They stay on earth for, oh, about seven years of awfulness. You know, one-world government, rape, torture, famine, plagues, general mayhem. That's your punishment for not being a believer. Suppose you convert after the rapture? Because, you know, you've seen the evidence? Too late. THEEEN Christ comes back and show's over, it's the end of days.

This is a very narrow, ugly, twisted interpretation of the teachings of Christ. It emphasizes the wrath of God and speaks not to our hearts or anything good within us but only our basest fears. A series of books called Left Behind that presents a fictionalized Rapture story started in 1995 has been wildly popular, selling millions of copies and spawning spinoffs such as movies, video games, graphic novels and albums.

In Knowing, Nicolas Cage plays an MIT professor who lost his wife last year in a hotel fire. He's depressed, drinks a lot, and lives in a creepy old house with his young son. His wife's death has further reinforced for him that there is no God, no final plan for the universe. He's estranged from his pastor father and is a miserable asshole to his sister, who drops by every now and then to see how he's doing. (Remind you of anything? In Signs, Mel Gibson plays a Catholic priest who loses his wife in a terrible accident, loses his faith, and then is led back to it by aliens.)

I won't bore you with the details of the plot, but I want to warn you against seeing this movie for the pointless violence. There are two horrendous accidents that are filmed in excruciating detail. One is a plane crash that happens a few feet from Nicolas Cage, who runs toward the wreckage and tries to help people who are screaming in horror because their faces are on fire and they have no legs. This goes on for minutes and minutes. Later there's a subway accident in New York City, where a subway car careens onto a packed rush-hour platform and kills hundreds of people. This is also filmed in excruciatingly graphic detail, but the end of the scene sickened me the most. Nicolas Cage and others wander dazed out of the subway station, covered in white dust. This is an extremely low cheap shot at the emotions of any American who saw these pictures like these of real people who survived the attacks on 9/11. The music plays a part as well - every moment is played up to super intense levels, with the strings and bass drums signifying that something awful is about to happen - and then it does! Over and over and over again! I had to do some purposeful "shaking off" after that movie to prevent that violence from sticking.

And what's the purpose of all this death and destruction? In the end, Nicolas Cage's kid and some other creepy little kid are taken off to outer space by aliens who dress like the Columbine killers, who deposit them on another world along with (implied) various other boy-girl couples who will rebuild humanity. In a scene near the end, Nicolas Cage and his kid are walking towards the alien ship, and then Nicolas Cage is stopped. Sorry, his kid explains, the "whisper-people" say that "only those who heard the call" can come. Wow. So he stays on earth as it's destroyed by a massive solar flare that burns everything.

Oh, and here's one more cheap shot against NYC: the final scene shows Manhattan literally being obliterated by a wave of radiation and fire, which is odd because the main character lives in Boston, and that's where most of the action takes place. New York City is a convenient stand-in for Sodom and Gomorrah in the minds of some, and they delight in seeing it destroyed.

The teachings of Christ are revolutionary in their emphasis on love, kindness towards others and direct knowledge of God unmediated by church or guru. Don't be distracted by messages of fear and hate, that's not where you'll find truth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Human Placenta Consumption


Here's a link to an article about eating one's own placenta after birth. Warning: plenty of ads on this site, including some that dance across the screen, as well as some pop-ups. If you don't want to deal with all that, here's a quote:

Basically, it is fine to consume the placenta -- and many traditional cultures advocate the use of the placenta for obvious reasons. The placenta is chock full of iron (lots of blood in there) and hormones, too. During pregnancy, many women develop anemia, a low iron and blood cell state, from a combination of the fetus preferentially getting iron and from dilution of red blood cells by increased fluid volume in Mom. Additionally, women experience a fairly sizable blood loss at delivery and this contributes to their need to increase iron in the post-partum period.

In Chinese medicine, dried placenta is used as a medicinal material, called 紫河车 Zi He Che. The traditional functions are to replenish Essence, nourish Blood, and benefit Lung Qi.

Kidney jing is derived from one's parents. When this is deficient, patients present with symptoms associated with Kidney yang, jing and blood deficiencies. Typical symptoms include immature development of the sexual organs, infertility in men and women, low sex drive, impotence, spermatorrhea, irregular menstruation, back and knees soreness and weakness, tinnitus, and dizziness. Zi He Che is the best choice to tonify jing, as it is the part of the body most directly involved with the development of a human being. -Chinese Medicinal Herbology and Pharmacology, p. 916

The picture at the top is of a placenta being cooked in preparation for drying, powdering and encapsulation. Here's the complete article, a really great step-by-step guide for those of you too squeamish to eat your own placenta over pasta.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tai Chi Improves Balance in Stroke Victims

According to this study in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, tai ji quan improves balance and strength in people who have suffered a stroke.

When compared with the controls, the Tai Chi group showed greater COG excursion amplitude in leaning forward, backward, and toward the affected and nonaffected sides (P < .05), as well as faster reaction time in moving the COG toward the nonaffected side (P = .014) in the end-program and follow-up assessments. The Tai Chi group also demonstrated better reliance on vestibular integration for balance control at end-program (P = .038).

Here's a short summary from the New York Times in plain English.

Traditional Chinese Medicine gets good results treating stroke victims. One particularly successful form of therapy is scalp acupuncture.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Free Tote Bag from Golden Path Alchemy

Friends and classmates Minka Robinson and Ashley Beckman hand-make incredible all-natural cosmetics infused with Chinese herbs. This month they're giving away a free canvas tote bag with all purchases over $100. Go get yours!

Samples are on display at the Yosan bookstore and I sometimes pop in to spritz myself with something that smells nice. I haven't tried all their products but they get great reviews.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

This is a "novel" concept: a trailer for a book. Amy Stewart's new book is about dangerous plants, and in this video she references a few that are available in the Chinese pharmacopoeia: monkshood (Wu Tou, whence springs our friends Fu Zi, Chuan Wu and Cao Wu), castor bean (Bi Ma Zi, a harsh downward draining herb) and strychnine (Ma Qian Zi).

Remember what Paracelsus said: "All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous." That's another way of saying the dose makes the poison.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Balance Point Healing Center Blog: Herbs and Herbs

Take a look at this blog by Susan Hammett, Licensed Acupuncturist in Dallas, Texas. Her most recent post covers the important topic of self-medication with herbs and why it often doesn't work, or works less well than it should.

My patients are always explaining to me that they are already taking herbs for their health conditions. I, like Dr. Phil have to ask them; and so how's that working for ya? Usually the response is well, not so good. The problem I explain to them is not with the herb itself the problem lies in matching the herb to the correct diagnosis, therein lies the rub. Many people read about how one particular herb is good for their condition or they find a pre-made formula good for a particular condition. This is indeed a noble quest by the patient but one fraught with many an unforeseen obstacle.

Read the whole entry here...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good News! I Have Pink Eye.

Well, that's not great news. But it is a minor health challenge which I can document and share. And yes, I will be using Chinese medicine. Take a look at my post from last year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More from Help Is on the Way

In medicine we like to stay grounded only in what we can observe. Observation forms the cornerstone of all types of medicine, Chinese or Western or other. We observe people's tongues, the color of their faces, their posture and gait, the quality of their speech, even what they smell like. Modern tools like blood tests and MRIs allow us to observe in a different way.

But what if you observe something that others can't necessarily see? Here's another clip from the L.A. Weekly story Help Is on the Way, by Courtney Moreno.

I didn’t think I’d be able to fall asleep sitting in the rig, but in the end I did. I slept and I dreamed. In my dream there was a clean white room: white walls, tile floor. John Doe was lying on the floor, still naked but cleaned up: no sign of blood or brain or even the wound for that matter, and his skin and tattoos were gleaming. His eyes were closed, he wasn’t yet dead but not alive either, and whatever life existed in him was in the form of a kind of coiled-up and angry tension: Some part of him refused to let go.

I got underneath him very carefully. Curled up in a ball, my head lowered, my breathing labored, I inched his torso into a sitting position by leaning my body weight into his back and pushing the ground away. It was slow, meticulous work and he was unnaturally heavy. His arms were relaxed at his side and his head was tilted back resting on my serpentine spine. His mouth was ajar and through the open channel of his throat came a kind of smoke or light. Every time I nudged him, his body relaxed a little more, and that strange substance slid out, curling up into the air around him.

That smoke, that light was grateful to be going. It was grateful to be going, and the more it left him, the lighter and more relaxed his body became. No tension, no ugliness, no holding on. Just a body on a tile floor, with smoke and light in the air around it, and me crouched underneath.

I want to be that grateful when I go.

Monday, April 6, 2009

L.A. Weekly: Help Is on the Way

Take a look at this excellent piece of writing from ambulance driver Courtney Moreno. It's hard to convey, through writing or any other medium, what an experience is like for those who weren't there. Far from straight reporting, this is like a mini-memoir, a look at her life as an exhausted, blood- and brain-spattered, coffee-drinking cigarette-smoking hero.

Let me tell you a secret: In our job, it’s better when there are things to do. The worst kind of patient is the one we can’t help. Want to know the most infuriating chief complaint out there? Abdominal pain. We hate treating abdominal pain in the field. When someone has abdominal pain, whether it’s mild indigestion or a life-threatening aortic aneurysm, the treatment is the same: Drive to the hospital. That’s it. They could have an ulcer, blood in their GI tract, kidney stones, a bladder infection, appendicitis; they could have internal bleeding from a bruised solid organ or the swollen infection of a hollow one. They could be throwing up bright-red blood or vomiting “coffee grounds” — digested blood. This could have been going on for weeks or hours. The most you can do on your way to the hospital is get an accurate description of where in the body the pain is occurring, signs and symptoms, and severity. The triage nurse takes it from there, but God forbid you finish your assessment on the rig and still have even one minute to go on your ride to the ER. That’s one more minute of sitting there, listening to someone scream their head off, ask for pain medicine, tell you they’re going to throw up. You can sympathize with their pain, hand them a basin, tell them no pain medicine is allowed until some tests are performed at the hospital, but what it feels like you’re saying is: I’m useless, I can’t help you; just sit tight in this overrated taxi and we’ll get you there.

Read the whole story on the L.A. Weekly website.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Jesus Christ!

What did Jesus do between birth and age 30? The Bible provides scanty details. His birth story is well-known, and everyone knows what happened later in life when he started speaking out about the political and religious situation of the time.

Well, here's one answer: he traveled to the Kunlun Mountains to learn Daoism. Huaching Ni has written a very interesting story about where Jesus learned about the nature of the universe and how he learned his special skills (walking on water, loaves and fishes, and resurrection are all covered).

I really enjoyed this book. If you're interested in Daoism and Christianity, it's a good read.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Acupuncture Awareness Day April 23rd

Acupuncture Awareness Day is coming on April 23rd. CSOMA and the AAAOM are organizing a rally in Sacramento. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

City Acupuncture of New York Blog

Sarah Sajdak of City Acu NY

Our friends over at City Acupuncture of New York now have a blog. Take a look!

City Acupuncture of New York is a community acupuncture practice. Some of my friends from PCOM started this practice.