Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Diary of a madman part 2

A follow on from my previous blog.

So after leaving the hospital which had charged me ten times more for a scan than the price I had been told, the inevitable phone calls followed. Not from the big boss, but from a tearful cashier who told us she would be punished if we did not pay up. Chats with colleagues revealed that this type of pleading phone call was not uncommon during disputes.

In the end we spoke to a manager and agreed a settlement price, closer to five thousand than fifty thousand.

So, thank my lucky stars, I had nothing serious, at least not that I could see, but I was still no closer to the truth. I needed something new and the best suggestion came from my mother in law. She called and suggested I visit Thai Chiro. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am no fan of pseudoscience in any form. IN fact, I hold nonsense like ESP, homeopathy and astrology in contempt. Still, I have never quite put Chiro in that bracket because it involves massage and adjustment which can be an aid in itself, even if the fundamental philosophy of Chiro - spinal manipulation - is debatable.

Wednesday, week three

Anyway, my next visit was to the Natural Healing Centre and Chiropractor Dr Nicholas, whom I shall call Doctor Seven

Before I see the doctor, I'm asked to complete a form with questions like: "When was the last time you felt really good?" and: "How many sodas do you drink in one day?". It was rather holistic in its tone but I was actually pleased by that. The GP approach of "find the symptom, prescribe the drug" was failing me.

Doc Seven is American and has a good chat with me and listens to my problems. He is flanked by two helpful staff who take notes as he (not I) speaks. Doc Seven gives a few simple tests of my muscles (or lack thereof) and reactions. He tells me there seems to be some problem with the muscles in my neck and shoulder on the left side. This makes sense; I had noticed that turning my neck towards the right had been a little tense, and during my vertigo sessions the floor always seemed to tilt to the left, and of course my headaches always came from that side. Had Doc Seven,the "quack", hit the target?

Dr Nick leaves the room and his two staff run some therapy treatments. This involved a hot gel pack on the back, laser treatment and some cream applied to the affected areas. Dr Seven returns and does he thing, but forewarns me that: "You might hear some shocking noises, but it's just tension being released from the spine". Sure enough, I get scared out of my wits as he cracks my spine and neck and the noise resonates from the walls, but it feels good. This isn't the end though, the next treatment involved a towel being placed around my neck and - in the most professional way possible - having one assistant hold my legs while Doc Seven stretched my neck.

This may all sound like a form of torture, but it was all done painlessly and with the utmost confidence by Doc Seven in the most relaxing environment possible. When it;s over, Doc tells me I should see an instant improvement in myself but I may need "up to ten more visits". At 1,500 bhat a visit, this is another expense I could do without.

As events turned out, I would not visit the Natural Healing Centre again, but I did truly feel that the treatment helped and - as we shall see - Doctor Nicholas was the first person to identify my problem areas.

Friday, week three.

The headaches had gone, I was feeling a little better and the vertigo had seemed to clear away for a days. But just as I was getting my hopes up, the dizziness returned with a vengeance during a trip to a shopping mall. In fact, I was noticing a pattern;it always seemed to happen indoors, in brightly light areas.

I decided to give the GP's one final chance. I returned to Kasemrad Hospital - a hospital I have been highly critical of in the past. A colleague of mine - a PE teacher - once came close to blows with the security staff at the hospital after feeling he had been grossly overcharged and his tale was just one of many. But anyhow, Doctor Eight at Kasemrad tells me the minor bombshell: "I think you are having anxiety or panic attacks".

"Are you sure?" I reply ; "I really don't think of myself as the nervous or anxious type".

"Well, you symptoms now seem to exactly match the criteria of panic and anxiety attacks" he responds.

Was I going mad? This just didn't add up at all. After travelling to well over thirty countries, how could I suddenly be getting panic attacks in a bloody shop?

Doc Eight referred me to Doctor Nine , the in-house neurologist. Doc Nine was by far and away my favourite doctor in this whole saga. He spoke with energy - making emphasis with his hands - and with an authentic yet amusing accent. After performing a few tests to check my functions of depth perception and balance were working, Doc Nine tells me he agrees with the 'anxiety attacks' diagnosis. 

He nods towards my T-shirt - which happens to have a picture of Marlon Brando on it - "There's a Hollywood movie about anxiety attacks, it's 'Panic Room' with Jodie Foster. Good movie!" he tells me. "Don't worry too much, we'll give you something to help and if the problems go on, call me again and I'll arrange a chat with the psychiatrist" he says.

"And don't get too stressed with those teenage students" he tells me as I leave. Ah well, at least Doc Nine has given me a silver lining; if I don't get better, I get to see him in action again

I go home but decide not to take the medication. Even if there is a psychological problem, I want to deal with t myself, not with drugs.

Week Four.

I get another call from the mother in law. She has a friend whom I'll call 'Anne' (because I can't remember her real name). Anne is employed by a rich businessman on Sukhumvit because she is an expert in healing massage. On hearing of my problem, Anne offers to help and makes the long trip from Sukhumvit to our place of her own accord. 

Within one minute of starting, I know Anne is not your normal masseuse. Her style hurts like hell, but before she even speaks, I know she is sounding out any problems in my body. With pressure from just finger, she stimulates an entire nerve running down my left arm. A few minutes later, she touches a pressure point near the back of my neck. 
"Does it hurt?" she asks. "Yes a lot" I reply in earnest. "Well, it shouldn't and here is your problem" she retorts.

After three weeks and ten doctors, my problem was best diagnosed and treated by a woman who had not even been trained in massage, let alone medicine. Anne's mother was a masseuse but she never taught Anne, who only begun to perform massage after her mother's death. 

For about an hour, Anne stimulates muscles and nerves across my neck and shoulders. She explains that my muscles on the left side have become tense. This has restricted the flow of blood to my brain - hence the one sided headaches - and probably started the vertigo. Only Doc Seven got anywhere close to this diagnosis. After one hour, she finishes and tells me I would feel better. And I did.

So that's where I am. Thanks to Anne - who didn't even ask for any payment for her work (of course we insisted) I am feeling much better. The mystery isn't totally solved: I still feel dizzy in certain places and I don't know why, but it now feels manageable. 

I've come to appreciate my health and not take certain things for granted anymore. If I seem harsh on the doctors, I probably am. All of them were friendly, caring, polite and professional. Yet after all ten visits, more than twenty drug prescriptions, a whole lot of money and talk, the best cure came not from the drugs - of which I took less than half of what I was told to take -  but from an untrained yet incredibly accurate masseuse. There's probably a lesson in there somewhere. I'll let you decide what it is.

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