Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Only Medical Skill Is Not Enough (You Need to Get Familiar with Where You Live)

A Chinese patient who was more than eighty years old was escorted to my office by his son-in-law to seek medical help. I have known his son for almost thirty years, since the time I was practicing acupuncture without a license. After comforting each other, the senior citizen began to tell me that he knew a TCM doctor in China who was known nation-wide; he had also traveled 100 miles to see a Chinese doctor in San Jose, as well as a former associate professor of TCM in China in San Francisco. After listening, my eyebrows frowned, and I worried about what could I do for him even though I believed in my skill.

He complained he felt dizzy and his face looked pale and you could see he could not walk steadily. He told me the doctors he saw were good, but results were slow and as he talked to me, I could smell that he ate much meat and he could not digest his food completely. As I was taking his pulse I could feel it was over-active and I saw that his tongue was pale.

After I finished the TCM examination, I began to drain his body with the warming method. Why drain the body? Because his body’s constitution was cold. After treating him a few times, he was feeling somewhat better. I told him, “From your pulse, I can tell you eat much rich food.” He answered, “I feel weak, so how can I not eat good food?.” Sometimes, he told me, “I feel a little better but I am still feeling dizzy.” I said, “Don’t eat too much meat and too much rich food at the same time.”

One day, he came for treatment, and his step was not stable. His face not only looked pale, but also it had some dark green color along the nose. That sign alerted me to a condition of ‘liver wind,’ a condition which could cause a stroke if I was not able to cleanse his liver which was suffering as a result of his eating too much good food. I had to tell him again and again, “From your complexion and your pulse, you have had too much good food. You have to cut down.” He listened and looked at me with some doubt, “But if I don’t eat good food, I may get even weaker.” I said, “Your pulse is over-acting which means your pulse is getting narrower.” I know that it is not easy for most of the senior citizens to change their minds. It is not even easy for me to get young patients to change their habits and thoughts which have been passed on from generation to generation, but I have more then enough patience to deal with my patients. I have them change their habits step by step.

I told my patient not to sit down and watch TV after a meal, but to do some light physical work such as washing dishes or sweeping floors or taking a nice walk, and I suggested eating dinner earlier, thereby allowing the body to digest the food for several hours before sleep. I also suggested drinking some tea after a meal (about two to three hours later). You can get the best benefit if you eat and drink tea at the same time because it will make the stomach acid thinner. By following all of these procedures, my old friend’s father-in-law began to feel really better. He cut down on the amount of meat he ate, and he picked up some more confidence and began to believe even with less meat and good food he could get much better, even in his old age. He realized that in fact, other doctors’ diagnosis and treatment was correct, but they just had not realized that in America, the people’s food is too rich to digest.

As he began feeling better, I talked with him about contemporary knowledge. I also told him that in fact, modern science is in accordance with ancient science. Ancient TCM tells us not to eat too much salt and not eat too much fat. Modern science says that too much salt is a burden on the kidneys, and that your body cannot handle too much fat. Your body cells will change to an abnormal condition. With understanding and results, he was happy to co-operate with me. His pulse improved and became less wiry. The pale color on his face and the green-blue color around his nose became lighter. He secretly told me that the reason he ate too much meat and too much good food was because his son-in-law worked in a well-known restaurant in which many kinds of food could not be kept over night, so his son-in-law would bring it home for him to enjoy. I joked with him: “People give food, and you give your life.” He responded by laughing. He promised not to eat too much in order to have good health. I joked with him: “If you mop your floor everyday, you can have some more dessert. If you do the hard labor work in your back yard, you can have some more good food.” He laughed.

Feeling Dizzy Doesn't Always Mean Weakness

A 34-year old expectant mother of Asian decent told me she felt dizzy frequently but she was having no other symptom; she thought it was a matter of weakness. She came in for a consultation, and after taking her pulse I told her that she had flu. She almost yelled, “How come I don’t have flu symptoms?” I responded to her, “In TCM, we say that before you become physically ill, your pulse is ill first.” She almost yelled, “I have no body aches, no sore throat, no fever.” I said, “Because your body’s defensive power has been able to handle the virus. Now after fighting fiercely, the virus and defensive cells are dead, and they are filling up your blood system, just as in a field of war, where many fighters have died by a river, their bodies can stop the water’s flow. Your body is continuously dispatching cells like soldiers to defend your body, that’s why your pulse is rapid and floating (about running from 88 – 100/p/m). The body’s defensive power did not let the enemy go deeper; the fighting was concentrated on the exterior part of the body.

So, I comforted her, and I was ready to prescribe some herbs for her when she stopped me and asked a question, “Will the herb have side effects for my baby?” I said, “No, don’t worry!” Then she said, “You told me I have a virus. Are you going to kill the virus for me? And will it affect my body?” I replied, “’Killing the virus’ is how modern medical language speaks about it. In the language of TCM, however, I tell you that I need to clear up the heat for you and detoxify you. The herb I will prescribe is very common, and it has been proven to be safe for pregnant women since the Ching Dynasty. What year is it now?” She said, “2001!” But she still had to ask one more time, “The thing is, the herb is common, so how come it can get rid of my problem?” I said, “When patients get sick, I can help them get better. This is the value of TCM ~ if you know the cause of problem, you can get better.”

Eight Years of Suffering Without a Diagnosis

A patient just came back from L.A., telling me after seeing me the last time she was not feeling well enough to go, but still she drove to L.A. where she saw a medical doctor who gave her an antibiotic that she had finished; she said it helped.

After I listened to her story, I conducted a TCM examination for her. I told her that the last time I saw her I treated her for flu, even though most people would not call it that because there was no chill, no fever, no coughing, no aches, but only a little thirst. In this case, we called the light type ‘wind heat,’ and she caught the wind heat forty days ago. Her primary doctor also knew that her lung had something wrong.

I inserted two needles in her hands which would help liberate the exterior part of her body and create more liquid for her and also unblock the ear meridian on her left side, which was the old problem and which now came out again when her body was weak. After awhile, my patient’s ear felt better and her mouth was not as dry, and her mind became clear again. This patient had no doubt about my judgment because I had helped her settle the major problem from which she had suffered for eight years without being able to get a specific diagnosis.

She asked me: “How come I still get sick even though my body is getting well and feels much stronger?” I responded to her by telling about one of my cases: “I had a patient who came in one very cold day, but she was dressed in summer clothes. She looked very healthy, and her face was red. I felt cold just seeing her dressed in summer clothes, and I knew this patient was in a severe way. I managed to help her and eventually she got better with many treatments; she was able to dress normally.

One day she had a flu, and she asked me how come when she was dressed lightly in the cold weather she did not get the flu, but now with warm clothing in the cold weather, she had caught a cold. I let her know that when she was sick her body really struggled to keep her going, because her problem was life-threatening. At that time her lungs were over-heated, probably her body was in curfew condition, and the germs could not grow because the lungs were overheated, but when she began to get better, the brain and central nervous system began to slow down and take a break, and the body was taking a rest, the lung function became more normal and not over heated, so some germs caught her.” I also told her that a very experienced medical doctor told us that when a major contradiction is solved, another contradiction can come out. My patient tried to accept my explanation.

I gave an example from the ancient medical records: “A female patient in extremely cold weather put her feet in ice water and did not feel cold. She died the next day.” According to the ancient medical book, when a patient has a lung deficiency and there is not enough liquid their faces look as red as make-up.

My patient began to understand my story, and continued to get better, but one day she felt awful, frustrated and doubted the improvement. I explained to her that her pulse was better, her tongue looked better, but the fact is that she was not feeling better at that time, so how could she accept the fact that she was improving? I gave her an example:

A man had been unemployed for many years. Suddenly he got a job, so he was overjoyed and bought bottles of Coke, 7-Up, corn chips, etc. His wife and kids were overjoyed and were jumping around.

I said, “When I first treated you, your body suddenly responded and you felt much easier.” I continued, “When the man received the next check, he did not buy Coke, 7-Up, corn chips, etc., because the landlord wanted the rent, his sister and brother wanted their loans paid back, so he felt frustrated because once again he had no money.”

I told my patient, “Your internal organs were weak and empty, so when you major problem settled, the internal organs took all the essence from the herbs to repair their major problem.” By then my patient could understand the body processing and she understood that she had to be patient in order for her body to continue to heal.

One day she came in and was looking much better, but she felt that the left side ear had some blockage. I tried to comfort her by telling her that there was still some problem from the liver meridian for which I had been treating her. Though she believed me, she still had a question and asked, “I don’t feel good around my ear, how come you insist that it is from the liver meridian?” I replied, “Before around your rib, you did not feel comfortable and you had a medical check-up which indicated nothing wrong. I told you that it is from the liver energy stagnation which showed up in your pulse and your tongue. How is your feeling in the ribs now?” She nodded and said, “Not bad!” I said, “So one day you can confirm what I said.”

After some more days, as she kept coming in for treatments, she even forgot her ear problem. Because her whole body was getting better and improving, she even looked younger.

How Come My Head Does Not Feel Cold?

A middle-aged English teacher came in with her nose running like clear water; she was also coughing and told me she had a cold. I asked her, “You are doing well, how come you caught a cold?” She replied, “I don’t know.” I paused awhile and continued to inquire: “Did you open the window while you slept?” She said, “Yes.” I asked, “Did the wind directly blow on you?” She replied, “Yes, but that is what I usually do.” I said, “Alright, but this time you probably pulled the blanket away when you felt warm. It turned cold later on, then the cold wind caught you.” She said, “Dr. Ng, I believe you, but what if I had not pushed away my blanket, could my head catch a cold then?” I answered, “Probably not.” She asked, “How come?” I laughed and said, “Good question! No wonder you are an English teacher. Very few people ask this question.” I hit the desk lightly like hitting a drum and said,

“Because the six yang meridians which gather on the head like a sun can create much heat for you.”

She laughed and coughed. I laughed and said, “This time you cough not because of cold, but because you are choking from laughing.” Suddenly this excellent teacher began to have a glimpse of TCM as I completed taking her pulse, which was tight and tended to float. I asked, “Do you feel chilly and have a fever?” She hesitated to reply. I explained, “Just tell me how you feel!” She said, “I just feel chilly.” I continued, “Does your mouth feel dry?” She said, “Yes.”

I pondered, “If this is so, the wind could be a hot wind. But if caught by a hot wind, then, the pulse and symptom are not consistent. Because the pulse is tight and the nose is running like water, it is a cold symptom, but then mouth should be dry. (Unless feeling dry, asking water, but not really want to drink, or only drink very little.)”

I pondered again, and asked, “Do you prefer hot or cold water?” She responded, “I drink hot water.” I asked her to let me see her tongue; it was pale and wet. I laughed again, and told her out loud, “Your mouth is feeling dry not because of wind heat.” She asked, “Why am I feeling dry then?” I said, “Because your nose is running like water, you are using up the fluid in your system. She laughed and laughed; her eyes were big, then got bigger and bigger. I continued, “I could have been cheated by your symptom.” I coughed a little, and I put my hand on my chest and said, “Now I cough because of stress from treating you. The cough arises from using much energy, and now my body struggles, and the struggle manifests as coughing.” She was amazed, “Oh, I see!”

Wind Cold Flu

An English teacher returned from Washington, D.C. and came to see me. She told me her nose was running like water. I took her pulse: it was not rapid, not floating, she did not feel chilly, and she had no fever. As I was taking the pulse, I tried to note whether or not she had a ‘tight’ pulse, which would help me to make a diagnosis as ‘Wind Cold.’ As it turned out the pulse was tight. (If the pulse was not tight I would have to re-establish my judgment.) I put one needle in her joint valley and one needle in her forehead between her eyebrows. In about 15 minutes she felt better.

I also gave her herb tea to drink. As she was drinking, she began to feel warmer, and the running nose stopped and she felt better. She asked me, “Is this a flu?” I replied, “There are many kinds of flu, but what you have is different. We call it “Wind Cold” because your pulse is very tight and you have a running nose. The nature of the herbs is to warm up your body and make you feel better. Use your imagination: if the boiler is not hot enough, the water cannot be transformed into steam; if is not steam, it begins dripping down. In your case, your trip exhausted you, your energy ran down, and the “cold wind” caught you. Then your lungs could not function as well, and that is why you have a running nose.”

She came back for more acupuncture treatment within a few days, and by that time her Wind Cold was gone.

Rush to the Restroom, but Nothing Comes Out

An old Cantonese lady told me how she had suffered terribly for many years. She had to rush to rest room very often, but little or nothing came out. After I conducted the TCM examination for her, I told her not to worry, I would help her. She asked, “Are you going to help me purge?” I said, “No.” “Why?” she replied. I asked her, “You don’t eat much, do you?” She said, “No. I have no appetite to eat.” Then I asked, “Why purge then?” She responded, “I am really suffering, please help me.” I comforted her, “I have a program with two sections, one to help reorganize the body’s ability and the other one to help like cash to assist your problem.” She doubted and asked, “What does the ‘cash’ mean?” I said, “It will directly on your intestines for make them move.” After taking the herbal tea, she improved. She often sighed, “Too much misfortune in life.” I comforted her and said, “To avoid mishaps, activate compassion towards people and animals.”

When she was much improved, she asked me, “What really happened to me? I said, “Probably in past years you worked so hard and worried too much. This combination of work and worry consumed your energy. The worrying damaged your lungs, which in TCM is the upper river of your body. When the upper river has a problem, then the lower river, which in TCM is your large intestine, gets affected.” I added, “If you are not working too hard, and you have a happy family, your body can probably replace the energy.” She fixed her gaze on me for a long time; she seemed to be recalling her past. She said, “Worrying damages the lungs…this is the TCM theory, or your experience?” I replied, “Both.” She went on, “If I just work hard, my body can compensate?” I replied, “With certain limits.” She kept on going, “How can I not worry too much?” I said, “Why worry that much when you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow?” But she still did not quite understand. I added, “You worry, and the days pass by. If you don’t worry, still, the days pass by. Of what possible use, then, is so much worry?” She laughed and finally understood.

Same Results but Different Explanations

A woman who dressed star-like brought her friend in for acupuncture treatments. Each time, the star-like dressed lady dropped her friend off in front of the clinic, then she parked and walked in for acupuncture treatments.

After a period of treatments, the star-like dressed lady asked me, “Joseph, how is my friend doing?” I replied, “She is getting some improvement.” She replied, “But she told me she there was no improvement.” This conversation kept resurfacing, and I became increasingly puzzled.

One day I talked to the patient in the treatment room. “What is the percentage of your improvement?” She replied, “Around 60% to 80% better.” Then I talked to the star-like dressed lady and she said, “My friend said she’s had no improvement.” I became upset and said, “I am going to ask her in front of you.” So, when her friend came out from the treatment room, I asked her what is the percentage of her improvement? The patient said, “Probably 40% improvement.”

Do you want to know the answer to this contradictory situation? By telling her friend she is not improving, she is certain to get a ride to the doctor’s office!