How Holistic Medical Decision Making Helped Me

This is not my usual post. It is not directly about your animals. What follows is my own medical story. However, I hope it can help someone make a better and more holistic decision about treating their animal.

Many thanks to James Mapes for urging me to write it and Chris Brogan and Rob Hatch who motivated me to publish it.


Ah. to be young, playful and healthy. At least I had two out of three.

In 1972 when I was eleven, I started having distressing episodes. Sporadically I’d lose partial control of my arms, legs and tongue. For no obvious reason I would start to walk and talk like a drunken sailor.

I was an independent kid, and didn’t immediately share what was going on with my parents. To be honest, I was ashamed.

Even though I tried to hide these episodes from others, my Mom finally observed one of them. Needless to say, she was distraught and pissed off at me for trying to hide them.

That was the year that I hopped on board the merry-go-round of the medical establishment.

The best pediatric neurology department at that time was at Meadowbrook Hospital. Boy was it a scary place for a kid. Lots of really sick people. Some on gurneys in the corridors. Occasional screams from patients undergoing uncomfortable medical procedures.

Brain CT scans were not yet invented and all of the diagnostic tests of the time were totally normal.

My parents were given the option of starting me on seizure drugs even though these were not seizures. They could, possibly help. Side effects? Well…

Lucky for me, my Mom had always tried to work with our bodies and hated drugs. She was naturally oriented and an early subscriber to “Prevention” magazine. We were taught to work with the body. Not overpower it with strong drugs designed to alter normal physiology.

She chose to watch and wait.

My life as a kid growing up in the suburbs of New York was otherwise uneventful. Unfortunately, the “episodes” did not abate. They also did not help my self-image. I became increasingly introverted.

The magic shows and other performances that I used to enjoy giving became less and less frequent. Instead I chose to spend more and more time in my basement working on chemistry experiments and unknowingly developed habits that would be useful when I worked in research labs later in life.

When the CT scan finally came to NY, I had one of the first performed on a pre-teen. Nothing was found yet the episodes continued.

Fast forward to my college years. Academically they were great. Socially a bust. My work helped get me admitted to UPenn’s University Scholar program. Through it I was given the choice of entering any of Penn’s graduate programs.

At that time, I was working in the medical school. I had a brilliant, open-minded and supportive mentor named Dr. Manjusri Das. She didn’t know about my health challenges. She thought that I should continue my graduate molecular biology studies or go on for my MD. I chose instead to start veterinary school.

Undiagnosed neurological episodes continued and worsened. They were becoming increasingly difficult to manage. I chose to follow my new neurologist’s recommendation and start the drug cocktail that he recommended.

I gave the drugs plenty of time to work. But not only did they not help, they dulled my academic performance sufficiently to help me lose the full scholarship that I was on. Up until then, Penn was actually paying for me to go to vet school. Not any more though.

Needless to say I stopped the medications. I rebounded sufficiently to graduate with honors and continue my clinical studies in an internship at the busy Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. I was then able to start blending academic research with my work with patients. But there was a problem.

The grueling 100+ hour a week schedule was very stressful. A new symptom was triggered which was investigated by the docs at Harvard. They came up with a “diagnosis” of my horizontal head tremor. Unfortunately it was actually just a description of the symptom. Cause? Unknown.

They advised a relatively mild medication. I chose to try it since my symptoms effected the quality of my life. However, after their medications didn’t help me I learned to live with this annoying new symptom.

Finally in 2010, thirty-nine years after the onset of symptoms, one of my brother’s MD friends guided me to the movement dis-orders unit of Columbia University hospital. It was there that Dr. Pietro Mazzoni diagnosed Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). This was able to explain all of my symptomatology throughout the years including a recent MRI finding of a shrunken balance center in my brain.

I was relieved to finally get a “diagnosis”. Unfortunately, there was no definitive treatment. Sure, the doc would be happy to try different medications to see if they might help. I declined.

Luckily, long before this I had started investigating and practicing homeopathy. The scientific framework of this ultimate holistic treatment method provided a different way of looking at symptoms, dis-ease progression and treatment. Rather than the previously advised “try it and see what happens” method, I could now make effective proactive holistic medical decisions that would help determine the course of my life. And help others do the same.

Bottom line? I learned that dis-ease (which I now spelled this way due to what I learned about the internal energetic balance that leads to mental, emotional, and physical symptoms) manifestations often start before structural changes can be seen. That’s why my CT was normal but my MRI was not.

I’m very, very fortunate. I am blessed with a great wife, supportive and loving family and friends and fantastic clients. Sure, my speech may be difficult to understand at times and my balance and coordination may be off. I am thrilled to see them slowly improving. Not worsening as predicted.

My life is great despite my symptoms. Tolerating them for all of these decades, using minimal drugs and homeopathic treatment have allowed that. I expect only gradual improvement in my SCA over the coming decades.

I think my personal medical story is important to tell at this time. Why now? My life and practice are now dedicated to mindfully optimizing quality and length of life. In all species. Holistic medical decision making can help achieve this goal.

Everyone can learn how. Today.

2016 marks the start of a new initiative for me. Through homevet.com and my private practice I’ve been trying to improve companion animal health for almost 30 years. One person at a time. But it’s not enough.

Every day I am still contacted by pet guardians who don’t know where to turn. They’ve usually consulted several vet specialists. The problem is that these “second opinions” are really just better informed versions of the first opinion based on the dominant medical model.

You deserve more. Let’s build a large worldwide community learning from my experiences and dedicated to length and quality of life. The result will be a well-informed supportive holistic and homeopathic community.

The methods and approach to wellness preservation and dis-ease treatment work for me. They can also help your animal companions.

You can join us today in the Holistic Medical Decision Making courses and support.

Be well.

Dr. Jeff

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