You really shouldn’t have a favorite child. For that matter, you may have a favorite child, but no one should be able to know that one exists! Even better is when each child thinks he or she is your favorite! Don’t worry—your secret is safe with me.
Favorites are OK in other situations. I think it’s OK for me to have a favorite patient. Sometimes I can have a bunch of favorite patients, or maybe a top-level tier of patients whom I consider to be a part of that elite group.
A favorite child may be the one who is a great and respectful listener. It may be the one who gives you the most affection. It may even be the one who makes you laugh the hardest, or in whom you see the most potential.
A favorite patient is similar and yet different. With a favorite child, it is more about how they make you feel now and in terms of your outlook for them for their future. What constitutes a favorite patient is similar in that I see the potential of their complete recovery. It gives both of us tremendous gratification when they reach that. But in other ways it is quite different. A favorite patient isn’t about how he or she makes me feel. It’s about the patient.
Consider acupuncture and holistic healing as a partnership. Patients will have the best success with treatment if they work in tandem with my approach. For example, proper nutrition, good sleeping habits, and minimizing stressful situations whenever possible are all examples of what they can do from their end to help ensure our overall success in helping them heal.
Much like a favorite child, a good patient is a good listener. It is someone who heeds my advice, understanding that my recommendations are for their benefit.
Recently I started working with a patient who suffers from neuropathy in her hands and fingers, as well as the soles of her feet. The numbness and tingling are extreme. The cold sensation in her fingertips is debilitating. It prevents her from being able to do fine motor tasks like closing buttons or properly holding a book. The neuropathy and coldness in the feet are so uncomfortable that it can only be relieved for a short time by a hot bath. It was beginning to affect her walking and security on steps. I utilized acupuncture to promote proper blood circulation to the hands, fingers, and feet, as well as warming her yang. I also provided her with two yin/yang squeezable stress balls left over from our open house last year. I explained that she should try to exercise the hands and fingers by squeezing the stress balls whenever she had the chance. I provided food recommendations to warm her core. I instructed her to add ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to her food, and to avoid foods with cold properties such as melon, mint, and cucumber, as well as cold drinks. I recommended she begin treatment with two sessions per week for the first few weeks so we could get a jumpstart on resolving the issues.
She quickly became a favorite patient. For starters, she came on time. For anyone who knows me, I kill myself to run on time for my patients, and I expect them to have the same courtesy. If you are on time, or even a few minutes early, you quickly rise to the top of the favorites list in my eyes! I personally don’t understand when it became acceptable for any doctor to think it is OK to keep patients waiting for a prolonged period of time. Yes, emergencies and things come up—but not every time. That simply gives a message that your time is not as important as mine. That will never be the case in my practice.
This patient keeps her appointments, exercises her hands and fingers, and is implementing the nutrition guidelines. This helped us start seeing improvements quickly! She no longer has discomfort in her feet. The intensity of the neuropathy in the hands has decreased dramatically. She no longer has to hang her hands down off the side of her bed at night just to get sensation back. She is sleeping at night without discomfort. She is able to hold a light book. We continue to work on improving the circulation to the fingertips to prevent the cold and regain full function of her motor skills.
Another example of a favorite patient would be someone who simply listens to my recommendations in terms of treatment frequency. It is unrealistic to expect that I am a magician. It is unlikely I can resolve chronic health issues in one or two visits. A good patient is one who listens when I explain that acupuncture builds on itself. Thus, the treatments need to be close together, especially at the beginning, in order to realize success and healing.
A recent patient is trying to avoid back surgery for an extreme herniated disc in his lower lumbar area. The most common injuries effect neurologic dermatome levels L4-L5-S1. This can often express itself as back pain with sciatica or piriformis syndrome. The pain can radiate from the back to the glutes and down the legs. Depending on the nerve roots impinged by the herniation, it can even go as far as the heel. In this case the patient understood it would take some time to resolve his 23-year chronic issue. He was willing to stay the course in order to avoid a rather debilitating surgery with a long recovery. He started to see improvement after a series of treatments. We continued doing bi-weekly acupuncture treatments for three months. We utilized electric stimulation and were able to resolve the pain. The patient has “graduated” to maintenance. His pain has resolved without surgical intervention. We are now at a point where he needs to come in once every three to four weeks just to make sure everything is holding. He is enjoying taking long walks without fear of pain. He tells me that he credits me for being able to walk. I don’t care about credit. I feel grateful and blessed to have been able to be the one to help him heal. I gave my straightforward recommendation of what it would take in terms of treatments, and he did his part by showing up.
My absolute favorites are the skeptics. I think it’s my fragile ego of being called a voodoo doctor. I’m kidding. I actually take that with a smile. As long as my patients are showing improvement, they can call me their voodoo doctor, Dr. Rothman, Deborah, Debbie, or Doc. When a patient comes in under duress from a spouse or parent and doesn’t believe in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, it actually becomes so much fun for me. I guess I like a challenge.
A recent young patient of mine suffering with gastrointestinal issues has been put through the wringer. She has had numerous scopes and tried numerous medications to get a handle on her IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Her parents have tried so hard to get to the bottom of things. I think it’s fair to say they forced her to give acupuncture a try, figuring she had nothing to lose.
When she feels overstressed with her schoolwork, it has a direct correlation and sets off her GI symptoms. In her case, we utilized acupuncture with dietary recommendations and have seen amazing improvement. She had previously seen numerous nutritionists without success. The guidelines she was given should have worked. From a medical vantage point, on paper they made sense. Unfortunately, and quite frustratingly, they didn’t work for her. She needed to make some minor adjustments with those guidelines and incorporate acupuncture to minimize her stress, as well as support and solidify the meridians responsible for digestion. Had we just taken care of her stress levels, or just taken care of boosting her digestion, I don’t think it would have worked. It was the combination that has helped this patient so much. She often tells me she wishes she would have tried it sooner.
Another patient suffered from chronic sinus infections. He was frequently on antibiotics, nasal saline sprays, and antihistamines. He simply got tired of always feeling like he couldn’t breathe and feeling dried out from all the medications. I recommended an herbal caffeine tea to help dry him out naturally. I utilized specific acupuncture points to open up his nasal passages and support the corresponding meridians. Immediately following his treatments, when his nasal passages were “open,” he went into the salt caves at AcuZen Wellness Center. The Himalayan salt is very beneficial for resolving congestion and respiratory issues. He is enjoying what it feels like to be able to breathe again!
What does it take to become one of my favorite patients? Be a good listener. Show up for your recommended acupuncture treatments. Show up on time! Understand that my recommendations are for your benefit. Give it a chance to kick in. Reap the benefits of holistic healing. It’s that simple!
Becoming my favorite child? That’s a whole different article, and it takes more than just showing up!
Dr. Deborah Rothman is a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, as well as a Diplomate of Acupuncture. She is in private practice and runs a wellness center in Lawrence, offering a complete solution for all your health and wellness needs. Comments and questions are welcome. She can be reached at 516-203-4500 or Deborah@AcuZen.com. Please visit AcuZen.com and follow AcuZen Wellness Center on Facebook and Instagram.