Today was an incredible day. I made a patient cry. Reading those words, you might be wondering what kind of doctor would thrive on making children cry? Well, my patient cried tears of joy today. She felt almost complete relief from pain. Something she hasn’t experienced a single day in the past five years of her life. I had the pleasure of witnessing this after I performed acupuncture on her for the very first time.
In rheumatology, there are very few, if any, quick fixes. Most of the medications I use require four to six weeks to take full effect. With acupuncture, I have the ability to provide instant relief for my patients, and it is so rewarding.
I was first introduced to acupuncture when I was a second year medical student. I suffered from back pain that started when I was a teenager. I tried pain medication, chiropractic therapy, massage and osteopathic manipulation (as I am a doctor of osteopathy). Someone had recommended I try acupuncture. One of my professors was world renowned for her treatment with complementary medicine. Of course, I was skeptical. I spent most of my days learning about the physics, biochemistry and histology of the human body. My brain was focused on the science behind medicine. I had no time to contemplate the philosophy behind traditional Chinese medicine.
I was told this doctor had a six month waiting list, but considering I was a student in her class, she made an exception for me. I was able to get in the next week! I had one acupuncture session, and my pain was decreased by 70 percent. I was baffled and ecstatic to finally feel pain relief.
I then rotated with an adult rheumatologist when I was in my third year of medical school. She was the first physician I had seen who used complementary therapy for rheumatologic conditions. I didn’t realize it then, but this was a life-changing experience that eventually led to my future as a pediatric rheumatologist.
In rheumatology, I see many patients suffer with chronic pain syndromes. Sometimes medications do very little to improve their symptoms. I desperately wanted to find something else I could offer to ease the pain these patients experience on a daily basis. Acupuncture was the perfect way for me to do this. I am blessed with support from others who understood my vision and made it possible to bring this concept to fruition. I am now able to incorporate acupuncture into my rheumatology practice at Texas Children’s Hospital. I am in awe everyday with the amazing results I see with my patients. It reinforces why I went into medicine in the first place. Why do any of us go into medicine? To help people! Five years in the life of a child is an eternity. If I can provide pain relief even for one minute, I have to try!