Throughout my years of schooling it never occurred to me that the adjustment of a vertebral subluxation could be a matter of life and death.
I understood the theoretical model of subluxation. I saw the logical
detrimental effect of subluxation on the physiology of the body.
Common sense dictated that the adjustment was designed to assist the body in correcting subluxation leading to a beneficial physiological response.
But a life and death situation was a little too far fetched.
Years later two significant events changed my views and my chiropractic life forever.
In 1985 we built a new contemporary home in Bucks County Pennsylvania. It was a posts and beams house with 72 large glass windows.
We moved in early March. The weather was still cold; we spent most of our
available time decorating and unpacking. From time to time we heard a loud “Phunt”. We had no idea what the noise was; I thought it was the house settling down, a common phenomena of new construction.
Then, in April, the weather changed and we stepped outside. Dead birds laid all around our new home.
I quickly reasoned that the birds saw the reflection of the landscape in the windows and flew right into them to their death. We were horrified.
The summer went by without a single “Phunt”.
Then, in the fall, with the return of the lower angle of the sun and the glass reflecting the landscape, the “Phunts” returned. This time we were ready. As soon as we heard a “Phunt” my children and I would run outside, look around the house until we found the wounded bird. Invariably a bird would be laying on its side at the bottom of a glass window, its wing folded, its claws clinched on themselves, eye blinking and head twisted to one side or another.
It did not take a genius to conclude that the bird had flown straight into the window beak first.
On impact the beak had turned right or left, up or down, instantaneously twisting the neck and subluxating the cervical spine.
I took the first bird I found, held it in my hands, holding its body above the wings with my left hand; gently I took its head in my right fingers and in a quick and brisk motion adjusted the bird’s neck into and slightly beyond the midline. A clear and loud audible came out. I held the bird in my open palm and soon it flew away!
In the eyes of my two young children I became an instant hero, some kind of legendary figure they thought only existed in fiction books!
For the following eight years that we lived in that house we never lost a bird as long as we were home when they hit the windows.
One day, while I was away, my daughter Tanya, who was ten at the time, rescued a hawk that had flown into the kitchen glass door. The hawk was lying on the deck with two bluejays diving for the kill.
Tanya took the hawk and “monkeyed” what she had witnessed me doing numerous times. She adjusted the bird’s neck and it too flew away!
For those birds, the chiropractic adjustment was indeed a matter of life and death. Without adjustment they soon became decaying carcasses.
A few years later on the night before Thanksgiving, I received a phone call at home from Joan, an older women, who was receiving Chiropractic service in my office. Joan very respectfully asked me if I could go see her dying daughter who was in a special unit of Point Pleasant Hospital in New Jersey.
I told her I would. Thanksgiving morning I woke up and prayed. My wife Jane and I drove two hours to Point Pleasant Hospital. Since I had no license in New Jersey, we decided to present ourselves as family.
We entered the young women’s room and stood by her bed.
She was asleep, pale, emaciated, hooked to lVs and monitoring devices. Within minutes a nurse stormed into the room; with a loud irritated voice she ordered us out. The room was not to be entered without first going through a SAS, a room where we scrubbed, got disinfected and dressed in full surgical clothing.
We reentered the sick women’s room incognito, hiding behind our masks. Through all the commotion she had awaken. Upon seeing Jane and I she uttered with anger: “What do you want?” I replied: “What do YOU want?” She said: “I don’t want to die”.
I introduced Jane and myself, told her I came at the request of her mother, that I was a chiropractor, that I would palpate her neck which was the only accessible part of her body I could touch and adjust her if needed. She did not reply.
I palpated her neck, felt her Axis as an entire segment left. In a flash an impulse passed through me and my hands delivered the adjustment. “You are fired!” She yelled out.
So I was fired on the spot and left the hospital to drive home for Thanksgiving dinner.
The following Thursday evening, I had my chiropractic bi-monthly talk in my office.
The first person who walked in was this women! She had been released from the hospital. I then learned that she was a prostitute, an IV drug user and had been dying of AIDS. I did not heal this women. I was just an instrument for her own healing.
But when a person is asked “what do you want”, and they reply: “I do not want to die”,
I figured they are below 50% life force, they have lost the will to live.
After the adjustment she wanted to live. The adjustment released enough life force that she was now above 50%, wanting to live. To this women the adjustment was a matter of life and death.
These experiences totally changed my chiropractic life. I suddenly became aware of the awesome power that we were entrusted with. I realized that whether we are faced with an imminent life and death situation, as for the birds and this woman, or with the slow and progressive effects of life force being cut off by subluxation in daily practice, we are still dealing with life and death.
This is an intense responsibility for any chiropractor once the awareness has been gained. It became clear to me that I had not been trained with sufficient intensity to handle such a matter in spite of the fact that I knew my level of skill to be excellent. I had been teaching adjusting around the country for nearly ten years but now I was committed to take it to a new level and impact on the profession the seriousness of its responsibility.
If circus entertainers, jugglers, acrobats and contortionists train 6 to 8 hours a day for a ten minutes performance, then we had to become very serious and intense about our “Life and Death” training.
The reality of the adjustment, handling a life and death situation, raises a few questions:
• Would we go to ourselves to get adjusted if we were in a life and death situation?
• How much do we train between performances?
• Should we as a profession let other unqualified health practitioners deliver “adjustments”?
• Or should our State Boards fulfil their responsibility and go after them for practicing chiropractic without a license?
The chiropractic adjustment is life giving. It is time to honor our responsibility in delivering every adjustment as a matter of life and death.
It is time to demand from our State Boards full professional responsibility in protecting the public from untrained health practitioners. Let’s become masters at our own craft! After all it is a matter of life and death.