Thursday, September 20, 2012

When Modern Medicine Doesn't Work

The field of alternative medicine is a controversial one. Modern medicine directly contradicts everything about it: its concepts, terminology, and basic teachings. To skeptics, alternative medicine is, at best, a placebo, at worst, pseudoscience. Doctors and specialists warn patients about the ineffectiveness of these sorts of practices, believing them to be potentially dangerous. What cannot be proven by sound science is often dismissed as mere hokum, cheap hope for people seeking definitive answers.

Its practitioners and proponents, however, beg to differ. When conventional treatments fail or prove ineffective, people have turned to a different avenue. Alternative medicine includes energy healing, elements of mysticism, astrology, and psychic insight. Often, the disciplines are used in tandem.

What makes alternative medicine difficult to describe is its reliance upon subjective experience. Energy healing, for example, cannot be easily defined in scientific terms. The exacting precision of modern medicine is simply not present. Relying on mystical forces for healing has its own logic, but they will never fill out the pages of a medical case study. Every situation, every person, and indeed every illness is different and must be judged purely on intuition alone.  

Suey Irvine has recently published a book, Healer Evolving, published by Balboa Press. In it, she discusses the long struggle for health of her son, Chad. Upon birth, Chad was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Suey, his mother, tried conventional medical procedures at first, but found they were largely ineffective. As retold in her account, doctors and medical workers overlooked crucial dietary restrictions and acted callously when treating his condition. Out of frustration, she went elsewhere.

Irvine took a very hand’s on role in her son’s care, learning healing techniques along the way. Treating his case effectively required a Herculean effort because of its complexity. Many times, she was uncertain whether anything would truly be effective. Even years later, she remembers and recounts every tiny detail. Along the way she experiences the trauma of losing a second child in infancy and a divorce to the father of her child.

Divorce is extremely commonplace, statistically speaking, for married couples of children with special needs. The constant strain and upheaval often are too powerful, eroding the very foundations upon which marriage was based. Irvine’s husband leaves in the midst of the worst times. They do not speak again for two decades.

Disregarding the conventional prose format of memoir, Healer Evolving is written entirely in free verse. The first two thirds of the book describe Suey Irvine’s relationship with her son. The final third focuses more or less entirely upon finding her own identity later in life. Present also is a droll sense of humor and a quirky delivery that provides needed levity to what is often an intense account.

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