Uncle Ernst-Part III

Our train to Arosa passed through lush green valleys and along a little mountain river. Uncle Ernst stood in the aisle of the train doing his strange exercises, like deep knee bends with his back straight as a rod, which years later I realized were related to the Alexander Technique. He had been prescribed the exercises to improve his posture and open up his constricted chest. I felt ill at ease watching my Uncle’s uninhibited behavior create stares and neck craning by nearly all the passengers in our section of the train. He exercised with complete focus on what he … Continue reading

Uncle Ernst–Part II

On the fourth day of the fast, I awoke feeling refreshed, rested, clear-headed, and actually bubbling with energy—mental and physical energy—while at the same time experiencing a pervasive sense of peace. Hunger had mysteriously disappeared. I had no discomfort anywhere in my body. The world looked different to me. The colors looked brighter. The air smelled pure and intoxicating. I felt alive in a way that was new to me. Strange and wondrous feelings filled my mind and body. Everything in my life and in the world felt perfect just the way it was, no matter what. There was nothing … Continue reading

Uncle Ernst-Part I

Uncle Ernst, my mother’s younger brother, was a most unusual Swiss medical doctor. He had been the subject of heated controversy in my family. My mother claimed that he was a genius; my father claimed that he was a quack. While in high school in Germany, I remember traveling with my family to visit Uncle Ernst, a man I barely knew. Ernst had a thriving medical practice in a town called Landquart in the canton of Graubünden. We knew that Uncle Ernst would be too busy to visit with us. We simply wanted to say hello when he got a … Continue reading

Pneumonia—An Unusual Treatment

Rachel began her life with the deck stacked against her. She has had serious medical problems since birth, most of which are related to the genes she inherited from her parents, and then exacerbated by environmental factors, like the food she eats and the air she breathes. With persistence and determination, Rachel has managed to navigate her way through life, overcoming one challenging health obstacle after another—all the time maintaining her inimitable Jewish sense of humor even in the bleakest of times. We actually laugh together during her appointments with me—even when she is in serious distress. Rachel’s long list … Continue reading

Antarctica-Part V. Inspiration & Activism

Come join me for the last chapter of this odyssey. One of the Indian students who “interviewed” me asked what most moved me about the trip. Aside from the thrill of being of Antarctica, I was moved by Sir Robert Swan’s dedication over the past 30 years to the preservation of Antarctica and to raising awareness about climate change. His strategy is brilliant. He brings young change makers from all over the world to Antarctica so that they will see for themselves what is so painfully evident. I was equally moved hearing about the dreams and aspirations of the young … Continue reading

Antarctica-Part IV. Primordial Paradise

Have you ever imagined what the earth looked like in the beginning, before humans tinkered around with it? Antarctica offers us a glimpse into this primordial world. It is the last remaining truly wild place left on our planet. I can see why Sir Robert Swan, after skiing 900 miles across Antarctica over thirty years ago, vowed that he would devote his life to “saving” this majestic and wondrous place.                                 … Continue reading

Antarctica-Part III. Southward Bound

Come with me on a trip to the most remote and pristine wilderness on the planet—a frozen version of the Garden of Eden, a landmass the size of the US, Europe, and Australia, a place that has never known poverty or war, a place that is covered in ice—ice that is melting fast. The international treaty that protects Antarctica from exploitation ends in 2041—unless we can take actions that will extend the treaty for as long as humans walk the earth. Ever since Sir Robert Swan laid eyes on Antarctica after walking for 70 days to the south pole in … Continue reading

Antarctica-Part II. Buenos Aires

During a nine-hour wait in the DFW airport—lengthened by technical difficulties with our flight—I managed to attract three different people with medical problems. A man and his wife from British Columbia, seated next to me in the waiting area, began chatting with me. They had organized a running marathon on Antarctica—over ice, snow, and rocks—and had gone down there seven years in a row to oversee the event. The subject of Lyme Disease popped up because the man had suffered with the illness for nine years. Of course, I couldn’t help myself from diving right in. After the couple left … Continue reading

Patients Say the Darndest Things

Before I began my internship, I could never have imagined some of the scenarios I would witness in the middle of the night in the emergency room. Nor would I forget them. The year was 1983. One night, halfway through my internship in family practice, I was on duty at Mercy Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. Just past midnight, the hospital had finally quieted down with a lull in patient admissions coming through the emergency room. It was a rare opportunity for me to take a time-out and put my legs up. Shortly after propping myself up on the narrow … Continue reading

Snowboarding Accident. Part X—Finding Joy

I kneeled in front of John of God, took his hand and looked into his eyes. For an instant it was like looking into deep pools of love, but then his eyes rolled back in his head. He looked like he was completely “gone” and not in his body. Within a few seconds he scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to the translator. As an aide escorted me out of the room, the translator said that I needed “surgery” and special herbs. The journey to Abadiania, Brazil, had been long and exhausting for Gloria, Gloria’s friend … Continue reading

Snowboarding Accident-Part IX. Composting Disaster

Once I changed the message on my answering machine, my patients began drifting back—at first in a little trickle and then, after several months, in a fast flowing stream like the ones that appear after the snows melt in the high country. One of the first patients to return, a well-known spiritual guide and psychic healer whom I had only seen once before and did not know well, remarked as she sat down, “There’s a lot of activity going on inside your head. I can see waves of heat coming out of your crown chakra. And I can see that … Continue reading

Snowboarding Accident-Part VIII. Rewiring the Brain

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” —from Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. About a week after the brain surgery—as predicted—clumps of hair came out and clogged the drain in the shower. I stared at the strands of brown hair lying at the bottom of the stark white porcelain tub. The back of my head—an area the size of a small grapefruit—felt nearly bald. I quickly steered my thoughts away from the frightful sight by assuring myself that the hair would grow back. But then my mind wandered right … Continue reading

Snowboarding Accident-Part VII. Brain Surgery

The nationwide search for a neurosurgeon who could help me turned out to be a fruitless endeavor. Then something happened—reminiscent of a deus ex machina in a plot where a god swoops in to turn around a hopeless ending. I got a call from the office of Dr. Cameron McDougall, specialist in fistulas and aneurysm repairs, on the staff at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona—a short drive and plane ride away from Santa Fe. As I barely breathed in anticipation, I listened to the secretary say that Dr. McDougall had probably done more surgeries on carotid cavernous fistulas … Continue reading