Last week was an adventure. But it didn’t quite measure up to my expectations. I expected to be whiplashed from my visit to both ends of the medical spectrum, but I am not.
On Thursday I was at “clinic” at the University of Michigan Hospital. It’s a bit of a casting call for new patients. Doctors from all over send the best-of-the-best for evaluation. I was there to audition my mystery symptoms. I felt out of place. Many other auditioning contestants had to carry their oxygen, I do not. Chances are, whatever is wrong with me I will not require an organ transplant. The U of M is a great place for a lot of things, but hospital clinic is a shitty place for a pity party. To be able to feel sorry for myself would have required me to be an even bigger asshole than even I am capable of. It was a good attitude adjustment and a moment to be thankful.
The doctor looked at my hair, hands, back and feet. She looked at my fingernails under magnification. She took my history. She told me about her children. After telling me that I look a little like this and a little like that, she piled me into a patient category in her field that is the equal to - Gosh I sure don’t know, let’s see if gets worse or better.
She also said to me, “it’s as if your blood vessels are angry. We don’t know what made them angry. Avoid cold and stress.”
I would not be able to leave without a series of x-rays of my hands and about a bazillion vials of blood. So that was the answer from the top of the food chain of modern western medicine – wait and see, I don’t know, and definitely come back in six weeks.
At this point I have spent almost a thousand dollars in office co-pays, laboratory tests, prescription medications and painful exploratory procedures. Big bill, but no answers. And, if I may say, a pretty non-medical descriptor of what was wrong with me. I couldn’t help but wonder if my next appointment would sound much different?
That’s what I love about Ann Arbor, there is something for everyone. One day I’m in the clinic of one of the best research hospitals in the country, the next on the doorstep of a doctor of Chinese Medicine (TCM) being greeted by his dog. This was a departure for me, a girl in love with science. To defend myself, the practice of Chinese medicine is far older than our Western version. In many cases, I think we simply have different vocabulary for the same things. And, like Keifer Sutherland asked, “how can a billion Chinese people be wrong?”
My husband was pretty surprised I was going in on this. Several weeks ago he attended a doctors appointment with me. That doctor, in his ceremonial white coat, shot me full of his pharmaceutical concoctions and took two sizable chunks of flesh out of the interior of my nose, to gain insight on the problems with my hands. The doctor billed my insurance around $900, caused me significant pain, and found no answers. Can I say that again – no answers. So, how strange or wasteful would it be, I asked my spouse, to have a the doctor of TCM do an external exam, charge me less than the equivalent of two co-pays, and perhaps tell me nothing as well?
I felt pretty confident when I walked in the door, that this doctor in his linen tunic and his dog, were not going to remove chunks of my flesh or shoot me up with radiocontrast dyes. He led me to his exam room and the little dog followed. He looked at my hair, hands, back and feet. He looked in my eyes, he looked at my tongue. He smelled me. Apparently this was not because of my Tom Ford patchouli, it was to detect if I was in the early stages of cancer – I am not.
He told me, “You need to relax and avoid stress. Your body is angry with you.” Hmmm. This is sounding familiar.
And then he told me, “You need to get more cardio.” ummm…what? seriously…what?
“Really?” asked the girl that cardios every day and spins three hours on Saturdays. I thought to myself, oooohhhh, I have hit upon bullshit!
He chuckled, “No, no. The right kind of cardio. Gentle cardio. Not so hard. Gentle walking. Only three days a week.”
Oh my God. Can’t you just take out a piece of my nose? Gentle cardio? What the hell is that? I don’t know what that is! Sweet hell…Okay fine, I will comply. Maybe he has a point.
I left his home office with two brown bags of yummy smelling herbs from China, a recipe for herbal tea anti-inflammatory tea, detailed instructions for hand massage, and a generally good feeling. I spent $100 and he had revealed as much information as any western medical doctor. I wasn’t bleeding and I didn’t require Vicodin to sleep through the night. Before I left, he looked at me and told me I would be fine. I believe him.
Vegetarian Dirty RiceModified From Three Bowls, Recipes from a Zen Buddhist Monastery Serves 4 to 6 Everyone in my house loves this recipe. I added additional mushrooms, miso paste for stronger flavor, and kale because I thought it needed something green.
- 6 Dried Shiitake mushrooms
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 large package fresh Shiitake, button or mixed mushrooms (optional)
- ½ medium onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 package tempeh, crumbled or cut in pieces
- 2 lg celery ribs, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons Tamari (or more to taste)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 cups short-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
- 3 Tablespoons dark miso paste (optional)
- 3-4 leaves kale, cut in a coarse chiffonade (optional)
Bring 4 cups of cold water and the dried mushrooms to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Transfer the mushrooms to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or coffee filter. Set the broth aside.
Clean mushroom in cold water. Blot dry, cut off stems and mince the caps.
Oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about two minutes.
Add the tempeh, celery, mushrooms (fresh and dried), garlic, and tamari. Continue to sauté and scraping the bottom, until the tempeh mixture begins to stick to the skillet, about ten minutes. Scrape up as much as you can from the bottom of the skillet.
Add enough stock or water to the mushroom broth to measure four cups. Place the broth, tempeh mixture and rice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer without removing the lid until the rice is tender, about 50 minutes. Stir in miso paste (miso should never boil). Toss in optional kale. Cook only a few more minute to soften kale. Let stand 10 minutes to let starches firm. Fluff with a wooden spoon.