Posted to journeytosolidarity.org by Dr Jay Breitlow. Photos courtesy of the author.
Beatrice was once a spry young nurse who was as nimble with her mind in the classroom as she was with her feet in the hospital. She believed in a proper education and quality healthcare, and her family always received both. The respect garnered from doctors, colleagues, and patients was rivaled only by the respect she gave away to those same people. Today, Beatrice is confined to a wheelchair or her bed, and instead of getting up every 3 minutes to check a pulse, blood pressure or take a child’s temperature, she is fortunate to get out of bed three times in one day.
Four years ago Beatrice was going about her normal routine when she began to feel dizzy, had a headache, and subsequently collapsed on the floor. When she awoke, she found her entire body in the hospital, but only a fragment of her personality remained. Ischemic strokes (caused by inadequate blood supply to the brain) can come with little or no warning and the aftermath often leave its victim and the family, torn at the seams. Now 65 years old, Beatrice can only walk with the assistance from her two daughters, is wearing an adult diaper because she has lost bladder and bowel control, cannot speak or perform coordinated motions, and her cognitive abilities are nearly absent.
I first met Beatrice when her family brought her to a clinic I was volunteering at in Accra Ghana in February 2009. I saw Beatrice on a regular schedule (2-3 times a week), and the progress she was making was on par with that of anybody who is in rehab from a stroke: slow and rarely steady. When I left Ghana in late May, I confess that I didn’t take notice of the fact that Beatrice was not coming into the clinic anymore, which is not uncommon for Ghanaians as they frequently travel to their native villages for days/weeks at a time, and I didn’t think anything of it.
When I returned to Ghana in September, I was able to reconnect with the family and found out that Beatrice was not travelling in May, instead she was further subjected to nature’s torture when she was afflicted with a high fever and swelling in the brain. Although the family was not given a clear diagnosis, it seems that a type of bacterial meningitis, or variation of, is what afflicted her. This attack halted any rehabilitation progress, furthered the paralysis, and created a deeper dependency on her family. The daughters, Akua and Adwoa, told me that what was once a challenging walk from a car to my chiropractic table is all but impossible now; therefore, if she was going to receive care, it had to come directly TO her.
Packing my portable table and handheld adjusting instrument, Beatrice’s two caretakers (aka her care daughters) took me to her house on the outskirts of town. When I first saw her, her steely blue eyes met mine in a familiar stare of recognition, almost like a handshake, indicating that there was still a fire burning deep inside her. She had put on a significant amount of weight since I had last seen her and displayed almost no coordination or cognitive motor control. Her only response, even in an affirmative, was always a slow shake or her head from left to right. She could not stand, speak, or move any part of her body and had completely lost control of her ability to control urination or defecation, hence why she was wearing adult diapers. I performed a series of tests on her, which indicated she could feel, but her reflexes, like her motor control, were not present. With help from her two daughters, who speak wonderful English thanks to their mother’s insistence on a proper education, and her two nieces (who speak no English), we put Beatrice on the table to get her first adjustment in over 4 months. Using an instrument to adjust the depleted, fragile spine, I adjusted the spine, with special attention given to her upper cervical (neck) area.
The next day I got one of those phone calls that makes you feel oh so good inside. For the first time in months, there were signs of life in Beatrice. Adwoa, the eldest daughter, told me that she was now starting to use her arms and legs and that she was displaying more cognitive ability. I told Adwoa I would see her again the following day, and as often as I could in the future.
Now, twice a week, I catch a taxi thru smog and traffic to see Beatrice. She has made a recovery from the stroke at a rate that I am, frankly, astounded by. Exercises, which were once unfathomable, such as lifting arms in the air and leg lifts, are done several times a day. Her head no longer shakes “no” for every response. Instead she is speaking and communicating with her family and me. Her walking is still very limited and requires assistance, but where hope was once extinguished a torch now burns brightly with potential.
Beatrice wished to provide the world for her children and succeeded in giving it to them. Now her children have given up high paying jobs and stability to care for her. In fact the youngest daughter, Akua, drives over an hour each day to care for her. The lack of resources/portability of health care has not just impacted one life, but in this case five. By your contribution, not only are you making a better life possible for a once spry nurse, but for her children and nieces. I am not suggesting that chiropractic is a cure or substitute for post-stroke treatment; however, in this case it appears that by clearing the nervous system of interference, one person is able to live at a higher level, lighting a flame where darkness once existed. We at J2S have so many amazing stories that are yet to be written. Please help us to continue to write them by contributing today.