Recently, Dad got very interested in alternative medicine, specifically acupuncture. Because his desire to help people is so strong, he went back to school. He also travelled to Arizona twice for six mandatory classes to learn how to insert needles in people. He passed the final exam with flying colors, and finally, all his hard work paid off - he could legally perform acupuncture.
I’ll admit that I was quite skeptical that these needles would work as well as surgery, medication, or even injections, but my dad assured me that acupuncture did because he had seen it work so often in his classes and training. He didn’t know exactly how placing needles along certain channels in the body worked miracles, curing anything from a simple migraine to joint problems, but he was a believer.
During the months my dad studied, he practiced placing needles in a bright green foam frog. Apparently the frog was a pretty good replica of how it felt to put needles into people. Because it was acceptable for him to practice on family and friends, he would try to persuade us to let him practice on us but there was no way we would let him stick us with those scary-looking needles. Who in their right mind would be up for something like that?
Well ... eventually, we all gave in. My mom was the first, but only because she had one of her terrible migraines and would have tried anything to get rid of the dizziness and nausea. There was no way Dad was going to let this opportunity slip by. He immediately broke out his needles and began to name the places where he would stick them. The list sounded long and painful, but he reassured us that it would not hurt; the only points that might be slightly uncomfortable were the “ting points.” These were on the sides of your toenails and the pads of your fingers. The look on my mom’s face was priceless as she listened.
“Just relax,” he kept saying, but it was quite clear that there was no way she could obey such a command.
The room was silent as my brothers and I watched from the foot of the bed. I glanced at my mom and could see tiny bits of sweat trickling down her face, and her hands trembling. Apparently my dad noticed how deathly afraid she was, and to his pile of needles, he added one more, saying, “This will calm you.”
And so it began. The first needle was carefully placed atop my mom’s head and then the pile of needles dwindled as he meticulously placed each along her head, ear, legs and feet. My mom didn’t complain once that it was painful; in fact her hands stopped shaking and she looked relaxed.
Only a few minutes after Dad placed the last needle, my mom dozed off. But wait, my mom never falls asleep! Wow, I thought, this stuff must really work. Apparently Dad had used the acupuncture point Governor Vessel 21, which makes you less tense (similar to a couple milligrams of valium). After placing this needle, it is almost guaranteed that you will fall asleep, just as my mom did. About an hour later, at Dad’s request, I woke her up. To my surprise - and hers - the migraine was gone! My mom didn’t want to admit it, but this “voodoo medicine,” as she called it, had actually helped.
We all saw it work and were now believers. My mom doesn’t tolerate pain well and neither do I, so since she had done fine, I wasn’t the least bit worried when Dad treated me. He cured my tennis elbow and even a cold sore, which healed as quickly as it appeared. And my mom was right; it didn’t hurt, except for those darn ting points.
I am fortunate to have a dad who can perform this awesome form of medicine. In addition to being a rheumatologist, he loves practicing acupuncture. It’s very beneficial in treating many arthritis problems. Dad has now set aside two days a week to see patients for acupuncture. So far he has never failed to cure a patient. Because our town is small, word has spread and it seems many want to find out what acupuncture can do for them, so many, in fact, that my dad only treats patients who see him for rheumatology problems. Oh yes, I almost forgot, he treats his lovely family, too.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.