Monday, November 20, 2006

Hypertension 11: Herbs Fail Me

The Chinese treatments worked. Worked pretty much as well as the prescription medications. “Pretty much” because they did not bring my blood pressure as quickly. The end result, in terms of blood pressure numbers, were about the same.

When I started the Chinese process, my family “regular” doctor—concerned that I had stopped prescription medications—referred me to a “regular” specialist. At that point I had been on the Chinese treatment of herbal “tea” and acupuncture for about a month and a half. The specialist was happy enough about where my blood pressure readings were, and approved my continuing the Chinese medical treatments. His only concern was licorice root—licorice root was “contraindicated”. But the Chinese doctor contacted him and explained that a small amount of licorice root was necessary as a balance for the other herbs, so he said ok.

I took that was a specialist giving the stamp of approval, that there was no difference for him in terms of the results. I continued with the Chinese treatments because the side effects were much less negative, and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Chinese Medical Doctor. The real issue for me were the side effects, trading serious weakness/difficulty in focusing for morning stomach cramps and diarrhea. I preferred less weakness compared to more frequent washroom visits.

At least until my blood pressure readings abruptly went up again.

Personally I am certain they went up again due to a joint conspiracy involving international pharmaceutical companies and the CIA.

For several months, the CMD had regularly changed the herbs. I progressed from “tea” to capsules to pills. She continued to regularly monitor my progress, and I recall her medications changing regularly. But it was smooth progress, with my blood pressure steadily dropping. As I noted, they worked more slowly—the Western meds hit you like Darth Vader’s light saber—but they worked.

And then, they didn’t.

We had no idea why—okay, she had no idea, she’s the doctor. She gave me a different batch of the same pills, perhaps thinking maybe that particular batch of herbs was not effective. Nope. Then different pills altogether. Nope. It was a downhill slide, losing ground which had been gained for five months.

This went on for a month or two. In July, 2006, my wife and I attended at a peace conference in British Columbia, for former war resisters from the United States (guess I haven’t told you everything about myself—and I bet if you’ve read this far, you’d thought I’d told you not only everything, but TOO MUCH!). I should have been super relaxed--a peace conference for goodness’ sake, held in the gorgeous Kootenays, fabulous valleys and mountains, driving through some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada (which means: some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere). We heard George McGovern talk, Gandhi’s grandson (a great figure in his own right) make a speech, Holly Near sing, heck, even Country Joe MacDonald was there.

If I was going to be relaxed, without stress, and with low blood pressure, I was in the ideal setting.

But on my second day in Lotus Land (as British Columbia has been called) I slipped my arm into the cuff of a blood pressure machine at the local drugstore: 191/115 (maybe a little worse). Not just high readings, but higher than ever. As if I was taking no medication at all. I was stunned. Talk about a slap in the face. I knew it had been going up again, but this was approaching Danger! Stroke! territory.

I started to take a reading each day, and my blood pressure never dropped. 190 or higher, day after day, for five days. Even George McGovern could not bring me peace!

When we returned to Winnipeg I got a quick appointment with my specialist. And in his office my reading was…131 systolic.

Huh? Whazzat about? I never had such a low reading. Probably when I was a baby I never had such a low reading!

The specialist, who was a very nice fellow, and, well, a specialist (he really knew his stuff—at one point he’d told me that in only ten percent of Hypertension cases do doctors know why the patient developed the condition, making the treatment that much easier.) explained that the higher readings might be because the drug store machines were not always properly calibrated. It could also be that the cuffs the machines used were too small for my fat arm. And, anyway, blood pressure readings can go up and down unpredictably.

I left his office relieved. Really relieved. He kept me on the herbs—obviously what I was taking was working.

But…at his suggestion…I finally bought a home device to take my own blood pressure. He suggested two possible makes, and I went across the street from his office to one of those huge drug stores. There were several spiffy devices on the shelf, and I bought a good one, with a memory and other functions.

I took it home and, after work, tried it, following the directions. Ready? None of the readings were near the low end of the pool, at 131. Instead, they were between 160 and 180. When I went back to his office three weeks later, for the regularly scheduled appointment, my device’s accuracy was confirmed—this time, his office machine’s readings were also sky high.

By now, I was not only on an emotional roller coaster, I was a yoyo on an emotional roller coaster. And back at square one. The specialist was alarmed, and prescribed a prescription medication, Teveten.

I could have continued with the Chinese Medical Doctor, whose work I trusted. I believe she would have found the right combination of herbs and acupuncture. However, there was now another problem. The specialist was licensed and “recognized” by my employer, the government’s health care system, and Blue Cross. The Chinese Medical Doctor, for Hypertension treatments, was not.

Well, it’s a class society, and I was in class, learning. I was only a student--if I wanted help, the Principal had to agree.


Anonymous said...

I like the way you write. You say your a writer, what have you published?

Victor Schwartzman said...

Hello, Anonymous. I can not respond to you directly, but appreciate your comment. I have not tried very hard to get published on paper. One book, published by Arabesques Press International, went defunct when that press also went defunct--it was fun to be published in Algeria, though. Googling my name will get you a list of online zines where some of my stuff has been published. I have not tried very hard to send it out otherwise, and feel less & less need to now that I've entered the blogosphere, and am publishing myself. Too painful to send the babies out.
Thanks again for the compliment--you're the first person I've heard from on this blog!