Escape from the Emergency Room

Posted in Articles on October 4th, 2016 by admin

By James J. Gormley

I realized the other day that I had a medical “situation,” a male concern I had wondered about for a couple of months, yet had dealt with by the time-honored male tradition of “avoidance”—if I pretend everything’s okay, the problem will go away—not  the  best approach.

Scared about cancer, I sat down with my wife. We resolved lo speak with a physician-friend the next day, which I did. l was told: “Get thee to an emergency room” in no uncertain terms.

waiting room editWracked with fear, l stepped into an emergency room in the Bronx, and I was shocked. Before me were hundreds of people waiting to be called—victims of a world without a family doctor, statistics at the periphery of an HMO universe.

There was no hope in this room. Only desperation. Only sickness. Only pain. The room was dark and filthy, the staff looked shell-shocked,  and the triage “window” was a 1-inch-thick bulletproof barrier.

My heart sank. I felt a ball of worry in the pit of my stomach. I telephoned my car-service friend, Marvin, and asked him to pick me up and drive me to a hospital in Manhattan, one regarded as one of the finest medical institutions in the world .

When the cab drove in along the graceful, flower-­lined driveway, I thought that I was pulling up to a Hamptons’ dinner party, not to a place of X-rays and blood. There were only a couple of people waiting in the immaculate, “elegant.” waiting room. I thought “Now l’ll be safe. Now I’m in good hands.”

Or not? The triage nurse ignored  most of my questions, and I wound up in a room within the bowels of the E.R. Freezing in a hospital gown, I was examined by a surgeon who was truly compassionate yet overworked. He informed me that I would need ultrasound testing, and that a urologist would have to see me.

After he left, a nurse ordered me to vacate the room, since they needed it for an “eye injury.” I painfully climbed down (without a step-stool) and found myself, ignominiously, having to climb up onto a stretcher in the hallway.

About 2 hours went by before transporters came to bring me to ultrasound. When I was brought back to the E.R., I was deposited in a wheelchair and forgotten. When my meal arrived (which I had to beg for), the urologist intern showed up—7 hours after I arrived , 4 hours after the ultrasound. He was very vague, and just didn’t seem to care. He promised to give me the names of three urological surgeons and sent me back to the nurse’s station, where I waited another hour for my discharge instructions, which I could barely decipher.

nyp er editWhen asked by one of the night-shift nurses, “‘Who was your nurse?,” l told her that I had no idea—that no one (except for the surgeon) had bothered to give me a name, or ask me if I was okay, or if I needed a sip of water—anything at all.

When I sit back, and try to process what this experience taught me, I’m left with this thought: It represents the very worst and the very best of what’s horribly wrong and terribly right about mainstream medicine today.

It’s high-tech but “low-heart,” the apex of empirical skill yet the nadir of compassionate medicine. In 1975, Ashley Montagu said, “One goes through [...] medical school and one’s internship learning little, or nothing, about goodness, but a good deal about success.”

Pity that goodness needs to be taught, and sad that this is a definition of success.

ls it any wonder that holistic medicine holds the key?

[Adapted from a real-life account of mine that I published in July 2000]

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Ayurveda: The art and science of un-toxification

Posted in Articles on October 4th, 2016 by admin

By James J. Gormley

oil change edit smallAn Ayurvedic physician would shy away from employing what we, in the West, would call “detoxification.” This practitioner would liken detoxification to waiting until your car’s oil is burning and running jet black, then doing an oil change and system flush. The Ayurvedic approach, on the other hand, is marked by what might be called “untoxification,” a continual state and process of proper fueling, regular care, preventive maintenance and tune-ups, when necessary, so that detoxification is never needed.

Ayurveda , including the herbals of Ayurvedic medicine, recognizes that seasonal weather variations call for alterations of our daily routines, and that our bodies also undergo seasonal changes which require a modification of optimal nutritional  support to address them.

When the winter chill arrives, the digestive and absorptive functions are well balanced and ready for the taxing seasonal demands of obtaining energy from the caloric value of food. Ideally speaking, in winter the key is to eat a variety of foods, frequently and in small quantities, which will continuously support the digestive processes and the body’s nutritional requirements. This is part of Ayurvedic “un­toxification.”

The catch? Ayurvedic medical texts, and formulary “recipes,” revealed a realistic acknowledgment not only of nutrition’s importance in maintaining health, but also of the likelihood that: people, just like you and me, will fail to always maintain proper dietary regimens; the liver, the body’s great detoxifier, will need a lot of  extra help; and single herbs and combination formulas will need to be available to compensate for our nutritional falls-from-grace.

Enter three Ayurvedic herbals which are more than up to the job: Picrorhiza kurroa, Phyllanthus amarus and Triphala.

p kurroa

P. kurroa

Picrorhiza kurroa. The bitter roots and rhizomes of P. kurroa have been traditionally used for asthma, bronchitis, malaria, as a bitter tonic (stimulating the appetite and improving digestion) and as a liver protectant. What’s in it? Since 1949, a number of researchers have isolated a glucoside (simple sugar plus alcohol), a bitter principle called kutkin and others. In 1972, it was discovered that kutkin is a mixed crystal of two glucosides: glucoside-A (picroside-I) and kutkoside.

A standardized extract of the root and rhizome of the plant has shown powerful liver-protective effects in clinical studies. Apparently, it is the kutkin component  that  provides protection in experimental conditions. In a 1990 study by R. Chander (Indian Journal of Medical Research), the  extract  was administered in response to a malaria-like parasitic infection. In the liver, it decreased the levels of harmful lipid peroxides and hydroperoxides and “facilitated the recovery of [beneficial] superoxide dismutase (SOD).”

P. kurroa also protects the liver in cases of chemical poisoning (e.g., carbon  tetrachloride) and over-the-counter drug overdosing (e.g., acetaminophen, a drug providing symptomatic relief of pain and fever for those who cannot  take aspirin). In addition to helping with everyday liver protection and regulating immune response, this extract has also demonstrated relief (in human volunteers) (J.G. Langer, Indian Journal of Pharmacology 13:98-99, 1981) from symptoms of rheumatic pain, neuralgia, skin conditions and asthma (as mentioned earlier). Dietary supplementation level: 3 mg, two times a day.

P. amarus

P. amarus

Phyllanthus amarus. An extract from this small, tropical shrub has been used, in recent years, for such conditions as jaundice and hepatitis B. In a now-classic 1988 study conducted at Madras’ Hospital for Children and the Government General Hospital (The Lancet, Oct. 1, 1764-1766), S.P. Thyagarajan, and colleagues treated  carriers of hepatitis B with an extract of P. amarus for 30 days. Fifteen to 20 days following the end of supplementation, 59 percent of the hepatitis B carriers (22 of 37) lost their carrier status, which essentially means that they longer carried the disease. Dietary supplementation level: 250 mg, two times a  day.

Triphala. A powdered formulation from three different plants—Terminalia chebula, Terminalia bellerica and Emblica officinalis—traditional Ayurvedic practitioners refer to Triphala as a “good manager of the house,” one which successfully tackles digestion, nutrient absorption and body metabolism .



With a mild laxative effect that may be balanced by our diets, this combination has been used for indigestion, constipation and as an adjunct in ulcer healing, in addition to other uses. Dietary supplementation level: four to six capsules per day.

So, is that untoxification with detox on the side?

[Adapted from an Ayurvedic Medicine column I published in January 1997]

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Words of Liberty: Ronald Reagan

Posted in Blog on May 28th, 2012 by admin

By James J. Gormley

On Memorial Day, it is worthwhile to remember what our veterans fought for. Here are excerpts from Ronald Reagan’s Second Inaugural Address of January 21, 1985:

government, the people said, was not our master, it is our servant; its only power that which we the people allow it to have. That system has never failed us, but, for a time, we failed the system. We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give. We yielded authority to the National Government that properly belonged to States or to local governments or to the people themselves”

“With one heart and hand, let us stand as one today: One people under God determined that our future shall be worthy of our past. As we do, we must not repeat the well-intentioned errors of our past.”

We must never again abuse the trust of working men and women by sending their earnings on a futile chase after the spiraling demands of a bloated Federal establishment.”

“We must simplify our tax system, make it more fair, and bring the rates down for all who work and earn.”

“A dynamic economy, with more citizens working and paying taxes, will be our strongest tool to bring down budget deficits. But an almost 50 years of deficit spending has finally brought us to a time of reckoning. We have come to a turning point, a moment for hard decisions. I have asked the Cabinet and my staff a question, and now I put the same question to all of you: If not us, who? And if not now, when? It must be done by all of us going forward with a program aimed at reaching a balanced budget. We can then begin reducing the national debt.”

“I will shortly submit a budget to Congress aimed at freezing government program spending for the next year. Beyond that, we must take further steps to permanently control Government’s power to tax and spend.”

“We must act now to protect future generations from Government’s desire to spend its citizens’ money and tax them into servitude when the bills come due. Let us make it unconstitutional for the Federal Government to spend more than the Federal Government takes in.”

Now, almost 30 years since those clear words for spoken by that great man, and we still don’t have a strong (or any) Balanced Budget Amendment?

Let’s make sure that whatever candidates we choose for the Senate or for the presidency, have this has one of their top 5 pledges; it will be up to us to make sure they honor it.

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The organic movement: protecting our food

Posted in Articles on January 23rd, 2012 by admin

By James J. Gormley

Some “difficult situations have developed as a result of the recent outburst of enthusiasm for the subject of nutrition and food [...] We regret the opportunity it has given faddists, zealots and other extremists to increase their customers, profits and power structure.”

Who would have bought into such paranoia and shortsightedness in November 1971? A massmarket food lobbyist? No. Try a Science Adviser for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) who was addressing the National Nutrition Education Conference.

The adviser went on:

“The indiscriminate distrust of scientific and technological progress that is displayed by such self-appointed guardians of our welfare–guardians who encourage others to be distrustful too–is another hazard in our nutrition and food environment. The surge of interest in buying ‘natural’ and organically grown foods is one manifestation of this distrust.”

These two observations take the cake:

“The commonly used pesticides about which the extreme environmentalists are so alarmed have undergone much more stringent and extensive testing than the products of the food extremists. [...] And how do they [the 'extremists'] justify a food production and diet scheme that, if adopted widely, would result in such a reduction in supplies that famine and death would be the fate of so many people?”

Since these ill-informed views are–incredibly–still held by one infamous massmarket-food industry funded organization and by a number of anti-organic bureaucrats, let’s clear them up on a few points.

As early as 8000 B.C., early farmers had already domesticated many wild food-plant species, with growers having cultivated thousands of different strains, each with its own hereditary genetic material, or “germ plasm.”

These traditional varieties are known as “land races,” and their vigor and diversity, alone, are the insurance for the future of our food supply.

Today, many growers and countries are abandoning these old land race crops in favor of genetically engineered, single-variety “monocultures,” making the entire world’s food supply ripe for complete, and utter, destruction.

Clear-cutting across virgin lands annihilates natural vegetation, bringing on what is called genetic erosion. By 2050, 25 percent of the world’s 250,000 plant species will disappear due to deforestation, the shift to genetically uniform crops, overgrazing, water-control projects and urbanization.

In Sri Lanka, for example, where farmers grew some 2,000 traditional varieties of rice as recently as 1959, only five main varities are sold today. In India, which once boasted 30,000 varieties of rice, today over 75 percent of its total production comes from less than 10 varieties.

In April 1991, plant geneticist Jack Harlan warned:

“The diversity of our genetic resources stands between us and starvation and us on a scale we cannot imagine.”

To prevent global disasters, groups are tracking down the wild relatives of modern crops in habitats believed to favor their survival–then preserving their germ plasm in a global network of gene banks and protected natural sites.

Organic growing is the key. Preserving plant diversity, the environment and our health–indeed, our future–will depend on whether we, as a planet, embrace organic methods … or not.

[Adapted from my article which appeared in the April 1999 'Earth Day' issue of Better Nutrition magazine]

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