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Around The Sun: Natural Healing

Steve Harrison decides to say goodbye to modern medicine.

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If a man isn’t his own doctor by the time he’s 30
then he is a fool – Hypocrates.

So I was laid there supposedly semi-conscious having a colonoscopy. I’ll spare you the details except to say it involves inserting cameras into unmentionabl nether regions of the anatomy. Those carrying out this investigation were saying "How awful'' and "Definitely in bad shape'' in doctor-speak.

“Are you talking about me?'' I enquired.

"You are supposed to be sedated,'' they said.

And that is how I found out that I had Crohn's disease.

I went from my local GP on to specialists who all confirmed my problem. I ended up being seen by the Professor of Gastroenterology at The Prince of Wales hospital. Why are so many hospitals named after British royalty?

It is profoundly depressing to visit one doctor after another when all of them tell you the same miserable tale which involves a pitiful end. Their titles and white coats merely serve to reinforce their dire message.

The Professor told me that I could look forwards to my colon being surgically removed, leaving me to deal with clip-on bags for the rest of my life. I shuddered at the thought.

Every week I had another appointment to see him. Every week he was running an hour late. His waiting room was always jam-packed. It cost me $80 to spend five minutes with the great man. I got a new prescription and a pep talk. I figured he must be earning $800 an hour. Why hadn't my school careers officer steered me in the direction of gastroenterology.

The professor put me on a course of steroids to reduce inflammation, and a course of something else to combat the side effects of the steroids. Week by week when I went to see him I had lost weight and had become weaker. He tried other drugs. I was increasingly dismayed. I asked him how much money was being spent on combatting Crohn's disease. He replied "If the President of the United States developed Crohn's, then a cure might be developed.''

I'm afraid part of my prayer life included a plea that the US president should be found to be suffering from Crohn's.

Now when I walked across town I had to visit a public toilet ever 10 minutes. I had to plan routes that would take me from one toilet to the next. It reached the stage of my considering writing a guidebook to the loos of Sydney. On each visit I was producing blood.

My life had become miserable. I did not want to become a burden to other people. I considered ending it. Off I went to The Gap with its high cliffs, the place where Sydney harbour meets the ocean, a favourite spot for suicides. I sat there for many hours on several evenings contemplating the end, but never mustered the courage, if that is what it takes, to do the deed.

Now I lay around for most of the day, going in and out of the toilet, shovelling bucketfulls of pills into myself. I rarely went out and frequently did not bother to get dressed.

I had six months of hell.

Small seemingly unimportant events can change lives. Adrian and Sue, friends from church, insisted that my wife and I go to their home for dinner. "We will keep the toilet seat warm for you,” they joked.

Reluctantly I went along. I met a friend of theirs who had also suffered from Crohn's. He had had numerous operations. Yards of his intestines were missing. He told me that belatedly he had seen a Chinese doctor who said he could have cured the disease if he had been consulted before the colon was removed.

Next morning I was up bright and early, heading for China Town. The Chinese doctor's name was something like Singer. His office was shabby. He wore tatty clothes and scruffy shoes. Yet I immediately took a liking to him.

He took my pulse and examined my tongue. I told him nothing of my diagnosed condition. After some deliberation he announced that I had a bowel problem. He said he could quickly remedy this.

While I went to the toilet he went to get the ingredients necessary to cure my condition. He wrapped twigs, leaves and bits of bark and ground seashells in newspaper. There were five packages. It looked as though the ingredients had been assembled by sweeping the back lane. My immediate thought was to put the packages in the bin.

He gave me directions on how to use the contents of the packages. Boil this for so many hours, then boil it again in this amount of water. Allow it to cool, then drink. Use one packet a day. He also gave me a small bright-red pill. Swallow this immediately, he told me. An announcement on the pill container said "Stops bleeding and bullet wounds”.

When I got home I took the bright red pill and started to boil up the contents of the first packet. The whole of Newtown would know something was going on. The herbs stank out the house and the whole street.

Day by day I boiled up an evil brew, gagging and holding my nose as I swallowed it down. Anything tasting this bad had to be doing some good.

From the first day the bleeding stopped. By the third day I was aware of feeling stronger. On the fifth day I was ready to tackle the world again.

I had an appointment to see the Professor at the hospital. He looked surprised when I bounded in. I was no longer dragging myself around like a whimpering pup.

"My goodness,'' he observed, "You look well. The latest drugs smust be working.''

I told him I had been to see a Chinese herbalist and suggested research should be done into the stuff which he had supplied.

The Professor consulted my file. “Mr Harrison you are a very sick man,'' he said. If you persist in consulting quacks I can no longer ensure your continued progress.''

"What if I tried a new diet and colonic irrigation?'' I asked.

That was when he asked me to leave his office. He walked me to the door, opened it wide, then closed it firmly behind me.

I continued to see the Chinese herbalist. I had colonic irrigation.

The later medical opinion was that I never had Crohn's disease.

For me it was goodbye to modern medicine.

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