Qingdao, China - The sounds of the city that pass through the open window are overwhelming. There are car horns, construction machinery and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
I keep adjusting my position next to the bed, yet the nurses and resident doctors pass through the camera shot, but in the corner of the frame there he is – our patient, partially conscious, on a respirator and an IV. We are here in the neurology ward at Qingdao Brain Hospital in China, and it is my assignment to video document all of the cases.
Dr. Pai is our host, a neurologist who is the head of the brain hospital. He acquired a Ph.D. in acupuncture after medical school and today uses the Zhu Scalp Acupuncture (ZSA) and Daoyin Therapy (DT) protocols in his hospital. He invited Professor Ming Qing Zhu, the creator of ZSA and DT, to work on a variety of neurological patients, and provide training to him and staff neurologists who are also acupuncturists. Included in this training are apprentices of Dr. Zhu from Taiwan, China and the United States - I'm privileged to be on of them.
Who is Professor Zhu?
Dr. Zhu is a native of China who immigrated to the United States 30 years ago. Through his acupuncture practice he uncovered a micro-system on the scalp, which provides very quick results for many serious conditions. For example: a neurological improvement that can require 3 - 6 months using conventional biomedicine can achieve the same or better results within 30 minutes of needle insertion.
"In China our medical doctors are like Western doctors and many times reject acupuncture," said Dr. Pai. "They do so because they do not (scientifically) understand it. Having worked as an anesthesiologist and being a neurologist I can tell you it does. The mechanisms are so very complex and that is why we must research it to know how it works. We have patients who would be wheelchair bound the rest of their lives without this therapy. Our patients today are lucky because Dr. Zhu is here."
What is our day like in the hospital? On day six, we began to follow-up on past cases and then we begin each new patient with Dr. Pai getting the history, doing a neurological physical assessment and viewing the lab images (MRI, CT scan). From there, Dr. Zhu makes his assessment, connects with his patient, breathes, closes his eyes, centers himself, gets the qi flowing and then needles are applied and Daoyin therapy commences.
ZSA is a gentle process, which awakens the brain by activating specific regions responsible for the lost function. It is simultaneously combined with DT, which is movement or engagement of the body's dysfunctional area. Many of our cases are stroke patients. Some are a few days post event and others are few weeks with a variety of dysfunction: paralysis and bed bound, dysphagia, aphasia, loss of cognitive abilities, upper motor loss and speech impediments. Also, patients are afflicted with MS, autoimmune cerebellar atrophy and Gillian-Barre.
Watching Dr. Pai and Dr. Zhu working together is to experience opposites. Dr. Zhu is Yin, in his 70s, soft spoken, gentle working in a fluid and calming manner. Dr. Pai is Yang, he's 50, built like a tank, can be heard from the opposite end of the hospital and bursts into treatment rooms at what seems like 100 mph. It becomes quite entertaining because both have a wonderful sense of humor and feed off one another. Both believe in the healing power of mind and humor. Dr. Zhu and Dr. Pai will double-team with the patients and family members with such lightness and confidence that despair dissolves and hope is inspired. Patients are caught off-guard - here they are bedridden from a stroke, unable to move, scared, discouraged and within minutes they are stunned with skepticism by the doctors' insisting that they stand and begin to walk. Neither doctor accepts "I can't."
Dr. Zhu offers reason in the face of "I can't" and Dr. Pai jokingly offers to increase the cost of their hospital visit or fine them if they don't walk. The patients laugh and most importantly they try to walk.
There are also sad moments. Our 55-year-old male Gillian-Barre patient who was progressing, decided it wasn't enough for him to believe that he'd get better. He was so scared - unable to breath or move. Dr. Zhu said "You must not give up...it will take time but you will recover. So, do not give up!" I could see the eagerness to believe yet after a few moments he sunk within himself struggling to breath. His daughter told us the next day that he wanted to die, he did not want to burden his family. Despite the heartfelt encouragement by Dr. Zhu and Dr. Pai and the fact that today after one acupuncture treatment he could take a few breaths and move his arm, he and his family lost hope.
After three days they decided to take him home off the respirator, we all knew he'd pass very quickly not being able to breath on his own. And last night in the ER we treated a male, 60-year-old with a brain stem ischemic stroke. The needles were having an effect upon consciousness - the whole body stirred, altered breathing, eyes momentarily looked at each of us with consciousness. Stem strokes have a very low survival rate and 99 percent of patients usually pass within 24 hours. Did the acupuncture help him turn the corner?
Once the paralysis patients can stand, no matter how wobbly they are, they are motivated. Yesterday, we watched one patient pushing a family member in a wheelchair and she said "I need to build strength, I want to go home." Later on another patient got the wheelchair and was doing the same...they are inspirations to each other. It is powerful to watch the transformation of Spirit when a patient who is scared having lost their abilities finds hope through another patient's success.
In a side discussion with Dr. Pai we were very enthusiastic with the progress of all the patients. He went to say "Just look at them that's why we must provide education and training of Dr. Zhu's protocol/ techniques to care for many more patients. Places such as Stanford, Yale and Harvard have been researching acupuncture and/or include it in their medical education. But in China, acupuncture is not as well accepted. Professor Zhu and I are working together to establish a center for such research and training of ZSA and DT here at Qingdao Brain Hospital (which is affiliated with Qingdao University). Here we have 400 beds, the ER where we can utilize ZSA in acute cases and have the neurological rehabilitation ward for both short and long-term recovery. We are the largest and premiere hospital in Qingdao. It only makes sense to do this together with Dr. Zhu."
There is a lot happening here that will impact the future of acupuncture worldwide. As acupuncturists and healers, there's definitely a new place for our profession on the horizon.
Dr. Zhu is teaching his last United States seminar from Oct 2 - 7 in San Jose, Calif. For more information, visit www.scalpacupuncture.org.
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