Winning Over Lou Gehrig's Disease
By A. Robert Smith
Editor of Venture Inward Magazine
One of them who has improved dramatically is David Atkinson, 59, whose doctor told him in 1991 that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and there was nothing that could be done to overcome it. A star football player, pole vaulter, and boxer in his youth, a businessman with five children from two marriages, he has led the vigorous life of an entrepreneur, including operating his own shrimp boat and his own furniture manufacturing firm. Atkinson was accustomed to succeeding, and he challenged his unpromising medical prognosis. But nothing worked until his daughter introduced him to the Edgar Cayce holistic healing remedies. The results have been amazingly successful. He was interviewed at his home in Salisbury, North Carolina, on August 14, 1994, by Venture Inward editor A. Robert Smith.
How did it begin? A. In the spring of 1991, my wife Wendy and I had decided to move from Wilmington, North Carolina to Florida. About a week before we were to go, I started having difficulty with my neck - the muscles were giving way. I noticed it when I was cutting the grass. My head flopped down on my chest. I went inside and rested for a while, but when I went out in the heat it happened again. And it got worse. I was starting to have trouble swallowing, and eating, and chewing. I decided to see a doctor before we left for Florida. Of course, we didn't consider that it was anything serious. After a series of tests, examinations, and biopsies, I was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, which is the European term for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The doctor gave us some literature to read, and we were really devastated when we found out what it was all about. The medical literature explained that "Motor Neurone Disease (MNO) is the name of a group of related diseases affecting the motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurones are nerve cells that control muscles, hence degeneration causes weakness and wasting of muscles. Such wasting generally occurs in arms or legs initially, some groups of muscles being affected more than others. Some patients may develop a weakness and wasting in the muscles supplying the face and throat, with the consequent problems of thick speech and difficulty chewing and swallowing. MNO does not affect the intellect or the sense of touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing. No one knows the cause. Or cure." ALS was first identified in 1869 by a French neurologist. It gained its popular name in the United States after a New York Yankees star baseball player, Lou "Iron Man" Gehrig, was sidelined with the disease in 1939 after playing a record 2,130 straight games. Gehrig died two years later. The prognosis for its victims hasn't changed.
And my condition was worsening day by day.
Q. Your daughter Debbie told me that before this episode you'd had problems with your throat. A. When I worked with an ambulance service in Miami while in college, we flew to Cuba to pick up a patient, and someone gave me a couple of Cuban cigars. I never had smoked a cigarette in my life. I lit up one of those Cuban cigars and fell in love with them. I started smoking cigars quite heavily, to the point, after a number of years, that I was up to almost two dozen a day. I would light one cigar with another one. I became a cigar chain smoker. I started early in the morning and ended late at night. I started having sore throats on a regular basis, catching flu viruses and whatever, quite easily. I went to a doctor, who told me that I was swallowing so much of the tobacco juice that it was burning my throat lining, and that smoking was unhealthy. If I wanted to be a healthy person, and spend time with my family, I needed to stop smoking. My throat was bothering me so badly that I gave up smoking overnight in about 1985.
Q. How long had you been smoking cigars?
A. For approximately 23 years, but I was able to give it up.
Q. After you quit smoking cigars, did your throat condition improve?
A. Yes, except I was susceptible, every year, to at least two serious sore throat infections, for which I took antibiotics. It would take me four or five days to get over it. And I had episodes with my throat, a kind of closing. I was forcing air in and you would hear a wheezing sound, and that would happen occasionally, but that was it. They couldn't find anything really wrong with my throat, and the doctor said I evidently was susceptible to throat viruses. I was never in the hospital, and I was considered a very healthy person. Q. Had you ever had any serious illnesses?
A. Never. I had my appendix out when I was in high school, and after an auto accident I was in the hospital for about three days. Other than that, I had never been in the hospital.
Q. Until you were 55, and were diagnosed with ALS. Was the doctor a specialist?
A. He was a neurologist who had a great deal of experience with ALS and had served his internship, I believe, at Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina), in a department where they see a lot of ALS and myasthenia gravis patients.
Q. What was the next step?
A. He sent me to Chapel Hill to have a nerve and a muscle biopsy. They take a sample of your nerve and muscle cells. My condition was worsening, day by day.
Q. In what way?
A. I couldn't hold my head up. I was having extreme difficulty in eating and chewing, trouble swallowing. I could not drink thin liquids. They almost made me choke. It had to be something thick for me to swallow it. This, I found, was typical of ALS. My legs were getting weak, my arms were getting weak. I was tiring very easily from any physical activity. My stamina was going down the drain. It got so bad that I was hospitalized. I was having trouble breathing, swallowing, and was in the hospital for about a week as they continued to do a series of tests. They examined my throat and all parts of my body, and my neurologist had other doctors come in to do consultations. I seemed to be deteriorating so rapidly that my doctor thought that, within six months, it could be that I would need mechanical equipment to breathe, and a tube for feeding. So they brought in ventilators, tried them on me, told me how they worked; and showed me feeding tubes Ð one that went through the nose, another through an incision in your stomach, a tube with a little screw-on cap, and you're fed that way. Of course it scared me to death, and I did not like any of the apparatuses that I saw.
I made out a living will, which states that I will not be hooked up to life support equipment. So if his forecast had held true, I would have passed away in that time period. Then things leveled out, my breathing seemed to get better, and I was feeling better, so I went home. And then came decision time. Wendy and I and our 10-year-old daughter Amanda were ready to move to Florida. Wendy had given up her job, I had sold out my interest in the furniture business. Not realizing that I was going to get sick, I had given up my hospitalization. It was a tremendous financial burden. The bills were very expensive for the doctors, the hospital, all the tests, which were going on constantly. Before that we had gotten on fairly well Ð we had saved money, bought property that we rented out, had notes from the business that I had sold, and I was owed $9,000 in back salary from my company. Well, we had to sell the rental property. Our bank accounts were wiped out. We were paying our medical bills with credit cards. The two partners were in trouble in the business after I left and couldn't pay me anything on the notes they owed me, or my back salary. We were virtually wiped out financially. We couldn't move to Florida, under these circumstances.
My oldest daughter, Deborah, who has her master's degree in social work and psychology, was working in Salisbury, North Carolina. She was experienced in dealing with catastrophic situations, and counseling people, and we thought that it would be good to move to Salisbury to be near her for the last six months that I had left, instead of our new, wonderful life in Florida. In the meantime, my biopsies came back and showed signs of cell degeneration, in line with what was found in a patient who had motor neurone disease, or ALS. So that kind of confirmed the preliminary diagnosis.
I started going to Chapel Hill, to the neuromuscular unit, headed by Dr. Colin Hall, a wonderful doctor, and a wonderful friend. He gave me every test he could think of, hoping to find that I had something less serious than ALS, such as myasthenia gravis, which is serious but not necessarily terminal. He put me in the hospital for 14 days, and had me go through a series of blood cleansings. That and a medicine called Mestinon are what they use to treat people with myasthenia. The tests showed that I did not have myasthenia. I was pretty disappointed because it brought me back to the diagnosis of ALS.
Dr. Hall was also very disappointed. He tried every other known neurological test and experimented with chemotherapy drugs for a lesser form of ALS, and those did not work. He really did not know what to do. In addition to the symptoms of ALS, I have other symptoms, which are neurological in nature, but are not symptoms of ALS. Those symptoms are tremors that I cannot control. I have them in both hands, but the left is much worse. I have it in the arm and some body tremors. Those are not symptoms indicative of ALS, at all. That's more of Parkinson's, though I've been tested and do not have Parkinson's. So he thinks that its possible that I may have two neurological disorders or something completely unknown.
Q. It's like Parkinson's, but you don't have that.
A. It's just body, hand, and arm tremors on the left side. Dr. Hall stated that he just did not know what to do for me. There is no treatment for ALS. And he doesn't know what neurological disease I have that is causing the tremors.
Mr. Atkinson handed me his medical records. They showed that on May 5, 1991 "a diagnosis of myasthenia gravis was made and he was placed on Mestinon". On July 11, 1991 "a tentative diagnosis of a motor neurone disease, possibly ALS" was recorded. A neurosurgeon on August 16, 1991 diagnosed his condition as "motor neurone disease" and "palatine paresis" which is paralysis of the palate. A report from the Electromyography Division of the Clinical Neurophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, showed that he was tested for "lower motor neurone disease" on August 12, 1991, and again on August 21, 1992, which showed "significant motor neurone abnormality."
My neck and throat muscles had gotten so weak that I had to wear a special neck brace to hold my head in an upright position. I could not chew or eat solid foods, so I was on a liquid diet. My wife learned how to puree foods, almost to a liquid texture, so I could be fed. That went on for over a year, during which I became much weaker. I could not walk very well at all. My legs would give out on me. Any sort of physical activity would wipe me out. I'd end up in bed. I was going down the path of the original prognosis, and things were looking very bleak when we moved to an apartment in Salisbury in August, 1991. We had no money. We were relying on relatives. I had filed for Social Security disability.
A source at Social Security confirmed to Venture Inward that Mr. Atkinson had been diagnosed with ALS, which qualified him for assistance.
But they also have a regulation that says that you must wait six months before you can receive any benefits. And you have to wait two years before you're eligible for Medicare's medical assistance. So it's six months for getting financial disability assistance, and two years for getting medical under Medicare, which I think is outrageous. So I ended up on Medicaid, which is a welfare program. To go from the lifestyle that I had known all my life to Medicaid was a very emotional, stressful event for our entire family. But that is how my medical bills and medication were paid. Wendy got several part-time jobs while helping me, at home, and seeing that Amanda was getting adjusted to her new school and life. We had a very rough time.
At this time my daughter Deborah did a very loving and caring thing. She gave me a gift membership in the A.R.E. I had never heard of the A.R.E. I had heard a little bit about Edgar Cayce and I'm sorry to say, at this point in my life, I thought that psychics and alternative medicine were a bunch of hooey. I did not consider it legitimate. But when I started receiving Venture Inward and Reflections, I really did enjoy what I was reading, and I became interested. Since my doctors could do nothing for me, I said, "Well, maybe I better investigate this". So Deborah took me to Virginia Beach in September of '91. We went to the A.R.E. Library and researched the readings on ALS.
There was only one reading, 5019-1. The first thing I saw in the reading was, "Do the first things first. Begin with reading Exodus 19:5 and Deuteronomy 30. Apply these to self". While I had been quite active in the Episcopal church in my younger years, I hadn't been going to church for 20-some years, had been doing no praying, and had no real relationship, at all, with my Creator. And when I saw that the first two recommendations were Scriptures, I said, "Now I know this is hocus-pocus". So I paid no attention to it. Wendy had been after me for years about going to church. We were married in church, but that was the last time I was there.
When I kept getting worse and the doctors said there was nothing they could do, I got the reading out again and read it over for several days, and finally decided to read those chapters in the Bible. Deuteronomy 30 hit me like a brick, because it's where Moses tells you, point blank, how you can have good health and live, or how you can be sick and die:
In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thy heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
He doesn't mince words in Deuteronomy 30. And it struck me so that I read it over and over again. My lifestyle, my non-relation to Him put me in a category that was described in Deuteronomy 30. Wendy and I discussed it and read it together. I said, "Let's find a church and check it out." That's when I started to pray. I read an article in Venture Inward about how to pray. And I started following those instructions. We wanted a church that had a good Sunday school and youth program, for Amanda's benefit, so we picked the First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury. They also have a wonderful pastor, Bob Lewis - a very loving and caring man - and a wonderful, loving, caring congregation, who took us in. They didn't know anything about our situation, and really did show us true love and caring. And so, from then on, we have gone to church. So the Cayce readings returned me to God.
Seeing that that part of the reading had turned out so positive, I decided to follow the rest of the reading, which I really considered far-out. It recommended the use of the wet cell device and massage.
Q. Had you or Debbie ever seen a wet cell or known what it was?
A. I had not. I don't know if Debbie had actually seen the wet cell. But the Cayce reading was helping me so much, it returned me to church, it returned me to God, it returned me to prayer. And I read in Venture Inward not to ask God to heal, but to ask God to help me heal myself. And that became the basis for the structure of my prayer. My basic prayer always ends with, "Lord, help me, guide me, direct me, to those people, places, and things, that will best renew my health, physically, mentally, and spiritually". So I end each of my prayers with that statement. I have not prayed for miraculous healing or cures, I have only prayed for the guidance and direction, and the intuitiveness to know what I can do to help myself.
Q. Did you get a Baar wet cell?
A. In October of '92, we went to a seminar and a health expo at the A.R.E. Because of my financial situation, the A.R.E. gave me a scholarship to that seminar. It was quite interesting, and I met a lot of wonderful people. That's where I saw the wet cell demonstrated. I tried both units, and felt that, physically, I would be more capable of working with Bruce Baar's unit, because it was compact and very easy to re-charge. Bruce was kind enough to let me make a small down payment, and payments over a period of time, until I had paid for the unit. He's turned out to be a real friend. I have spoken to him many times on the phone. He always had time to talk to me, to explain details and answer my questions. He struck me as a very caring and loving person, which was important. I used Bruce's wet cell for approximately 14 months, and followed the Cayce reading every day of that 14 months, exactly. Q. What did you do every day that was in the reading?
A. I was hooking up the battery for one-half hour every day. And the reading for ALS says to use iodine one day and camphor the next; alternate, and take gold chloride, orally, every three days. It was one ounce of distilled water, and one ounce of gold chloride, and one ounce of sodium bromide. Then, the reading called for a spinal massage after each use of the wet cell. It specifically stated that there should be a mixture of olive oil, peanut oil, and lanolin. So I got those items and had the spinal massage after each use of the wet cell. Sometimes my wife did that for me.
At that time, my condition was to the point where I had chore workers coming in, to be with me during the day and help me, and I had a physical therapist twice a week. The physical therapist did the massage twice a week. He told the chore workers how to do it for the other days. And over the weekend, Wendy and Amanda alternated in doing the spinal massages for me. So I adhered to the reading exactly. And as I did, my physical condition started to change.
Q. How long were you doing this before you noticed a difference? It wasn't immediate, was it?
A. No, it was about nine months into using the Baar wet cell. My physical and spiritual attitude had already changed drastically, and I think it was nine months* when I realized that I was able to control my head a little better, I had less trouble in swallowing, and I felt like I had more stamina. I realized there was a definite stabilizing of my condition. I could feel it. My doctor had done a series of electrical conduction tests which showed that my nerves were "frying", or burning out, that's what happens with ALS. Neurones die in your brain. Then the nerves controlled by those neurones burn out, and then the muscles controlled by those nerves atrophy. And that is how ALS progresses. I was not having to use my neck brace as much, and I had more stamina and was feeling better.
Q. How often were you seeing Dr. Hall?
A. At the beginning, every month, and then every two months, and now I see him every six months. I did not tell him what I was doing because I don't believe he would have found it acceptable. So he kind of felt that maybe I was leveling off or going into some sort of remission. I continued to use the wet cell. Also, in the Cayce reading, it mentioned getting my diet straightened out. So I went to a nutritionist and developed a good diet. My wife was having to puree everything, and I was having to use Ensure, which comes in little cans. It's used for feeding people through feeding tubes. At that point I believed in Edgar Cayce as truly a man ahead of his time, without any question. And I believed that he did have psychic or some kind of powers to diagnose illnesses and recommend modalities to help with those. Seeing that I had accepted him, I asked Deborah if she knew of a psychic that I could talk to. But not any of these "hocus-pocus" people. I wanted somebody with a proven track record. She found a man who was a biophysicist, had taught and worked in medical schools, and had given that up and gone into healing.
Q. His name?
A. Harvey Bank. He did a reading and told me that it was urgent that I see an applied kinesiologist, and also have some chiropractic adjustments to my spine and to my hyoid bone, which is in the throat and neck.
Q. Who did you go to for the adjustments?
A. A chiropractor in Charlotte. Then Wendy and I met with Harvey Bank. He is a Ph.D., not a medical doctor. He did a number of movements and adjustments to my body, and did laying on of hands. He said, I already know I cannot cure your neurological problem, but I may be able to help you with some of your others. What is the number one problem that you would like to get rid of? I said, "I would like to be able to eat again." Without hesitating, he said, "I can fix that right now." He did some work up under my jaw. He said, "I see that you had your hyoid bone adjusted and balanced." He did a lot of different things, and when he finished, he said, "You can go out right now and have a roast beef dinner, vegetables, salad; eat anything you want." I couldn't believe it. But he was so convincing, and he didn't say, "Maybe this will work." He said, "You can now eat solid food. So I met my son Michael at a restaurant he was operating, and ordered prime rib, mashed potato, green beans, and a salad. He looked at me and said, "What are you going to do with that?" And I said, "I'm going to eat it." He was shocked. I wasn't convinced yet that I could do it, but I was going to try. They brought the meal, and I cleaned my plate. I had no trouble swallowing, which was unbelievable, and I have been eating ever since. Whether he physically changed something, emotionally changed something, or it was the placebo effect, I don't know, and I don't care. But Dr. Bank cured my eating problem.
Q. And when was that?
A. In the summer of 1993. It was so amazing. I was still on the wet cell, got my diet straightened out, and was feeling much better. Emotionally I was much stronger, spiritually I was much, much stronger, and so I started taking charge of my own health treatment. I searched out doctors that fit into my plan of health. I picked out a general practitioner to take care of my basic health needs. I had Dr. Hall ) I still see him every six months for my ALS. I found a psychiatrist, who I think is fantastic, to help me with my emotions, my mental health, and my severe sleeping problem, which is one of the symptoms of ALS. I have my church and my prayer sessions with God for my spiritual health. I also have a wonderful and very intuitive doctor whose specialty is rheumatology. He treats the arthritis that had developed in my joints because of my inability to get proper exercise when I was in bad shape. I put this team together myself, and I do not ask them what I can do. I tell them what I want to do. I am in complete charge of my well-being and my health. This has caused me to start a mind/body study group, made up of people with serious illnesses: multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, cancer, and others I can't even pronounce. We meet every other week. I try to motivate them and get them interested in my idea of what the mind can do to help the body, what spirituality can do, but most important, to take responsibility for their own health care, and encourage them to take charge. The lady who has MS had been doing mind/body work for a number of years, and is already convinced that what I am promoting works, because it worked for her. I also teach classes in self-healing, based upon my personal experience. I use some of the Cayce modalities, how to breathe properly, and how you can tell your subconscious mind to use the mechanisms that God gave you to heal yourself.
Meantime, I felt so much better that I started a local magazine. It was going very, very well. But I found that it was too much stress, and my health was starting to slip, so I turned it over to somebody else. After getting out from under the stress of the magazine, my health improved again. I spend my time with the mind/body study group, and teaching self-healing. I belong to a men's prayer group at church that meets every Thursday morning and prays for community and world leaders, and so on.
And I am a volunteer at the Rowan Helping Ministries, an organization that brings in people who are in difficulty, poor people and street people, and feeds them, helps them with rent payments, or utility payments, and also counsels them on good health and budgeting. I volunteer there every Monday morning.
Q. So you're giving back, aren't you?
A. I've found that that is an important part of the formula. The best way that I can continue my healing is to help others. Every time I help someone else, I am helping myself grow stronger and healthier, not only physically, but spiritually.
Q. Did A.R.E. help you?
A. The people at the A.R.E. have been very, very helpful to me, on the telephone, and in person. I've been there three times, at different seminars and workshops. I also heard about a healer in Los Angeles, who had healed a lady of ALS. And I prayed and prayed about it, and it seemed that I was being guided to see this person. It seemed impossible because of the cost. I mentioned it to my pastor at church. Some church members came up with money, including air fare. I called Arnold McEntire (A.R.E. regional coordinator for the Southeast) and asked if he knew of any A.R.E. members in Los Angeles who would give me some housing. He put me in touch with Judy and Loren Garretson in Los Angeles, who have been active in the A.R.E. for years. They put me up in their home, fed me, provided transportation to and from my appointments, gave me love and nourishment, and care.
Q. Did you see a healer?
A. I did. He is Dean Kraft. I didn't really get much of a positive effect from it, but the lady that he had treated, and reversed her ALS, took 44 treatments. I could not possibly do that, so I was unable to utilize his services. But I use a video about Dean as a motivational tool. I watch it regularly because he is a very caring person and has helped many people.
I think more healing went on in the Garretsons' home for me than with the healer. They are perfect examples of the A.R.E. people that I met. Loren does therapeutic massage and he uses a number of Cayce modalities when treating and healing people, and is quite successful. With members like Loren and Judy, and the other people that I met, and my loving daughter, Deborah, the A.R.E. network has just been wonderful to me. I also talked to Dr. Norman Shealy, a neurologist, at the A.R.E. Health Expo. He said, "There is no better advice that I could give you, than for you to continue to do what you're doing and follow the Cayce principles, and follow your own intuition."
Q. Well, we've covered a lot of ground, and I think you've done very well. Let's get some lunch.
At a seafood restaurant, Mr. Atkinson ordered a shrimp salad and explained that he can't talk while eating because he has to be careful how he swallows. He still suffers from palatine paresis, a paralysis of the palate that requires careful maneuvering of his tongue to swallow his food. But he cleaned his plate. He carries himself erect and walks at a normal pace, giving no evidence of having once had difficulty walking. Indeed, David Atkinson appears to have many years of fulfilling service ahead of him.
Reprinted by Permission. Venture Inward Magazine, PO Box 595, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Copyright All Rights Reserved
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