From Western Medicine To Integrative Medicine 

Like the majority of Americans, my family relied heavily on mainstream Western medicine. Western medicine was helpful when it came to emergencies and surgery, but it was problematic at best when it came to our family’s chronic conditions.

Over time, my family developed an array of medical issues. Mom was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and high cholesterol. Dad and Joe, my older brother, were diagnosed with gastric issues. John, my younger brother, was diagnosed with autism and hyperactivity. And at age 11, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Celiac disease, and severe food allergies/sensitivities.

As my family and I struggled with our illnesses, all our mainstream doctors kept prescribing more prescriptions. Within 13 months, I was given 14 antibiotics for bronchitis, ear infections, and tonsillitis. This antibiotic stream wound up hurting me more than it helped. I had back to back allergic reactions to many of the antibiotics. The worst reactions were from the antibiotics Vantin and Lorabid.  They both caused me to suffer from anaphylactic reactions, including throat swelling and hives all over my body that bled.

 When the hives would not go away, I was prescribed Prednisone, a steroid medication. After taking Prednisone, I immediately collapsed and passed out and was rushed to the hospital. Fed up with these reactions, Mom searched for alternatives.

In 2001, Mom found a doctor who practiced integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is the combination of Western and holistic/herbal medicine. Although integrative medicine improved our overall health, we were faced with extreme criticism from those who were not familiar with it.

Facing Criticism

At first, there was a lot of curiosity about our choice to go integrative — nothing to be concerned about. But then, we started to face severe criticism from friends. My best friend at the time had a mom who was a mainstream medical doctor. While attending a pool party at my best friend’s house, her mom pulled me aside. She tried to tell me integrative medicine was a sham. Before long, I had to stop spending time with my best friend. However, the harshest of our critics was a middle school nurse who reported my family to the local Social Services Agency, child welfare division.

It all started in 2002, when Joe and I needed to take our holistic medications, during school hours. Joe took the homeopathic remedy Borin Nux Vomica, for his stomach, while I took Borin Arnica Montana for my fibromyalgia pain, and Borin Cimicifuga Racemosa for severe menstrual pain. Our integrative doctor filled out the proper school district paperwork to permit this. At first, there were no issues.  

But after a few weeks, a nurse at Joe’s middle school started to question the legitimacy of his holistic medication. Instead of consulting our integrative doctor, the nurse grilled my mom. Although Mom assured her they were properly prescribed by a medical doctor, the school nurse refused to listen to her explanations or contact our integrative doctor.

Since my brother and I had to miss so much school due to our health issues, we documented our illnesses with verification from at least two doctors, as well as lab results and blood tests. At the time, one of my blood tests showed I had abnormal levels of heavy metals in my system, particularly above average amounts of mercury and arsenic. Our integrative doctor suspected that those abnormal levels were caused by several of my silver (amalgam) dental fillings. Amalgam/silver fillings are a combination of silver, copper, and mercury.  We wouldn’t know for sure, until the amalgam fillings were removed.

To help with the pain associated with the the removal of my fillings, I tried to take traditional over the counter pain killers. They either didn’t eliminate the pain, or I had an allergic reaction to them. So I started acupuncture treatments. Not only did it help my with my pain, it also helped kick start my body’s detox.

When I had my fillings I had this sluggish feeling, along with strong brain fog and severe fatigue. After the removal of my fillings, the sluggish feeling disappeared. I still have some brain fog and fatigue because of my fibromyalgia

After learning about our constant absences and my test results, the school nurse became convinced our parents were poisoning us. Without consulting any of our doctors, researching the holistic medications, or asking our teachers about possible signs of abuse, she immediately called Social Services with her allegations.

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When Social Services Came Calling 

Social Services announced they were going to were going to our home, with police officers, to have us removed. Mom and Dad were devastated. How could anyone accuse them of poisoning their children, when they were doing everything within their power to help us?

The social worker agreed to not take us away that afternoon, but needed to interview my brother and me at our schools. The agency wanted to confirm if we had any visible signs of physical abuse. They also agreed to a meeting, the next morning, with the social worker, two registered nurses, our parents, and our attorney.

The next day, Mom and Dad were ready for social services, along with our attorney. Our parents had extensive medical documentations, from several medical doctors, children’s hospitals, and numerous specialists. Each of our large medical folders had detailed documentation about each of our treatment plans, doctor visits, labs, medication, and prescribed therapies.

As my mom showed social services the large amount of detailed medical documentation she had, our attorney pointed out that it would be difficult for them to build a case against our parents. Everything we were doing was under the supervision of multiple doctors. Looking at the information, the social worker agreed to close the case against us.

Protecting Ourselves From Ignorance

This experience taught us three things. One, continue to double document all absences and treatments. Two, don’t be as open about practicing integrative medicine to critical people. And three, never stop practicing integrative medicine.

My parents had faced the fact that if we continued to be treated by integrative medicine, we might face issues like this again. After this situation, they would also get a second opinion on treatment plans. It was the strongest way we could protect ourselves.

As much as we would have loved to tell every one about the benefits of integrative medicine, we had to be very careful who we told. Our experience showed us not everyone was open to such things. We were tight-lipped. But we would only share our integrative experiences with those who where either holistic or wanted to become integrative.

Despite the challenges we faced, integrative medicine helped heal us more than mainstream medicine ever could. My whole family has seen great improvements in their health. Mom no longer has hypothyroidism and high cholesterol. Dad and Joe’s gastric issues are minimal. John’s hyperactivity has decreased, while his ability to concentrate has increased. As for me, when I had all of my amalgam fillings removed, my above normal arsenic and mercury levels dropped.

For my family, holistic and integrative medicine is not a luxury, but an essential part of our survival.

Justina Bonilla is a college student, majoring in sociology, with a minor in cinema studies. She is a caregiver for her 21 year old autistic brother. She’s perusing a career in writing, covering various topics, such as holistic health, chronic illness, and autism. She lives in Orange County, California.

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