Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alternative medicine...

There's so much debate swirling on the national and state levels about health care. Should it be universal or is that one step down the slippery slope of socialism? What programs are "valuable enough" to survive massive budget cuts?

Since starting in my current field, I've become aware of so many programs available to patients beyond the usual check ups and eye exams. Medicine's pendulum has swung from superstition to hard science, but now it seems to have settled or is approaching settling somewhere in the middle. Not that I want to go back to leeches and animal sacrifice, but I do see the value in treating the spirit as well as the body.

The New York Times profiled an art therapy program called Project Moving On, run by the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service, for mentally ill patients. People with chronic mental illness are either referred by the Brooklyn Mental Health Court or by physicians and hospitals gather daily to draw, paint, sew, and crochet. The skills needed for these tasks - beyond talent - help people focus and deal with the issues that come with their illnesses.

In my hospital system we use both art therapy and animal-assisted therapy in our treatment programs. In our case, the animals help people with emotional issues, but Frankie Two-Paws has made an impact on people with physical challenges. The disabled cavalier spaniel has limited usage of his back legs after being rescued from a puppy mill, according to The Beacon News. He now races around in his doggie wheelchair at the Rush-Copley Medical Center, inspiring the physical therapy patients there.

The New Haven Register reported on a local artist who volunteers at Yale-New Haven Hospital painting watercolors on demand for patients in the outpatient oncology unit. Dennis Gentle, an 80-something Renaissance man, visits with the patients as they receive treatment and paints scenes as per their requests. He does have a list of things he won't paint, but patients and their families treasure these little works of art. Some people use the scenes he creates as their own happy places, places to go to during the draining treatment.

(Photo courtesy of The Beacon News)

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