17 Chiropractic Cannot Help, But Chiropractors Can
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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 1, 2006, Vol. 24, Issue 01

Chiropractic Cannot Help, But Chiropractors Can

By John Cerf, DC

Chiropractic cannot help, but perhaps chiropractors can. Last year, our hospital's chiropractors were called in to consult on approximately 5 percent of the patients who presented to the emergency department.

While chiropractic care may have been helpful to a greater percentage, the attending physician opined that other treatment would be more effective. For some conditions, chiropractic care would be of no help. For some conditions, chiropractic care would obviously be damaging. Sometimes there is nothing we can do.

I have been in the ED many times during life-threatening emergencies such as myocardial infarctions and cerebrovascular accidents. While I can assist during a crisis by answering the phone or directing visitors, as a chiropractor, I am not able to contribute as much as the rest of the ED team. The chiropractor in the ED can be helpful in these situations by attending to the needs of the neck patients and back patients, so the ED staff can concentrate on saving a life. The chiropractic patient will be grateful at not having to spend additional hours in the hospital.

In our personal lives, we also have family members who suffer from medical conditions that we do not treat as chiropractors. Sometimes, we can offer advice; other times, we are just frustrated at not being able to do anything to help the person we love.

For the past year, I have been struggling with the frustration of not being able to help one of my own family members. My 3-year-old nephew, Aiden, is suffering with a very rare blood disorder called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).

In April 2005, Aiden began to have high fevers. The fevers led to the discovery that he was suffering from pneumonia, and that he had both hepatomegaly and splenomegaly. After two months of hospitalization and exhaustive and miserably painful testing, Aiden was diagnosed with HLH.

HLH is caused by an excess of histiocytes. The histiocytes cluster together and can attack the skin, bones, lungs, liver, spleen, gums, ears, eyes, and/or the central nervous system. Aiden has an accumulation of histiocytes, mostly in his spleen, liver and central nervous system. While the disease can be self-limiting, Aiden's type has shown signs of progression with multi-organ involvement. His condition has become chronic and debilitating. It has become so severe that it is now life-threatening.

According to the Histiocytosis Association of America, "It is approximated that HLH affects one in 200,000 children born each year in the United States. This illness is so rare, there is little research into its cause and treatment, and it is often referred to as an 'orphan disease,' meaning it strikes too few people to generate government-supported research."1

Recently, Aiden began to have high fevers again. He was rushed to the hospital, where it was discovered he had relapsed. Additional tests revealed he has the worst form of the disease. Aiden now needs a bone marrow transplant to save his life.

When I was in chiropractic college, a cynical chiropractic anatomy professor remarked that while chiropractors are very good at making money, he had never heard of one volunteering to help starving children in Third World countries. I know he was wrong about chiropractors. I witnessed the around-the-clock support of the recovery workers at the World Trade Center disaster site following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. I would appreciate the opportunity to inform the professor of how chiropractors lined up to be tested as bone marrow donors. It would be an even more fitting rebuttal to the professor's malformed opinion if a chiropractor proved to be the best match for a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow donors do not need to be ABO-compatible! The bone marrow product is manipulated in the lab, i.e., red cells can be depleted if the patient and donor are of incompatible blood types. Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types do need to be matched. Typing is most often performed on blood samples. It may be possible to do testing from an oral (buccal) swab.

Chiropractors local to the northern New Jersey/southern New York state area can locate testing site information at Aiden's Web site (www.caringbridge.org/visit/aidenberges). If you are not local to the area or need more information, you can contact Anna, the blood drive coordinator, at .

There also will be a drive in southern New Jersey, but the date is not yet set. If you would like to donate money to help support the cost of testing, please contact Anna. For general information concerning bone marrow transplantation, please go to www.marrow.org. If you still cannot find the information you need, please call Aiden's father, Tom Berges, a nurse practitioner, at (201) 996-5830.

There is a small cost associated with testing. The family is required to pay a portion of the testing, and it is not covered by insurance. (As chiropractors, we know that song!) While absolutely not necessary, paying for one's own testing of course would be appreciated. The number of potential donors has to be very large to increase the chances of finding a life-saving match. Any help or contribution will be greatly appreciated.

I would cherish the opportunity to contact the cynical anatomy professor to let him know how chiropractors fulfilled their moral obligation - and even better, to proclaim to him that one of us won the privilege of saving a child. The only thing I would enjoy more is to see Aiden live to grow up and be able to form his own opinion about the character of chiropractors.

Chiropractic cannot help Aiden, but perhaps chiropractors can. In return, chiropractic will be served. As it says in Dante's Inferno, "The worst place in hell is reserved for coat holders," i.e., "I will hold your coat while you go fight the just fight." To the contrary, somewhere it was written that the greatest gift you can give yourself is honor. In this instance, you would bring honor not just to yourself, but to our entire profession. If you are unable to be tested or to support the effort with your donation, we would certainly appreciate your prayers.


  1. Information About the Histiocytosis Association of America. http://histio.org/association/info/index.shtml.
John Cerf, DC
Jersey City, New Jersey

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