Originally published in the Journal Inquirer March 5, 2013
By Kristen J. Tsetsi
Sister Monica Mary Kvasnik, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church, says her neurologist was surprised when she told him the neuromuscular disorder he’d said was incurable had stopped producing symptoms following adjustments from a chiropractor.
“His mouth kind of just dropped open and he turned beet red. At first he was really upset that I was going to a chiropractor,” she says, “but when he heard my reasoning…”
Her reasoning: Everything her neurologists had been telling her was strikingly similar to a message delivered by the chiropractors speaking at a workshop she attended.
The neurologists said her nerve endings weren’t delivering the proper signals from her brain, and chiropractic operates on the premise that a subluxated, or misaligned, spine compresses nerves and interrupts signals from the brain to the body.
“It resonated with me,” says Kvasnik, who had been seeking treatment for myasthenia gravis, which causes weakness of the voluntary muscles.
“I was using a walker and even falling into the walker. My diaphragm had stopped working, so I was breathing mainly through my lungs,” she says. “I would often go into crisis.”
When she did go into crisis — that is, when she couldn’t breathe — Kvasnik required infusion therapy. Nurses would visit the Holy Mary Motherhouse in Baltic, Conn. and deliver the infusions through a port connected to a catheter stretching from her neck to her aorta.
In the two years that she received monthly infusions, Kvasnik visited several neurologists. They all said there was no cure, that the disease was with her for life.
To combat the side effects of the infusions, she saw an acupuncturist and a naturalist doctor, but relief was temporary.
In October 2012, out of curiosity, she attended the workshop at PROHealth Chiropractic in Manchester. She booked her first appointment with Dr. Jason Sousa immediately afterward.
“After the first visit, I felt lighter,” she says. “I was breathing better, walking somewhat better.”
David H. Gorski, MD, PhD and managing editor of the website Science-Based Medicine, has not met or treated Kvasnik but says myasthenia gravis is a disease that frequently has waxing and waning phases that have nothing to do with any specific treatment.
“People frequently confuse spontaneous improvement that occurs around the time they try a new remedy with an effect from the remedy,” he says.
Kvasnik, who says her neurologist accepted the chiropractors’ business cards she offered, trusts the effects of chiropractic because, she says, “For many years, for a long time, it was just the naturalist doctor and the infusions, and it wasn’t working. When I started getting better, the only new thing that was happening was the chiropractor.”
She says she’s now more than three months “free of MG (myasthenia gravis).” She’s also on her third month of no infusions, and with her doctors’ approval she recently had the port removed.
Mother Superior Marie Julie Saegaert, a member of the same order of nuns, had an experience similar to Kvasnik’s.
In July 2012, doctors discovered a tumor when Saegaert went to the hospital with abdominal pain. One month later, they biopsied her pancreas, and the next day she began vomiting. Normal following a biopsy, doctors said, but it continued even after the removal of a grapefruit-sized tumor, two-thirds of her pancreas, and her spleen, which had ruptured during surgery.
In the weeks following her surgery, Saegaert lost 15 pounds and went on a feeding tube. Doctors told her it could take anywhere from weeks to years to get back to normal, but several tests revealed that her stomach and digestive tract were fine. Over the next three months, she would alternate between the hospital and a nursing home as the vomiting persisted.
“All they said was, ‘We can only treat the symptoms. There isn’t anything physically wrong that would cause this,’” she says.
She tried everything: every available anti-nausea medication, medical marijuana, acupuncture, eye therapy, and massage therapy. Nothing helped. When someone recommended bringing in a chiropractor, she was skeptical and didn’t see the value in it.
When her assistant said she’d seen the positive impact it had had on some of the other sisters, Saegaert agreed to give it a try.
“At that point if she’d asked me to swallow stones, I would have,” she says.
PROHealth chiropractor Dr. Vasco Valov adjusted Saegaert in the nursing home. She became sick immediately after the first adjustment, and her condition worsened over the next couple of days, prompting a return to the hospital.
“He (Valov) said sometimes people get worse before they get better. I did get much worse,” Saegaert laughs.
But four or five days later, at a little after four in the morning, she woke up feeling different.
“They were giving me medicine, and I said, ‘Wait. I’m a new person,’” she says.
Not only did Saegaert want to eat, but she did eat — a little bit of everything on her tray. At around the same time, she says, she stopped taking her digestive medications along with the insulin she was told she would have to take for the rest of her life as a result of the surgery.
The hospital monitored her for one week, and the nursing home monitored her for another.
“They just couldn’t believe this had happened and didn’t want me to go home and come back again,” she says.
Saegaert hasn’t required any insulin since early November, and since within three days of leaving the nursing home later that month, she says, there hasn’t been anything she couldn’t eat.
“I have to attribute it to (chiropractic),” she says, “and I’m happy to attribute it to that.”
Gorski, who has not treated Saegaert and who says it’s difficult to say what happened to either woman without “knowing a lot more,” says post-surgical problems can often resolve themselves with time.
“There is no value inherent in chiropractic. People tend to try new treatments when their symptoms are at their worst, and most of the time such symptoms will improve or ‘regress to the mean,’” he says.
Valov explains that chiropractic as a practice does not position itself as a cure for illness or disease.
“Medicine is focused on diagnosing and treating disease. Chiropractic is focused on healthcare. Our intention isn’t to treat a back pain, cancer, or diabetes. The purpose is to correct and remove any interference to the nervous system, which happens to be in the spinal column, to allow the body to heal,” he says.
Several neurologists contacted for this story refused to comment.