…….First Do No Harm is a 1997 television film, directed by Jim Abrahams, about a boy who has severe epilepsy, who is unresponsive to medications which produce terrible side-effects and is eventually controlled by a special diet. I discovered this movie while researching why the words “first do no harm” had been removed from the Hippocratic Oath which is taken by doctors swearing to practice medicine ethically. Aspects of the film story mirror Abrahams’ own experience with his son Charlie.
In this story Robbie has two unprovoked falls and is taken to the hospital where a number of procedures are performed: a CT scan, a lumbar puncture, an electroencephalogram (EEG) and blood tests. No cause is found but the two falls are regarded as epileptic seizures and the child is diagnosed with epilepsy. Did anyone ever think to take Robbie to a Chiropractor to have his nervous system checked for interferences?
More horrific medical interventions follow (remember the words “first do no harm”) and Robbie is started on phenobarbital, an old anticonvulsant drug with well known side effects including cognitive impairment and behaviour problems. The latter cause the child to run berserk through the house, leading to injury. Lori (mother) urgently phones the physician to request a change of medication. It is changed to phenytoin (Dilantin) but the dose of phenobarbital must be tapered slowly, causing frustration. Later, the drug carbamazepine (Tegretol) is added.
Meanwhile, the family discovers that their health insurance is invalid and their treatment is transferred from private to public hospital. Robbie’s epilepsy gets worse and he develops a serious rash known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome as a side-effect of the medication. He is admitted to hospital where his padded cot is designed to prevent him escaping. The parents fear he may become a “vegetable” and are losing hope. At one point, Robbie goes into status epilepticus (a continuous convulsive seizure that must be stopped as a medical emergency). Increasing doses of diazepam (Valium) are given intravenously to no effect. Eventually, paraldehyde is given rectally. This drug is described has having possibly fatal side-effects. Could Robbie have been saved from the horrors of all this intervention if he had seen a Chiropractor right at the very beginning when his parents felt there was something wrong?
The neurologist in charge of Robbie’s care, Dr. Melanie Abbasac has poor bedside manner and paints a bleak picture. Abbasac wants Robbie’s parents to consider surgery and start the necessary investigative procedures to see if this is an option. (Remember “first do no harm”) These involve removing the top of the skull and inserting electrodes on the surface of the brain to achieve a more accurate location of any seizure focus than normal scalp EEG electrodes. Dave and Lori see the surgery as a dangerous last resort and want to know if anything else can be done.
Lori begins to research epilepsy and comes across the ketogenic diet in a well-regarded textbook on epilepsy. However, their doctor dismisses the diet as having only anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness. After initially refusing to consider the diet, she appears to relent but sets impossible hurdles in the way.
That evening, Lori attempts to abduct her son from the hospital and, despite the risk, fly with him to an appointment she has made to see a Dr Freeman who agrees to take Robbie on as an outpatient and put him on a special diet. Soon Robbie’s seizures are eliminated and his mental faculties are restored. The film ends with Robbie riding the family horse at a parade through town. Closing credits claim Robbie continued the diet for a couple of years and has remained seizure- and drug-free ever since.
Commenting on the film, Dr John Freeman said “The movie was based on a true story and we see this story often, but not everyone is cured by the diet and not everyone goes home to ride in a parade.” Our question is – could Robbie have been saved from the horrors of all this intervention and the effects of all the drugs if a Chiropractor had been consulted? We believe Robbie should have had the chance! Our body is controlled and co-ordinated by our nervous system. Our nervous system is housed in the moving bones of the spinal column. Every day events including falls and other kinds of trauma including chemical and mental/emotional stress can cause interferences in the relaying of messages to and from the brain. This is often the beginning of all kinds of dis-ease in the body. Your Chiropractor is skilled at removing these interferences which allows the body to heal itself naturally. Robbie was lucky to have parents who kept seeking for natural solutions. They found the ketogenic diet – we hope they find Chiropractic too!
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