My first year class had only 24 students. Probably that was the maximum number for first year Naturopathy program. There were only three male students including me. Most of them were working people returning to school. I was the oldest of the pack. Only one lady was above 50, others were just above or below 30.
I hated biology at high school as it required too much memorising, something I was not good at. Now close to 70 age bracket, I had to study “Human anatomy and physiology 1 & 2” in the first year and pathophysiology in the second year. Luckily I passed all with good grades maybe because I now have the motivation to learn these subjects.
Five years of studying naturopathy has brought many benefits, one of which was to spare me from death by cardiovascular problems. Duringa Health Assessment class where we practiced heart examination one of my classmates said my heart had an unusual sound like murmuring. The tutor checked, agreed that I had heart murmur and advised me to see my family doctor for action.
A few weeks later I went to my family doctor She listened to my heart beat it was normal the first time. I suggested longer listening. She listened again, this time longer and recognized that my heart pulse was irregular and a beat was skipped. She gave me an electrocardiogram (ECG) and referred me to a cardiologist at Auckland Hospital.
The same thing happened when I had my first visit to the hospital cardiologist. Only after listening to my heart beat for a time longer than usual that she agreed that my heart is not healthy. Using ultrasound scanning device she confirmed that my heart had a mitral valve leakage and enlargement issue. For almost a year, she went through a variety of examinations without finding out the cause of the situation. Finally, she consulted with a team of cardiologists and decided to schedule an operation replace my mitral valve.
If my mitral valve prolapse was not discovered and treated in time I might have sudden death. There have been news that many people died suddenly because of heart attacks due to heart enlargement. A colleague of my daughter, in her thirties, collapsed to death while playing sport. It was found out that she died due to undiagnosed heart enlargement.
The danger of this disease is that it does not show any alarming symptoms: no fatigue, no breathing difficulties, no shortness of breath, no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol or triglycerine … It is hard for the doctors to suspect any heart problem when there are no symptoms to worry and when their heart examination does not last for than 10 seconds. It may require at least a minute of listening to the heart before any doctor can detect its problems.
On reflection, I actually had some warning signs but the doctors usually did not remember to ask. They include sleepiness during the day, left arm limited range of motion (ROM) along the back, and occasional shivering in warm weather. After the operation, my left hand’s ROM is as good as my right hand’s, I am less sleepy during the day and no longer suffer cold shivering again.
I thank God for sending me back to school to have my heart disease detected in time. But I would also like to point out the important role of conventional medicine in providing surgical operation to save life and other services for acute or emergency situations. According to the principle of naturopathy, the patient is the centre of any therapy, conventional medicine and natural medicine can work together and complement each other for the benefits of the patient. Naturopath must avoid prescribing foods, herbs and nutritional supplements that adversely interact with prescribed conventional drugs. Instead they can help offset adverse effects of conventional drugs and strengthen the organs involved. Naturopaths are not to advise patients to stop taking or reduce prescribed medicine without consulting with their GPs.
Nguyen Van Tu – Auckland 2017