Monday, March 22, 2004

A Few More Holes in the Head

The last thing Dr. Zhu-San Ye said as he turned down the lights in the room was, "Try to relax, take a nap." It seemed like a rather odd thing to say seeing I had five sharp needles stuck in various places on the right side of my face, another needle stuck in my neck, and still another needle stuck in the space between my thumb and forefinger of my right hand.

Not only was I lying there in the dark pierced but before he left Dr. Ye had attached electrodes to the needles and the zaps of electricity made my face twitch uncontrollably.

But I trusted Dr. Ye, the founder of the Chinese Acupuncture Center in Roseville, partly because a friend had recommended him (and the treatment) to me, and partly because of his calm and confident demeanor. Besides, having lived a couple of weeks (and for my taste a couple of weeks too many) with a numb right side of my face, I figured I was willing to give just about anything a try. After all a fellow can only stand drooling so much soup down his chin, biting his lip while eating submarine sandwiches, and generally garbling his already mumbled speech before enough is enough.

So for the half an hour I lie there I listened to voices in the hallway. A young woman's voice was telling Dr. Ye how her first treatment had worked great, but now that she was smoking again she thought she'd come back. Dr. Ye laughed. A young child's playful voice screeched and screamed either out of delight or displeasure.

For some reason the picture that I couldn't quite get out of my mind as I closed my eyes was a photograph of George Harrison on the inner sleeve of his LP, Somewhere in England. The picture shows George with about 50 needles stuck in various places around his face. The photo appears right below the lyrics of the song "That Which I Have Lost" that has George opining about his journey. "He is fighting the forces of darkness limitation/Falsehood and mortality which bar him/The way back into the higher world/While his whole being is bewildered/He does not know, no law of action/Taking refuge inside himself and he's saying/I need someone to show me/Illumine my consciousness/Remove the dark from in me/And give me that which I have lost..."

I would clench my jaw, or try and scrunch up my face and it was then and then only when I could feel the needles penetrating my skin and sticking out from my face. There was no pain but the electronically generated twitching wasn't a bundle of fun.

Dr. Ye returned and turned on the lights. He slowly removed the needles. My face felt different. It wasn't exactly numb but it wasn't exactly like I could form a smile either. I followed him out of the room and back into the lobby where I paid my bills and he gave me some Chinese herbs to take. I drove on home and looked in the mirror. My right eye that had been partially closed making me look like an Asian Sylvester Stallone, now was wide open. The corresponding watering, the major symptom of Bell's Palsy that had been bothering me, was gone.

I considered calling Dr. Ye and immediately booking another appointment to deal with all the other places in my body that have grown numb over the past couple of years. But I didn't. In the year I turn 40 I have noticed that certain parts of my anatomy just don't work the same as they used to. Still for the most part I've lived a life of good physical health. And for the most part I've lived that life with equal parts help and hindrance from the western medicine that my employer paid insurance covers. So I was glad I listened to my friend's suggestion and tried something else. I think I surprised her when I was more than willing to take her advice. In that place where East meets West a feeling was recovered at the mere cost of a few more holes in the head.

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