SPECIAL SECTION: Techniques & Analysis
Louella Harris: A Missionary
For Upper Cervical Chiropractic
By James Panter http://www.todayschiropractic.com/010102/louella.html
For the past seven years, upper cervical chiropractic practitioners have had a determined, dynamic lady waging an education campaign on their behalf.
Louella Harris, a patient turned spokesperson, is on a mission.
In 1958, she became a victim of polio at age 3, eight months after taking a vaccine in Kenya, East Africa. For much of her life, she has endured the crushing disappointment and despair of failed medical treatments. But after discovering upper cervical chiropractic care, she has made remarkable progress in her battle against the excruciating pain and relentless fatigue that plagued her. And she is telling her powerful story to the public.
With her husband Richard, she founded a nonprofit organization, the National Awareness Campaign for Upper Cervical Care, Inc. As executive director, she makes seminar presentations and television appearances, acts as a media spokesperson and provides the public with patient education information and doctor referrals on a Web site (www.uppercervical.org).
Just as her parents, who served as missionaries in Kenya, devoted themselves to a cause, Louella is trying to help others by spreading the word about what upper cervical care can do.
"I saw a need for a chiropractic missionary," she says. "There are millions of people like myself who experience chiropractic and have found it to be relatively ineffective for them. Then, they dismiss the entire profession, not realizing that there are many ways of doing chiropractic.
"I told my husband, I dont know how were going to do this financially, but we have to find a way to get the information out to the public at large that chiropractic has advanced so far and that everyone needs chiropractic."
At age 4, Louella, who notes her spine is "in the shape of an S," spent six months away from her parents in Muncie, Indiana, at the Polio Foundation, to undergo hot and cold baths and to learn to use braces, crutches and a wheelchair. She went back to Kenya, began to cope with her disability and returned with her parents to the U.S. at age 12.
"Mom and dad did not understand chiropractic, so we just went the medical route," Harris recalls. "I remember the day the medical doctor told my parents that they had done all that could do for me."
Despite her physical challenges, Harris earned a bachelors degree in special education and a masters degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of South Florida, and she managed a private practice as a counselor for emotionally and physically disabled people.
However, in June 1993, Harris began experiencing ailments that made her seek relief outside of mainstream medicine.
"I began feeling pain crawl up my left arm," she recalls. "I was doing a lot of driving between Tampa and Lakeland, where I live, and I thought it was caused by driving, because I use hand controls. But one night, in the car, the pain was so bad, I could barely manage to get home."
During the next six months, the pain became so severe in her arms and shoulders that she eventually became confined to her bed, with her husband personally dressing her, feeding her and attending to her daily needs. After seeking medical treatment from several doctors, Harris received a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome and fibromyalgia. Once again, she heard an ominous phrase.
"The doctor said, "Nothing can be done for you, Louella, " she recalls. "Millions of people are being told, Youre going to have to go home and live with it, and heres some pain medication. My life became the four walls of the bedroom, and I would watch the clock, and I would live for every fourth hour to take more Darvocet. That was my focus just to deal with the pain."
After 18 months, a ray of hope appeared.
"One day, a friend called, and said, "Louella, I have heard what has happened to you. I was in a car accident 30 years ago, and the only thing that has helped me is upper cervical chiropractic. Because I had already had chiropractic care, and I thought there was only one way to do it, I completely dismissed the phone call. But pain will overcome prejudice," Harris states.
Eventually, she sought the services of St. Petersburg, Fla., upper cervical practitioner, Dr. Stan Pierce, who examined her, took X-rays and set up a care plan.
"I was in and out of his office for three solid months, sometimes two and three times a week," she recalls. "After that, I was out of bed and able to get back to work."
Furthermore, she discovered that she was pregnant at age 39. After nine months, she delivered her a daughter by natural birth. Today, she is under upper cervical care from Atlas Orthogonal practitioner Dr. Dan Underwood, and she no longer takes medication.
"My atlas is holding longer and longer," she points out. "If Im on the road and really stressed, Im in the clinic every two weeks. When Im holding my atlas adjustment, I am 90 percent pain-free most of the time."
Having gained media spokesperson expertise and connections while serving as volunteer director of the Miss Wheelchair Florida Pageant (she was first runner-up in 1984), she made her first TV appearance to tell her chiropractic story on a St. Petersburg, Fla., religious program in October 1994.
"I didnt tell it well. I didnt even describe it," she says. "In fact, my upper cervical doctor was horrified by my description of this phenomenally advanced procedure. But before the TV crew could get my wheelchair off the set, the phones were ringing off the hook. Thats when I knew that there were millions of people like myself who are completely ignorant of, and in desperate need of, this type of health care.
"At first, I was angry, because I had endured years of agony and suffering because of <I>ignorance<I>. If there is something that literally cannot be done for someone, thats one thing. But when something that has been here since B.J. Palmer, and the public still is ignorant of it, thats tragic. So that is what has spurred me on."
Harris, who has spoken to assemblies at several chiropractic colleges, travels one week every month to do media appearances and present educational seminars, and she has found religious groups, in particular, to be very receptive. In her presentations, she recounts her personal odyssey and then provides audiences with information on locating upper cervical doctors in the area. She also arranges for a local practitioner to give a brief talk.
The NACUCC, which mails out information to prospective patients who call a toll-free phone number, operates from office space in a converted five-bedroom home, and it acquires funding from two sources. Donations come from patients "whose lives have been turned around by upper cervical care," and doctors "who do this work and are implementing our community education program," Harris says.
She hopes to link her organization with a university, which would conduct research studies on upper cervical cares effects on fibromyalgia, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome.
For the next two years, Harris is focusing on lining up appearances on national television programs to promote chiropractic care.
"I represent the public. I think like the public," she says. "The reason Im giving us 25 years to do this work is because were literally having to de-program people and then re-program them on how huge chiropractic has become. So thats why were chiropractic missionaries."
In conjunction with her media appearances, she is interested in securing upper cervical practitioners as referrals and organization supporters.
"I decided, before I landed a national interview, that I was going to have as many upper cervical doctors on our Web site as I possibly could to handle the influx of calls," she explains. "Theres nothing more discouraging than for someone in agony to call our number and find out there is no one within 500 square miles to specifically adjust C1 and C2.
"In Tulsa, Oklahoma, I was on a program on the Oasis radio network that aired in three states," she adds. "We got 300 to 400 calls from 23 states, and we were scrambling to find doctors who focus on upper cervical care. There are so few that do this work, and weve got to have more doctors."
Currently, approximately 200 practitioners support the NACUCC. Harris interviews prospective doctors to ensure that they meet four criteria for involvement with the organization:
"We need a spokesperson out there for every procedure," she says. "To do what I do takes work, and it takes a stick-to-itiveness. Sharing the power of upper cervical care with audiences on TV, radio and in newspapers across the country is a blessing for me.
"What upper cervical chiropractic has done in my life is nothing
short of a miracle. Because of a specific upper cervical correction to the atlas, I have
gone from being an invalid confined to a bed to a national spokesperson. The mission is to
make upper cervical chiropractic care a household word and practice."