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A Christmas Miracle - Giving Precious Time to a Family

It was 1988. I was in my first year of practice. I could not afford to open my own office, so I was renting space in the office of another Chiropractor. He liked to travel, often to Florida or to Louisiana to visit family. He had gone on vacation and left me to attend to both his patients and my own. I always enjoyed having the senior doctor leave because I would get to work on many different patients with different challenges. On this particular occasion, one of the patients he asked me to treat was pregnant. She was the first pregnant patient I had ever worked on. She was having a lot of low back pain and sciatica (pain radiating down the leg) which made it hard for her to walk. With my very first adjustment, this woman had some very significant relief. She continued to improve for the rest of the week, so much so that when the senior doctor returned, she asked him if it would be alright for her to switch to me for her care. I was very happy about this and I worked with her right up until she delivered a beautiful baby girl. She told me that her labor was very short for a first-time Mom and that it all went relatively easily. (Short labors and relatively easy deliveries has been the case with so many of the pregnant women with whom I’ve worked over the years.)

This Patient Checked Out of the Hospital to See Me

A few months after her delivery, I got a call from a patient who was in Stanford hospital. He told me that he was supposed to have surgery on his lungs, but was in too much pain. His low back was so painful that he could not remain still while laying in bed even after being heavily sedated. The surgeon said that he could not perform surgery until the patient was able to handle his back pain. He called me, said he was checking out of the hospital and wanted to know if I would be willing to work with him, and if so, he wanted an appointment as soon as possible. We scheduled an appointment for him later that day. I asked him how he heard about me and he said that his daughter-in-law referred him because I had helped her so much with her back pain. (She was the pregnant patient I just told you about.)

When he arrived at my office, I was with another patient. He could not sit down in the waiting room and so my assistant had tried to help him get comfortable in another room, to no avail. I had not yet seen this patient when my assistant came to me and said, “Dr. Gringeri, you should not accept this patient. He’s really sick. He belongs in a hospital.” I looked back at him and said, “He checked out of the hospital to see me and get some help with his low back pain.” My assistant said, “This guy is in too much pain and is too sick for you to treat him.”

A Prisoner of War

I went into the room where my patient was standing. He was a very big guy. He was in the College Hall of Fame at the University of Pennsylvania as a pitcher for their baseball team. He had been drafted by the New York Yankees, but he left for the war before he had a chance to ever play a game in the big leagues. He had to be 6’4” or 6’5” tall, but he was bent over and looked very frail. He was also shaking uncontrollably. He explained that he had been a prisoner of war in World War II and was starved almost to death. When he went into the service, he was a very strong and fit 235 pounds and when they rescued him and brought him back to the United States, he weighed only 98 pounds. His shaking had started when he was in the prisoner-of-war camp. When he was rescued, he was told that once he got some good food in him, his shaking would go away. It never did. Now he had a lung problem, was struggling to breathe and was told that without surgery, he only had a few weeks to live.

This man was very weak and debilitated. They never prepare you for these kinds of situations when you are in school. How could they? This was going to be tough. I examined him and found some serious loss of motion and muscle spasm in his lumbar spine. I was a bit afraid of taking him on as a patient with him in his very painful, weakened state. I thought about it for a moment and then I told him I would accept him as a patient and do my best with him.

It Took Less Than Two Weeks!

I saw him daily for about 10 or 11 days. (He skipped Sunday.) After that, his pain had subsided to the point that he was walking more smoothly and he had had almost no pain at all for the last few days. I released him from care and he went to Stanford to have that surgery. About 7 months later and just before Christmas, I got a call from this man’s son. He told me that his Dad had passed away a day or two before. He said that if his Dad had not had the surgery, he would surely have died within a few weeks. He said that his Dad’s surgery gave his family at least another 6 months with him and that if I had not handled his back problem, he would never have been able to have the surgery. He thanked me from himself and all his family for giving them this extra time with his Dad. He wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and said that I really deserved to have both.

I think of this patient every Christmas and how much I wanted to help him, especially since he had sacrificed so much for our country and because his daughter-in-law had recommended me to him. I did not want to let either of them down. I remember how worried I was that I wasn’t going to be able to help him because he was so frail. I remember feeling that I was this man’s last hope. I remember making the decision to give him my very best effort even though I was not sure that I could get the job done. And I remember how great I felt when he got well and I accomplished my goal to help him.

Most of us have many moments in life where we doubt ourselves and (hopefully only) a few moments when we are really put to the test. My New Year's wish for you is that in those difficult moments, you make decisions that you can look back on and be proud of the decisions you made.


I have seen a lot of patients with severe circumstances over my many years as a chiropractor. Big or small, if you or any friends or family members need help recovering from any body pain, neuropathy, or injury, my team and I are here to serve you. Give us a call at 408-984-7444 and set up a free 15 minute consultation, or chiropractic appointment today!


Richard F. Gringeri, DC


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