Monday, July 27, 2015

TCM Camp

For a week, we have made a hotel room our home - cooking in the bathroom, bruising our shins on the platform beds, and asking housekeeping always for more coffee. A month ago, when I told Darren that Dr. Li had asked that we come to New York for a week so James could participate in her yearly TCM camp, he was bit skeptical: "A week of acupuncture and a consult, couldn't we do that here?" But, always supportive, we went, and we are all glad we did.

Here's a peek into our week:

Day 1:

We called ahead to check if Dr. Li is running on time. Our appointment was at 11:00 am, we were told to arrive at 11:30, but still waited some in the waiting room. The waiting room is not very big and your hotel, or in our case lobby, as we hadn't checked in yet, will be more comfortable.

This ended up being our consult day (when they made the appointments initially, they weren't sure what day would be the consult. I think Dr. Li wanted the consult prior to beginning treatment this week). Having his improvements summarized was gratifying - no severe reactions since beginning in October (three severe reactions in the two years prior), one minor reaction since beginning (20+ prior). Those are for food allergy reactions, not for environmental. He still has hives 5 out of 7 days (cause is suspected to be environmental by our local allergist), unknown frequency prior because they were (are really) so common I did not track them until Dr. Li asked me to. James still is not reporting them to me reliably so that number is based on his estimate.

I should have had James's IgEs taken. This is not his one year point (that will be October) so I didn't (I'm quite the rule follower). That does not always work in my advantage. It was fine, but she did want to know (me too!).

James was not able to tolerate acupressure. He's very ticklish. So, he again had two needles, one in each of his arms, but found the leg needle painful so she removed it. Dr. Li applied acupressure to his leg, observed it was "jiggly", and asked what trauma he had had in his life. For those who have experienced toddler adoption following abandonment and/or orphanage care, you will know there was trauma. I don't understand acupuncture at all, and so that she can know from his skin sensitivity that he had trauma, was a little spooky (what is the saying? We fear what we don't understand).







Day 2:

A much faster day, James had acupuncture while we spoke to Dr. Li. We were told to make no changes and emphasize the positive things, such as his ability to handle things, a healing of the heart as well as the body.

James was exhausted when we got back to the hotel. I was going stir crazy.

Day 3:

Four needles, two in each arm for 15 minutes, very efficient.

We went out afterwards, to MOMA and then to Nintendo World, probably James's favorite New York place. He was exhausted though, a frequent theme after acupuncture. To my delight, there is a Farmer's Market in front of Rockefeller Center (Wed-Fri). If, like us, you don't eat our much, and like us, your hotel only had a mini-fridge, by this point you might be getting dangerously low on fresh fruits and veggies. Honest joy for fresh produce for me and some raw cheese for James.

Temporary Iwata shrine at Nintendo World memorializing the recent passing of the President of Nintendo, Japan.



Day 4:

Dr. Li spent a long time doing acupressure before acupuncture. The difference in the amount of touch James was able to tolerate from Day 1 to today was amazing. We sit quietly, but at one point, I wanted to shout out, "I can't believe she's touching his feet!" He often says to me, "I've heard you can't tickle yourself, but I can." He's the most ticklish person I know.

All of these appointments have been tiring. James always asks to do something afterwards, but usually changes his mind. Yesterday was the only day we have followed through so far, and that was leaving the office directly. It resulted in him being overtired and crabby. He usually has a lot of energy. However, the acupuncture is supposed to be relaxing and our diet has not been as healthy as at home. It takes it's toll.





Day 5:

Another day of acupressure and acupuncture, although not quite as long as the day before. Today, Dr. Li had a young patient helper with her, who handed her the needles as she prepped James's skin. One of the real highlights of the trip has been meeting other families going through the process and even one who is in the biomarker study (so incredible to see that real and beginning!). I am not particularly gregarious in person (perhaps an understatement) but luckily I had a friend from the Midwest I met at the beginning the week who was outgoing enough for us both. And truly, I met many lovely families this week.

Dr. Li was particularly talkative today, which surprised us. Usually, when we come in, our directions are to be quiet, so that James can relax, so when she was asking us questions and conversing, we were a little hesitant at first to reply, kind of like talking out of turn in class.

After acupuncture, we met some friends for ice cream at A La Mode and we even got burgers from Bare Burger  for dinner. Two places out in one day might be a record for us. James declared the Bare Burger to be "the best he's ever had." He's had a fair number of burgers. And they were very careful, noting the allergies and reviewing their ingredients with Darren (who did the ordering and went to pick them up) despite how busy they were.

Day 6:

We were all relieved to make it to our last day. James was more antsy during acupuncture than he had been since the first day, so Dr. Li dropped his time down to 5 min., but within a minute of having the needles in, you could visibly see his body relax. I actually thought he was asleep on the table, he was lying so still.

We had a wrap-up chat. She wants his cream dosage increased ("we all have to do things we don't like") and we will be back in 6 months.

Why It Was Worth It:

1. He had no hives all week. Enough said.

2. Traveling is enormously stressful for him. Prior to this, the longest trip we've done is 10 days (before we were in NYC, we visited my mom for a week, so we've been gone 2 weeks now). He remembers loving trips when we return, but during the trip, he's generally miserable, physically and emotionally. But, this trip, he felt some 'I'm ready to go home,' as did I, but it wasn't the extreme feelings he usually experiences. No increase in tics, no emotional outbursts, no physical ramifications.

I would really like to continue acupuncture with him at home, but with all things for him, Dr. Li urged us to go slow. If he requests it, then it's okay. If not, leave it be for now.

Practical Considerations:

We stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn because of having points. In retrospect, not having a full sized refrigerator was a big deal and I would make that more of a priority in future trips. We are used to eating fresh and this limited our options to a lot of packaged foods. The Dumont is also very close to the office, does have full kitchens and larger suites - something to consider for the next time.

Minute Rice Microwaveable Cups - terrible, you are not that hungry.

Hormel pre-cooked bacon - doesn't require refrigeration, but you might as well eat salt and call it a day.

The best part of the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown/Park Ave is its location, literally around the block from Dr. Li's office. 

Bring two pairs of comfortable shoes. You will regret bringing only one.

My experience, (yours may vary) is to plan on this being a medical visit, not a tourist one. Anything you may get to do or see is bonus, but don't plan on a lot. James, as I mentioned, was often worn out, and not up for any sightseeing. In the evening, he would have more energy and want to just take walks, which was fine. 

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