My senior year in college was supposed to be a glorious one.
It started out that way – I was captain of the cross country running team, star intellectual of the philosophy department, and a classical guitarist with enough emerging talent to start tackling the most difficult music in the repertoire. Everything was lining up wonderfully. I still had all my hair, had a chiseled physique from triathlons and a year of walk-on college swimming – what could go wrong?
A chronic stress injury – that’s what.
My hands and arms began aching non-stop – my guitar playing was suffering. I couldn’t train anymore without pain – so I resigned my post with the track team. It was horrible timing. Weeks before crumbling, I had won the college concerto competition playing the Stairway to Heaven of the classical guitar repertoire and had learned an entire Bach cello suite transcribed for guitar. I had to give it all up. I slouched through the final semester, doing well academically, but watching my artistic dreams slip away.
I moved to Boston after that summer of 1996 to start independent living. By this time I had a life of constant, low-grade pain and discomfort. Every day was shrouded in a mild haze of depression. I met my to-be wife that year – which was positive – but otherwise it was a lost year in my life, working shitty temp jobs in the city, substitute teaching, and searching for cures from any alternative treatment short of a surgeon’s knife.
I finally learned of a maverick doctor practicing out of Ensenada, Mexico – from a guy named Ben Benjamin (I know – totally sketchy). His name was Milne Ongley, he was 75 years old, took cash only, but had such a convincing story – and patient references – that I planned a trip 4 months out. I moved home for the summer of 1997 to save up cash, then booked a 1-way trip to San Diego for the 9 week stay south of the border.
The treatment was very difficult. He and his torturers-in-training drugged me up good with valium the first time, so that I’d be supple enough to take the ultra-violent chiropractic maneuvers and stinging injections in my spine, wrists and elbows.
Every consecutive week I received similar injections in each damaged joint – often very painful, both the needle and the aching, irritated side-effect afterward.
The principle of the treatment is simple – you can read about it here. There’s much fud and misinformation about it – and many charlatans in the field. Its not a procedure or protocol “approved” by the medical establishment – which in my book is a good thing. The one common thing among all the practitioners – quacks or honest ones – is that if you but utter the name “Ongley” – they all hush and speak in reverent tones about this great man who helped – and is still helping at age 90 – so many people.
It was a tough time – and an isolating time spent out there with few friends – but it worked. 3 months after treatment I was back to playing guitar, the range of motion in my neck and back was 90% recovered, and my chronic pain was gone. I gladly mailed him the last of his $6000 payment in March of 1998.
It was great to hear a few years ago that Bode Miller and other disobedient Olympic Ski Team members sought out Ongley – against their doctors orders – and have brand new knees.
Although friends have kidded me about the experience – they call Ongley my desert witch doctor who injects you with goat semen – he really saved my sanity.
Next time I’ll share some interesting, more personal stories about my experience in San Diego and Baja.