Desperate Stroke Patient Goes to China for Proper Care

Desperate Stroke Patient Goes to China for Proper Care
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NEWS FLASH: Award Winning Film 9000 Needles showing on Thursday May 5th at 8:30PM at the Regent Theater in Hollywood as part of the AWARENESS FESTIVAL

At the age of 40 Devin Dearth's life changed forever. Devin, a vital and active loving husband, father, champion body builder and successful businessman suffered a massive hemmorhagic stroke at 5 a.m. while working out at his gym in a small midwestern town. The stroke damaged his brainstem so extensively that he was not expected to live. While medicine in America excels at high tech emergency medicine, it fails miserably at supporting recovery and the restoration of normal function and does almost nothing to sustain and nourish health over the long term. Devin had to go to China to get proper care. The care he needed was denied to him at home.

Devin has insurance. Great. Emergency services covered. Hospital care covered. Not so great, the rehabilitative care that Devin needed then and continues to need now is not covered by his insurance plan. His insurance company refused to pay for the helicopter that airlifted Devin from his very small town to a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky equipped to save his life. His family received a bill for $20,000 for the air ambulance. Without air transport, Devin would have died before ever getting to the hospital. You can't get approval at 5 a.m. in the morning for special services, but that is what is required. Welcome to health care in America.

After three weeks in intensive care, uncertain if he would survive, he could finally breathe on his own. This one time champion body builder then started rehabilitative care, for a limited amount of time only. He was approved for only 20 days of therapy after suffering a massive brain stem stroke He was making good progress and then the insurance coverage ran out. Devin, still debilitated, unable to walk, sit up, speak, feed or bathe himself was sent home. His family was now in charge. His wife and kids had to lift him from bed to wheelchair. His doctors and therapists knew he was progressing well and that he needed continued therapy. The insurance company said no. Coverage is no longer available. Go home.

9000 Needles: A Story of Hope, Courage and One Family's Unconventional Journey Towards Stroke Recovery is an award winning documentary film made by Devin's brother, -Doug Dearth who refused to accept that his brother was going to go without the care he needed.

Doug searched worldwide and discovered a renowned Acupuncture Treatment Program for Stroke Rehabilitation at First Teaching Hospital of Tianjin University in China under the direction of Dr. Shi Xuemin. Devin's family has now been to China twice for several months at a time, where Devin has received exceptional care, daily acupuncture and physical therapy that allowed him to make dramatic progress. Stroke patients with the financial means to do so come here from all over the world. We watch as after only one acupuncture treatment Devin began to move his previously immobile leg on his own for the first time. After only weeks, he no longer drooled out of the side of his mouth. After several months he could sit up and was beginning to walk and to talk again.

According to the 2010 China Connection Global Health Report stroke patients receiving care at the Tianjin Hospital Program have better outcomes than patients treated with standard post stroke treatment in the U.S.

85 percent are able to walk without assistance (Only 51 percent of U.S. patients completing rehabilitatioin in the U.S. walk without assistance.)

95 percent regain almost complete knee flexion compared with 50 percent in the U.S.

98 percent return to live in their homes instead of long term care facilities while only 68 percent of U.S. stroke patients are able to live in their own homes.

According to Dr. Lee Schwamm, Vice Chairman of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Chairman of the American Stroke Association Program

Millions of dollars are spent in hospital and acute care settings where patients are moved out of rehab too quickly, often before they are ready. The insurance focus is on regaining minimum levels of independent living and the costs of rehab services are often in excess of $100,000 after insurance expires. This is staggering for most families. Millions of dollars are spent on acute care, but far too little is available for rehabilitation.

Tianjin Hospital patients also see decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol which are causes of stroke, reaping secondary benefits of this approach. Forty-six percent of Tianjin patients have reduced need for blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications upon completing the program. This is significant because lowering high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol will decrease the risk of a second stroke.

9000 Needles is a story of an extraordinary family who went halfway around the world in search of healing.

9000 Needles is the story of a family's journey to an Acupuncture Stroke Treatment Program in China.

9000 Needles is the story of the power of Acupuncture to heal.

9000 Needles is the story of the failure of health care in America, demonstrating that insurance companies, not the patient's doctors, nor the patients themselves now decide who gets care and how much. It is the story of rationing by insurance companies. It is the story of an inhumane American healthcare system devoid of compassion and common sense. It is a story of how health care in America is a business devoid of heart, devoid of caring.

Devin suffered his stroke over three years ago. Each year he is offered a very limited amount of care by his insurance company. This means he will never have the opportunity to recover as much function as might be possible for him. When the allotment for care has been used up, it's over until next year. He is on his own. Patients who suffer severe strokes need ongoing and aggressive post stroke rehabilitative care. This care is not available to him. He lives in a small town in the Midwest. The closest acupuncturist is a 90 minute drive away. There is no facility where he can receive all the services he needs under one roof. And even if such a facility existed, his insurance would not cover his treatments. He cannot even get ongoing physical therapy and speech therapy throughout the year. His insurance company has decided he is a disposable person, no longer worthy of services. He can stay in his wheelchair as far as they are concerned.

One of the treatments that helps him the most, acupuncture, is not covered at all.

The film 9000 needles, which chronicles Devin's journey and treatment is emotionally moving. See it. As we watch, we share in the in the love and anguish of this family, the courage of this patient and the dedication and skill of his Chinese doctors. The film shows Devin's remarkable progress day by day, week by week, needle by needle, over 9000 needles in all.

This film makes us aware of the failures of our health care system, the power of Acupuncture and the importance of support, love and devotion from loved ones. Not only is it necessary to reform health care and reign in the abuses of the insurance industry in America, but this film compels us to bring acupuncture care into the American health care system as a standard of care for stroke patients. We will have to convince the insurance companies first.

I have practiced Acupuncture for three decades. In all these years I have never lost my sense of awe for the power of this elegant system of healing. This film reminded me once again of the profound results that are possible with Chinese Medicine. This is an exceptionally safe and cost effective ancient system that is now well integrated into modern medicine in China today. There is no reason it cannot be integrated with medicine in America. It is my hope that acupuncturists in America will be included in the health care teams of both in-patient and out-patient stroke treatment centers as part of our own American health care system.

In order for this to be so, we must all write to our legislators and to insurance companies and lobby for the inclusion of acupuncture in the American health care system and all insurance policies, including Medicare. We must also lobby for humane care in which the doctor decides how much and what type of care a patient needs. Insurance companies pay their own on staff doctors to deny care. These are not the doctors who should be making clinical decisions. We must put decision making back in the hands of the patient's doctors. We must allow patients to be part of the decision making process. Watch this film. Write to your legislators. Demand a humane health care system. Don't let insurance companies run our health care system and make heartless and mercenary decisions that rob us of our humanity and our dignity and the quality of our lives. Take action. Write a letter today.

For more information on 9000 Needles, visit the film's official website Set up a screening. Watch it with your friends, family and health care professionals.

For more information on the Devin Dearth Foundation, visit

For more information about visiting First Teaching Hospital of Tianjin University visit the website of China Connection Global Healthcare

Dr. Nalini Chilkov has been practicing Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and Integrative Cancer Care for over thirty years.

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