My name is Austin Brandt. As I am both a veteran and a student of naturopathic medicine, I have been asked to share my story of how I found naturopathic medicine and how it has helped me recover my health. Because my journey has been a long one with many ups and downs, I will be telling it in three separate posts. I have done my best to keep it concise, while still sharing the experiences that I hope most veterans can relate to in some fashion.
I have been married to my high school sweetheart for nearly 16 years, and have two daughter ages 7 and 10. This fall, I will be entering my third year of school at the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, Oregon.
I was born and raised in the backwoods of Oregon, and after completing my first year of college I made the decision to join the Army, as I was burned out with school. During my time in the Army, I spent 8 of my 9 years in the 10th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), first as a signal support soldier, then after attending selection and the qualification course, I returned to my unit as a Special Forces Medical Sergeant. It was this experience that sparked my interest in medicine. Throughout my military career, I was deployed to Iraq multiple separate times, as well as a handful of deployments to Eastern Europe and Africa. After several injuries and missing so much time with my family, I decided it was time to leave the military and finish school, as that had always been my plan.
A New Chapter
In December of 2009, I left the Army and all that I had worked so hard to become and moved my family to Eugene, Oregon to attend the University of Oregon where I studied Human Physiology. My goal was to finish up my bachelor’s degree and then go to P.A. school as that was the most natural path for Special Forces Medics. But about a year after getting out of the military, I developed severe fatigue, body pain, and brain fog. My primary care physician (PCP) at the VA diagnosed me with depression and prescribed the anti-psychotic lorazepam. This only made me feel worse, and after doing some research on my own, I asked my PCP to test me for Lyme disease. He literally laughed in my face and told me there was no way I had Lyme disease. However, I refused to leave his office until he ordered the test, and two weeks later I received a phone call from the county health department (not the VA) and was informed that my test had come back positive for Lyme!
I waited about a week for the VA to contact me, but I never heard from them, so I called and made an appointment to be seen. Once I finally got back in to see my doctor, I was prescribed a course of 21 days of antibiotics to treat the Lyme. So, I did more research and found that there were doctors all over the country that specialize in treating Lyme disease and that they claimed that the standard 21 days of antibiotics wasn’t sufficient enough to kill the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes the disease. At this point I realized that I wasn’t going to get the treatment I needed within the VA, so I looked for anybody in my area that had experience in treating Lyme and found a naturopathic doctor in a small clinic in downtown Eugene.
A New Discovery
At that time, I had no idea what a naturopathic doctor was, but I was desperate to figure out what was wrong with me and get my health back. My first appointment was quite the experience! I arrived on time and instead of waiting for an hour to be seen, the doctor, not a nurse, came out into the waiting room, introduced himself and took me to his office. He then spent over an hour taking my history and performing physical exams. He listened to what I had to say and never made me feel inferior or that I was just crazy (at that time, the VA was still sending me lorazepam in the mail because they thought I was either depressed, crazy, or both). This was my first exposure to naturopathic medicine, a doctor that took time to hear what I was going through and display empathy for my situation without making me feel like I was being judged. He wasn’t watching the clock and trying to rush the appointment to get on to his next patient. It was this first experience that really made an impression on me, both mentally and physically. Even though I left his office that day without having taken any medicine yet, I was already feeling better. The fact that someone was finally hearing me out and taking me serious was immensely therapeutic!
My Journey Continues
I will end part one by saying that the first benefit I noticed from seeing a naturopathic doctor was their willingness to sit with their patients and hold space for the patient to discuss their issues or problems without casting judgment. For me, that made all the difference.
~ Austin Brandt, 3rd year Naturopath Student at NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine)