In part 1 of my journey blog, I ended with my first visit with a naturopathic doctor (ND). Prior to that visit, I had always thought of NDs as weird voodoo witch-doctors. So, I was pleasantly surprised by his level of professionalism, knowledge, and most importantly, empathy.
Adjustments to Civilian Life
I think it is important to point out that at this time; I struggled adjusting to civilian life. I had just left a life where I was a highly respected soldier that got paid to do things most people only see in movies. Now, here I was, just another student on campus. Feeling like I had lost my identity, I entered a very dark place emotionally.
Additionally, before I met the ND, not one medical professional would listen to me. Instead, they just pumped me full of anti-psychotics that made me feel worse and kept telling me I had PTSD. It got so bad, that I regularly thought about giving up and ending it all; I even had a plan. But then, I thought about my wife and daughters, and how I would be causing them more pain than what I was dealing with, and that I would rather be the one to endure the pain than push it off on them.
There was also this ND, he listened, he genuinely cared about what I was going through, and he explained all that he knew about Lyme and what he had learned as far as treatment options go. Then he gave me a choice of which treatment option I thought was best. I remember walking out of his office with a new sense of hope! I slowly started feeling better and was able to finish my degree in Human Physiology with the support of my family and this ND.
My New Journey
Still believing that P.A. school was the best career path for me, despite the positive ND experience, I started applying to different P.A. schools on the west coast and was accepted to a school just outside Portland, Oregon in Hillsboro. In my second term of school, my health started to take another nose dive. With having almost no energy, the faculty offered me a leave of absence to rest and recover.
Because I had moved, I also had to find a new PCP in the VA. My new doctor was an older Chinese woman that had practiced Traditional Chinese medicine in China before moving to the United States to go to medical school. In our very first meeting, she sat and patiently listened to all that I had been through up to that point in time. She then told me there wasn’t anything she could do for me within the confines of the VA healthcare system.
Believing I could benefit from some of the therapies offered, she encouraged me to look into a clinic in SW Portland that offered inexpensive acupuncture and naturopathic care. This is how I discovered the National University of Natural Medicine. I made an appointment to see a Doctor of Chinese medicine and started getting regular acupuncture treatments. As time went by, I began making progress. My energy returned and improved so much that I was feeling better than I had in years.
One of the doctors in the clinic suggested that I consider applying to the school’s doctor of naturopathic medicine program. After many long talks with my family and some students already in the program, I applied and got accepted.
Around that same time, I was told about Veteran Service Officers (VSO’s) who work for each county in Oregon and get paid to ensure veterans are being taken care of by the VA (they don’t work for the VA). It was suggested I go speak with the VSO to see if I qualified for any additional schooling benefits. With the help and support of the VSO, within two months of applying for vocational rehabilitation and for disability due to all the injuries I had sustained during my time in service, I found out the VA was going to pay for school and that I was entitled to disability benefits.
It was as if the stars were finally aligning. I was on a path that made sense, one that I was excited to explore.
~ Austin Brandt, 3rd year Naturopath Student at NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine)