On Monday, October 10, 1983, I officially opened my doors for business as the Ehren Chiropractic Center. I say “officially” because I had already been seeing someone as a patient for a couple of weeks. It was a fellow nurse that my wife worked with at Lakewood Hospital and was in dire need. She had called me at home and wanted to make an appointment to see me. My office was hardly ready to be greeting patients. I had been spending time painting it, gathering furniture, getting the paperwork I thought I needed together, and waiting for the x-ray machine to be installed. But, I did have an adjusting table.
When she called, I told her that I wasn’t quite ready to see anyone yet. She said that she was in terrible pain, and if I didn’t see her, could I recommend someone? Not only did I not know any other chiropractor to refer her to, but I am also not a fool and was not about to let my first patient get away. I told her I would meet her at the office the next day.
They told us in school that our first patient would crawl in the door because he/she would be in so much pain. They weren’t kidding. I watched her hobble up to my front door in absolute agony. She told me later that if she could have crawled, she would have. I had her fill out some paper work, took her to my adjusting room, and performed a brilliant orthopedic/neurological exam. My instructors would have been proud. I did all the proper tests and determined that she had had a herniated lumbar disc.
I was so pleased with myself!
And then a thought hit me – I didn’t know what to do about it! I was dumbfounded. We learned how to do exams, and we learned how to adjust, but I didn’t know how to put it all together. How do I adjust for this condition?
I called my best friend Mike Zeigler. Mike and I had gone to Bowling Green State University together several years before. He had already decided to become a chiropractor as I was finishing my master’s degree program and planning to become a medical technologist. We had many talks about chiropractic and he tried very hard to convince me that I should go to Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa with him. It sounded like a great idea. But, at the time, I was finishing six and a half years of college (2 degrees if you are doing the math), and felt that I really needed to get a job.
After I earned my Master of Science degree in biology, I moved back to Cleveland and studied medical technology at Mount Sinai Hospital. It’s a one-year program, and after finishing it, I was hired by the Cleveland Clinic to work in the bacteriology lab. It was a good job, and paid well for being a single guy. During the three years I worked there, though, I had met the girl, Pam, who was to become my wife; we got married, and then were expecting our first child. Now, facing the future with supporting a family, I began to think that I could not continue as a med tech and be able to support a family on that salary. I started thinking of other things I could do. Then it hit me – go to chiropractic school!
Mike and I had been in touch through those years. We were in each other’s weddings, and he had still been after me to move to Iowa and attend school there. He was at Palmer and close to the end of the program when I called him and told him I was ready to move my little family out there after our daughter was born. He was ecstatic, and immediately went to the administration office to have them send me the paper work. I was excited to move into this next chapter of my life.
Pam came home from work. At the time she was about 5 months pregnant. We had been talking about different possibilities for our future, but nothing seemed right until now. I told her I decided to go to chiropractic school and that we would move to Iowa after our daughter was born. She immediately sat down on the couch and bawled her eyes out! She would be far from home, with no family, and a new baby, and she didn’t even know where Iowa was. I reassured her that it was only for the three years, and we will move back. After a bit of comforting, she realized that it truly was a good idea.
We then told my parents. My dad said, “You know, there are a lot of starving chiropractors out there!” I told my friend Wayne from graduate school. He said, “Why would you throw away your future? They are under investigation by the state of Michigan!” I told my major professor from grad school at BG. He said, “Why would you do that, why don’t you go to med school?”
With all that great advice and support, we went anyway. I started school in July of 1980, graduated in June of ’83, and we moved back to Lakewood. Now it was the end of September and I had a patient with a “hot low back”, as I used to call it, and didn’t know what to do. Mike was practicing in Silver Springs, Maryland when I called. I told him my dilemma, and said, “What do I do?” He laughed and said, “Toggle the SOB (meaning her low back)!” Toggling is a quick, forceful adjustment into a stuck vertebra of the spine.
I went into the room, and toggled the SOB. She let out a scream and I almost crapped my pants thinking I must have crippled her. But, after lying there for a bit she got off the table and felt much better. It did take several months to get her totally rehabbed, but my career had officially begun.
And here it is, 30 years later. I have no idea where the time went. My three-year-old daughter back then is now 33 with a 3 year old of her own. My son wasn’t born until two years into practice, and he is now 28. My dear friend, Mike Zeigler passed away in May of ’99. So many things have changed, as did my practice. I don’t practice anything like I did back then as I have evolved it into a totally holistic approach to health. I have literally worked with thousands of people during this time -I honestly have no idea how many. Some of them for a short time, some for a long time, and there are still a few people who see me from the early days.
When I started this journey 30 years ago, I had no idea where it would take me, and I had no idea how rewarding it would be working with so many wonderful, wonderful people. The nice thing is, after 30 years, it still is fun and I look forward to the next 30!