Graves Disease



Mary Beth Hales


“Every once in a while we come to a point in our lives when we can look back at a period of time, and think about the things we could have done differently that may have changed the outcome of a given chain of events. For me, this is one of those times. My story is not about how I wish I made different choices; it is about how grateful I am for the choices I made.

“I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease and thyroid eye disease. I was experiencing thyroid storm at the time, and the pressure in both of my eyes was jeopardizing my vision. The symptoms were insidious, and I had chalked them all up to stress, which had allowed this disease to spiral out of control. By the time I saw a doctor, I was experiencing heart palpitations and arrhythmia, chronic diarrhea, excruciating headaches and eye pain, blurred vision, bouts of insomnia as well as debilitating fatigue, and periods of extreme nervousness which neared the stage of panic attack.

“I sought out an endocrinologist and an ophthalmologist who started me on a treatment regimen for these diseases. I was told by the endocrinologist that the disease process could take from 2-6 years before going into remission, and that to hope for the two year mark would be too optimistic. He prescribed drugs to regulate my heart rhythms, drugs to freeze the production of thyroid hormone and an antidepressant to ease the anxiety and nervousness caused by my speeding metabolism. I saw him every month to check the thyroid hormone levels in my body and to check the progression of this disease. My ophthalmologist prescribed eye drops in an attempt to control the eye pressure, as surgery was not an option until after my thyroid had become regulated. The pressure in my eyes was at a dangerous level due to the swelling and build up of thyroid hormone behind my eyes. This pressure caused them to bulge forward and pull away from my optic nerve. We could only hope that my thyroid would cooperate before any detachment from the optic nerve occurred. This was my life . . . it had been only eight months; I was still exhausted, still sick and knew this could go on for up to six years.

“I met Dr. Helena Lackner, D.C. at a city festival. By this time I had been experiencing double vision for several months due to the eye disease. Because of this, I was living my life with my head tipped back as far as it would go, so that I could look out of the bottoms of my eyes, causing the least amount of vision impairment. You can imagine that by this time, in addition to everything else, my neck hurt.

“I spoke with Dr. Helena at length about the Grave’s Disease and my neck, she seemed genuinely interested, and offered me a scan of my neck. She talked with me about the scan and what she could offer to help me. I decided to schedule an appointment. I could have decided to forgo the visit and just add the neck pain to my list of ailments. I could have decided to continue suffering, but I didn’t.

“During my first visit it was evident to me that I was in a different kind of doctor’s office, dealing with a different kind of doctor. It was for those reasons I returned for my Report of Findings. When I returned to the office for that second visit I realized that not only had Dr. Helena prepared a comprehensive evaluation of my condition, she had specifically investigated Grave’s Disease, and how it related to my nervous system, and the condition of my spine. What she was saying to me made sense, but it was hard to believe that it could be possible for a chiropractor to help anything but my neck pain. She adjusted only my neck during that second visit, and my pain subsided immediately. I could have chosen not to return, after all, my neck pain was gone, and that was why I went there in the first place . . . but I didn’t.

“She adjusted my neck, I left feeling better than I did when I arrived. After my endocrinologist evaluated the blood test from that visit, he called me at home. I might remind you that I had been on the same prescription drugs without change for eight months prior to seeing Dr. Helena. After those first four adjustments my endocrinologist had called me to tell me to cut the dosage of my thyroid medicine in half! That was some amazing news . . . finally progress! I could have decided that chiropractic care had done how much more could I really hope for . . . but I didn’t.

“In mid-July, after a month of care, my ophthalmologist decided that the benefits of surgery on my right eye now outweighed the risks. The disease had caused the risk of complete loss of vision in that eye to be a very real possibility. My surgery would consist of the removal of bone from three of my orbital socket walls, creating room behind my eye for the swelling and relieving the pressure on my optic nerve.

“I saw Dr. Helena for an adjustment the day before my surgery. That adjustment might well have saved my life. While I was in the recovery room being brought out of anesthesia, I went into laryngospasm. It was a reaction to the anesthesia that only few people experience. All of the muscles in my throat seized and went into spasm, crushing and closing the plastic tubing I had been intubated with. The staff at the hospital was able to force a new airway in, and I gradually began to breathe again. I awoke next to a crash cart. Would my body have recovered so quickly from that, allowing me to breathe again if I had not been subluxation free? I saw Dr. Helena the very next day for an adjustment. Gingerly, she positioned her hands around my bandaged head to give me that adjustment. My recovery from surgery was remarkable, and obvious to everyone around me.

“I stuck to my adjusting schedule, and my schedule of visits to the other doctors involved in my care. In September, after almost four months of chiropractic care, I got another call at home from my endocrinologist after a regular visit. I was to cut my thyroid medicine in half again, AND stop taking my heart medicine altogether! This was really progress, I thought. It was around that time that I started to really feel different. I remember the visit to Dr. Helena when I told her that I had been sitting at my desk at home and actually “hopped up” from my chair! I hadn’t hopped up from anywhere in over a year! I was really feeling better, and things were starting to go really well for me. I could have decided that I was well and stopped getting my adjustments, after all, I hoped . . . but I didn’t.

“It was in October that my eye surgeon thought that we should schedule surgery on my left eye. By this time I was starting to “get it” when it came to the benefits I was receiving from my adjustments. I asked her for two weeks before we went to surgery. I wasn’t prepared to risk my vision, but I was sure that with Dr. Helena’s help we could avoid this surgery. We increased my adjustment schedule and did just that! Not only was my thyroid disease responding, the damage that had already been done was healing as well.

“In December I astounded my endocrinologist and was the first Grave’s Disease patient he had taken off of the thyroid medication after only fourteen months of treatment. We had avoided that second surgery, and I was off of my thyroid medication. What a huge victory! I’m sure there are people out there who would be satisfied with that, and stop chiropractic care at that point. After all, we had accomplished so much in such a short period of time, and I was indeed better. . . I was not one of those people.

“As recently as July, I was still experiencing double vision due to the trauma my eye muscles experienced before the surgery on my right eye. I had accepted the fact that a future surgery was the only way to repair them because of the damage they had received. I met with a surgeon who made some changes in the prism I had been using to temporarily correct my vision and we scheduled a pre-surgery consult for July 31st. On that consult visit I learned that my eyes were starting to respond to the new prism, and that we could look at corrective lenses as an alternative to surgery. Another surgery avoided . . . chiropractically! On August 1st an amazing thing happened. I was sitting in my living room talking with a friend and I took my glasses off to look at her. I realized in that one moment that, although she was blurry, there was no double vision! I could see a single image without the help of my prism. I can now wear my glasses without the prism for a few hours each day and see the way I did before I got sick.

“I can’t describe to you what a gift this is, what a gift this all has been. I could have chosen any number of times to be satisfied with only a fraction of what chiropractic care could do for me. . .I received these gifts because I didn’t.”