Belvidere, NE- Bref Albright was taking an unfamiliar route home from work because of a stalled 18-wheeler when he passed by the cell phone tower. As the electromagnetic field washed over him, symptoms of his sensitivity quickly set in. He first noticed a tingling sensation throughout his body and an odd dryness in his mouth and throat. Then nausea and headache. Once the palpitations and difficulty concentrating on the road began, he knew he had to pull over in order to avoid an accident.

An elderly woman, shown here about to be strangled by a conventional doctor and/or pharmaceutical industry representative, is wearing an EmergenQi pendant

An elderly woman, shown here about to be strangled by a conventional doctor and/or pharmaceutical industry representative, is wearing an EmergenQi pendant

“Getting off the road was the right thing to do,” Albright explained. “I couldn’t risk injuring somebody else if I lost control of my truck, but it left me vulnerable. I was a sitting duck!” As expected, Albright’s condition worsened because of continued exposure to the deadly yet fundamental force of nature. Despite blurry vision and difficulty remembering his wife’s cell phone number, he managed to place a call. No answer. His wife, home brewing kombucha, had left her phone in another room.

Albright, a 53-year-old taxidermist for the Belvidere Parks Commission, then pressed the red button that activated his alternative medical emergency alert system. Within seconds, a satellite had pinpointed the location of Albright’s pendant and a team of emergency alternative medicine experts was soon on its way. While on route, a member of the team was even able to contact Albright’s wife Norleen and ask a few questions about Bref’s alternative medical history.

“Speaking to family members can be very helpful when approaching these situations,” Emergency Chiropractic Technician Frank Grimes revealed. “Yes, we have a detailed file on each customer, but sometimes people forget to update their records when new issues come up. Mrs. Albright was able to inform us of Bref’s recent exposure to a genetically modified corn fritter.”

Norleen credits her husband’s alternative medical alert system for saving his life on multiple occasions. In the past year, Bref has accessed the system nearly one hundred times for concerns ranging from gluten exposure to sudden-onset chronic Lyme disease. “Sometimes it’s just nice to hear somebody tell us that everything is going to be okay, as long as we follow their recommendations unquestioningly.”

When the team arrived at the scene, they found Bref conscious but scared and a bit unsteady on his feet. Company president and naturopathic physician Mort Fishman, who leads the team and is certified in Acupuncture Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), says that in situations like this there is a golden hour where appropriate intervention can make the difference between life and irreversible chakra degradation. “This was one of those days where everything went right. It was a good day. They aren’t all good days, but we focus on the saves. You’ve got to focus on the saves.”

The key to the success of alternative medical alert systems like the one that saved Albright’s life, in addition to the highly trained men and women who respond to calls, is the customer’s motivation to use the system correctly. Fishman says that when a customer fails to respond to therapy, or when the rare fatality occurs, there is almost always a frustrating explanation. “Sometimes they don’t adhere to our treatment recommendations. Sometimes they wait too long to activate the system. In fact, I haven’t seen a case of treatment failure yet where it wasn’t ultimately their fault.”

Long known in the world of conventional medicine, alert systems have traditionally been used by the elderly to notify a 24-hour call center in the event of a fall or when they mistake people talking on a television or radio in another room for an intruder. The GeriAlert system, one of the most popular on the market, achieved notoriety with its famous slogan, “I’ve fallen and my own son never visits me anymore!” Alternative medical alert systems, although only around for a few years, have revolutionized the care of people who are really worried about things that their regular doctor has probably never even heard of.

Cutting edge technology is one of the ways that alternative medical alert systems are outpacing conventional competitors. Fishman’s company, EmergenQi, has recently added an automatic alert feature to its higher-end products, which can cost an excessively worried customer as much as $500 per month. This grants a customer access to the system but they are charged an additional fee each time it’s activated. “The auto alert feature detects imbalances, toxic exposures and even overgrowth of yeast in the blood,” Fishman says. “And our own studies show it to be nearly 100% accurate.”

Zoo Knudsen
The Belvidere Bugle

Okay, back to reality.

Several things inspired me to write this satirical piece about how an alternative medical alert system might work. First and foremost, and this is a frequent theme in my satire posts both here and at Knudsen’s News, is the thought experiment of what life might be like in a universe where alternative medicine proponents and practitioners truly attempted to replace conventional medicine. What if chiropractors obtained consent for “Do Not Manipulate” orders? Or the da Vinci robotic surgical system was used for acupuncture? It may seem far-fetched, and it is, but then again we have a military using acupuncture on the battlefield?

We live in a world where anything and everything, even low level non-ionizing electromagnetic fields, might be blamed as the cause of nonspecific symptoms. My article isn’t meant to poke fun at the symptoms, which are real even if the etiology isn’t organic in nature, or the people suffering them. My target is the community of pseudo-medical pseudo-professionals, many of whom have found employment in our most prestigious academic institutions, which helps to legitimize unproven and highly implausible etiologies.

I especially enjoy the mental imagery of an irregular medical practitioner getting an “alternative medical history and physical.” The H & P, as it is more commonly referred to as, is a skill medical students begin to hone early on in their training, striving to perfect it as they progress through residency. But the reality is that we are always learning and improving our ability to navigate the complex interactions of our patients’ historical and examination findings.

We improve with experience, but more importantly through continued exposure to science-based research. Without any such linchpin, what an alternative medical practitioner looks for or asks about is entirely based on their individual unscientific world view. And like GMO corn fritters, it is frequently random nonsense.

Another inspiration for writing this article was the always-frustrating use of ad hoc rationalizations by alt med practitioners. It never seems to be their fault when a patient suffers. The list of excuses is long but typically includes such canards as seeking their care after too much damage was done by the condition or conventional treatments, or that the patient just wasn’t motivated to heal.

There are other subtle, and not-so-subtle, digs at the absurdity of so-called alternative medicine in this faux news article. But I’ll let interested readers peel the onion for themselves. Hopefully this attempt at humor finds it mark. And if not, I’ll happily blame the five feet of snow, with another foot on its way this weekend, greeting me each day on my walk to work over the past few weeks.




Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.