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  • Writer's pictureMarieke Pieterman, L.Ac.

See how babies with brain cancer are helped by acupuncture...

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

By Marieke A. Pieterman

Pediatric brain cancer patient receiving acupuncture in the Getting to the Point documentary

I just finishing watching this amazing 30-minute documentary called “Getting to the Point: Episode 1: The Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).” It chronicles the stories of two young boys, Max and Cade, who were diagnosed with brain tumors and received their treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, California.

It opens with Max, a young boy who underwent surgery to remove his brain tumor. When he came home, his mother explains that Max “was not able to walk, we couldn’t understand his speech really well and the left side of his body wasn’t working.” Their pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. William Loudon, MD, Ph.D., recommended that they consider having Max see his wife, who is an acupuncturist at the hospital. Dr. Loudon’s wife is Ruth McCarty, M.S., L.Ac., Clinical Director of Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture at CHOC.

After agreeing to a consult, Ruth met Max and his parents in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Ruth made it clear to the parents that she could not cure Max of the cancer, but could treat for his fatigue, nausea, and pain. For the next eighteen months, Max received acupuncture twice a week, along with intensive physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. His mother also instituted dietary changes and supplementation. In her words, Max handled the chemotherapy like “no one had ever seen, not sick once, never went into the ER, never had a blood transfusion, no platelet transfusions, he just really did so well!” Max is able to walk unassisted and can speak more clearly now.

We are then introduced to Cade Spinello, an 11-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor that was pressing on his optic nerve. Soon after the brain surgery, it was discovered that Cade had also suffered a major stroke as a result of the surgery. As a stroke survivor, Cade was unable to move half of his body and could hardly walk. One side of his face was completely paralyzed. Cade could not smile, close his one eye, speak or swallow. Again, their pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. William Loudon, MD, Ph.D., recommended that the parents consider “something out of the box” and had Cade see Ruth for acupuncture at the hospital.

When Ruth placed a single acupuncture needle on Cade’s scalp, she proceeded to say, “It was an amazing thing to watch; I watched Cade’s giant spirit kind of sit correctly into his being and his eyes lit up and he started moving his head back and forth and immediately started talking to his mom”. Cade continued to receive acupuncture twice a week for 18 months. Acupuncture helped with Cade’s appetite, nausea, and kept him from being hospitalized for fever after chemotherapy. He now plays baseball, football, is a veracious reader, and just became president of his class.

In the last six months, Cade’s parents had two instances where doctors would meet Cade after looking at his MRI and noted that Cade was not the individual they expected to see after seeing his image—“they were blown away.” His mother goes onto say that “according to his MRI, he should not be able to (smile), it is not possible.”

As the hospital’s only credentialed acupuncturist, Ruth spends most of her day on CHOC’s oncology floor. Most of her consults are written by oncologists to support quality of life of their pediatric patients. At CHOC, if the child’s physician writes a Chinese medicine consult, every child can receive acupuncture treatments free of charge. The program at CHOC is a philanthropic program backed by various donors. Ruth treats anywhere from 5 to 14 children on the oncology floor at CHOC; however, on any given day, she is also performing consults on every floor in the hospital. She treats children who are either post-surgery, or in for chemotherapy or bone marrow transplants. Ruth is able to follow many of these patients after they are discharged from the hospital. At her outpatient clinic, she is able to continue to support the children’s quality of life as they are admitted numerous times to the hospital after receiving an oncology diagnosis. To date, there is no other hospital in the United States where Chinese medicine is so mainstream like it is at CHOC.

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month, please spend just 30 minutes watching this incredible story of how acupuncture helped these two boys in their recovery process from brain cancer surgery!

Getting to the Point Documentary: Episode 1: The Children’s Hospital of Orange County



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