Chapter Sixteen

The status quo is a surprisingly powerful contender. But if history has taught us anything, it is that while it may start as the underdog, truth and progress persist.

Bioelectronic Medicine: Bioelectronic medicine represents a convergence of molecular medicine, neuroscience, and bioengineering. Its central idea is that injury and illness can be treated by carefully targeting the nervous system using devices. Rather than suppressing the patient’s immune system with biologics and immunosuppressants, instead, by modulating the brain’s inflammatory signals traveling through the nervous system to the spleen and other organs, bioelectronic medicine allows the body to achieve homeostasis when inflammation goes into overdrive.

Lab Notes:

Until now, the medical community has been broken down into specialties that view the body through different organs, systems, and functions, and not as a whole – until now, the central nervous system and immune system weren’t thought to interact with each other. Now, we know that they interact intimately, communicating constantly and altering the other’s responses based on infection and injury, and neural mechanisms that either function as they should, or don’t – which then allows inflammation to run rampant.

Rather than treating patients like they can be broken down into parts – between gastroenterology, rheumatology, cardiology, neurology, and the like – we need to look at the patient’s pathology as a system that works in conjunction with all those parts. That is going to require changing the hearts and minds of those who have been practicing medicine for decades and have learned about the body differently than we understand it today.

This science has reach far beyond rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. This revolutionary field holds the promise to also treat lupus, obesity, depression, migraines, paralysis, hemorrhage, and so much more. If you can curb inflammation, you improve disease outcomes by magnitudes.

The battle we climb is a matter of spreading knowledge and shifting perspectives. The great minds of history had to go up against equally great authority: The status quo is a surprisingly powerful contender. But if history has taught us anything, it is that while it may start as the underdog, truth and progress persist.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN

HALLOOOOOO!

We scoured the internet for long-term, affordable rentals, and came across this perfect, quaint garden villa in the town of Hilversum. It was a small cottage on the owner’s property, and they offered it to us for $1,200 per month. Their home was right outside of the double French doors of the villa and was a three-story mansion — the biggest house we’ve ever been in. They were a lovely older couple with grown children and grandchildren. Trinette and I corresponded via email for a few weeks before we left the states. The problem was that their current tenants just bought a house and wouldn’t be closing until the first week of July — so we had to find a place to stay from our arrival on May 23rd until at least July 1st.

We found an apartment further north, in Heemskerk, a small Dutch town so far removed from tourists that we were completely and wonderfully out of our element. The landlord was a young woman not much older than us who rented her place out from time to time while she stayed with friends or family so that she could save money to travel.

Trinette took us under her wing far before she took us into her home. She demanded that she pick us up from the airport, made sure we got set up with SIM cards for our phones while there, and then drove us all the way to Heemskerk — which would be more than a two-hour round-trip journey for her. When we came out of customs, she was waiting right there, smiling, and waving us over.

We arrived at Sophie’s in Heemskerk early that afternoon. Trinette and Sophie helped us get our bags into the apartment. We didn’t think to ask before we booked, but the apartment was on the third floor of a building without an elevator — and we discovered in the six weeks that followed how long it would take for me to go up and down those stairs, and how long it would take for me to recover from each trip.

 Sophie showed us around. We loved the place. The front door opened into the main hallway, and to the right was a large walk-in closet, and further down on the right, a bathroom with a walk-in shower. On the left was the bedroom with a small double bed. At the end of the hall was a door that led to an open living room, dining room, kitchen area, and then a small balcony — enough for two chairs and hanging potted plants that I promised I would keep alive. Trinette commented on how it was “very nice, but very small” and that we would be much happier when we made it to Hilversum in July. Sophie smiled out of the side of her mouth and raised an eyebrow. We told Sophie we would be very happy there – and we were.

After we set our stuff down, Trinette recommended that we all go down to the cafe on the street for a cup of coffee. We sat at the outdoor cafe only a stone’s throw away from the apartment building, sipped espresso that came with small Dutch cookies, and listened to Trinette and Sophie talk about Dutch politics. What was so striking to Sean and I was that here were two women, from different generations, and apparently, different political parties, and they remained completely pleasant in their discourse with the other and ended their political discourse with a laugh and a shrug of ‘Eh, it’s all damned anyway!’ and then carried on — so completely unlike the division of America that gnashed its terrible teeth and roared its terrible roar and shredded families and obliterated lifelong friendships. We were astonished.

They then turned to us and were basically like, your country on the other hand. Phew, what is going on over there?

It was the first few months of Trump’s presidency and things were wild back home. Antifa was burning things in the streets and within months, white supremacists would be marching through Charlottesville with tiki torches that would end with the death of a peaceful counter-protester who was plowed down with the car of a modern-day American Nazi.

Our landladies looked at us with their brows raised, one considered conservative for Dutch politics, the other liberal, and they could not understand what was going on with us back home — and I don’t think any of us really could either. The problem was and continues to be, on a macro level that all of us living day-to-day in the micro-level attempt to simplify issues that are anything but. Yet, the powers that be learned how to divide us to conquer en masse.

Our Dutch counterparts told us that this wasn’t the case in the Netherlands — their culture is of the live and let live sort, and though they may disagree on policy, it rarely affected the everyday citizen so intimately.

It was an invigorating conversation, and by the end of it, we were both inspired by what the next six months would hold, and ready to crash into bed because we’d been awake for about 42 hours by that point.

Our landladies settled us back into the apartment, and Trinette made her way back to Hilversum, and Sophie to her family’s home, and there we were, with three hundred euros in cash on us and too exhausted to try to go grocery shopping and cook. We realized over coffee that we were so far removed from tourism that the menus were all in Dutch, so we went downstairs and found the only thing to eat that we could easily translate ourselves: frites. We each had French fries for dinner with two Lite Pepsis, still served everywhere in the Netherlands in glass, recycled bottles, and went back upstairs, and said goodnight to the sun that still was nowhere near setting after 9 pm.

Jan van Scorelstraat.

Prior to our arrival in Amsterdam, I planned on recording this experience over the upcoming six months. I planned on doing Facebook Lives to touch base with our community of friends and family who made it possible for us to be there; our little community became our team – they believed in us and supported us in every way, and I felt an obligation to give them updates for how it was going. On top of that, I felt like I was reporting the news. I knew that I was part of something that had the potential to change the trajectory of treating inflammatory diseases – I knew that if this worked, it was a revolutionary moment in history. Recording my firsthand experience felt like a duty; like I was

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