Student pursues Eastern medical practice
By Audrey Bouchard
Special to the Chronicle, 1995
Mansfield - At 16, Dishant Shah knows more about life than most people.
As a novice practitioner of a rare Eastern medical practice called acupressure, Shah has seen people clinging to life by a thread. He has witnessed the chronically and seriously ill, too poor to afford traditional medical care, place their faith in this unusual cure.
Wanting to broaden his medical knowledge, the E. O. Smith High School student came over to the United States from India last June to learn Western medical science. He hopes to be a doctor someday. That aspiration springs from a desire to help people, particularly the underprivileged, he says. His mother had always done a lot of social service and helped their servants in India pay for the medical care they could not afford, Shah said, "I got inspired by her. She explained to me the importance of helping people."
It all hit home, however, in 1988 when Shah found out that his liver was not functioning properly. Doctors could not diagnose the problem. They prescribed many remedies, but nothing was working. A relative suggested going to a local doctor who specialized in acupressure - as Eastern science based on the belief that there are 18 pulses in the arm that correspond to each part of the body. By monitoring these pulses, the doctor is able to diagnose the problem, and by applying the pressure to certain pulse points, the illness may be cured, according to Shah. It does not involve puncturing the skin with needles as in Acupuncture.
Because all else had failed, Shah's mother, Niha Shah, decided they should give it a try. The doctor worked out of a small church, helping many people who could not afford medical treatment. She never took any money, Shah said. Everyone there was poor, some with serious mental and physical problems, Shah said. "I'd never seen that side of life before," he said. After 15 days under her care, Shah was cured.
"I thought that maybe I could learn this science and, and maybe I could do something with it," he said. His mother, whose asthma condition she said was also cured by acupressure, began volunteering with the doctor. Shah's first lessons in the science came through accompanying and observing doctors.
It took 2.5 years to learn how to read the pulses and diagnose problems. "I could read someone's pulses and diagnose the problem the person had," he said. "I could tell if a person in the future would have a heart attack or disease." Shah began working at the church four hours every day, trying to learn the science. It takes 15 years to master, Shah said. His doctor wouldn't teach pulse reading to everyone, he said. But she knew that he would not use it for money, he said. She taught him everything, gave him a blessing and told him to take his skills to America to help people.
Shah plans to become a doctor here and then take his knowledge of Western medical science back to places like India and Japan. There he wants to learn more of Eastern science and combine the two to help people.
"I thank my mom, my doctor and Mother Theresa for the views I got about people and helping them," he said. His doctor was inspired by Mother Theresa, a tireless advocate of the poor, Shah said. His doctor has met her, something Shah and Niha would like to do. In two years he will return to Calcutta to meet her, he said. His mother said, "Whatever she is doing, we are following."
Shah and Niha have patients in India, England and now in the United States. Once shown the specific points needed, a patient can then do them on their own. He keeps a notebook full of all the cases of these patients, many of whom they say they've cured.
One patient, paralyzed on his right side, could not wind his watch or talk. After 15 days of acupressure treatment, he could speak well enough to be understood, wind his watch and hold a cup of tea in his right hand, Niha said. A patient with leukemia had undergone chemotherapy and had no hair. Doctors said she wouldn't live more than a month and a half. She decided to try acupressure and has been under that treatment now for four years; she has all her hair back, Shah said. One patient had Wilson's disease, a deposit of copper in the brain. The disease has no cure yet. For 30 years, he took medicine prescribed for him by his doctors. The side effects of the medicine included such stiffening of the body that he could not talk or walk properly. After beginning acupressure treatment in April, all his pain has subsided and the stiffening is gone, Niha said.
In England, doctors could not diagnose the problem of one man. Shah said he alone was able to diagnose it as a kidney problem. The science of acupressure has yet to be explored in the United States, Niha said. When it is, "everyone will know it's one of the best sciences." "Clinton is too much bothered about health care," she said. "Why doesn't he think of sending someone to learn this science? This will save him lots of dollars."
The problem, she said, is that people who can afford medical care will never turn to them. In America, people would rather go to a doctor that charges $500, even if there is one that will cure them for $100, she said. "Anybody can learn; we are ready to teach them," she said. They are already treating Shah's teacher, Robin Ferrucci, Shah's teacher, who teaches English as a second language at E. O. Smith. Ferrucci has an intestinal disorder called Chron's disease.
When she heard of Shah's work, she asked him about it. Shah had never mentioned his ability before, she said. He told her that he didn't like to talk about it because so many people in America are skeptical, and he didn't know how she would react. Ferrucci said she thought anything was worth a try. "It's not going to hurt me, " she said. "Who is to say what works and what doesn't?"
So Shah took her wrist and diagnosed her problem, a problem he had no way of knowing about. "He was quite accurate," she said. Then Shah and his mother applied the pressure points they felt necessary. Ferrucci said she felt, "a sensation of warmth" throughout her entire body. For two weeks she continued the treatment, and Shah said her pulses have changed positively. Ferrucci said she will continue the treatment and wait for results. She also plans to take her mother - who has serious health problems - to see Shah.
"I consider him (Shah) to be an incredible young man with a very bright future," Ferrucci said. "He shows a concern for others which is to be admired."
This article was published in THE CHRONICLE (a Windham County Newspaper) in 1995.