I first came to the Center as a patient in 1992. I had been quite ill for some time—daily fevers, weight loss, often vertigo, debilitating fatigue. “Some form of virus that will get better in time,” the doctors in my area diagnosed. Time passed, but brought no cure. At the end of six months I was even worse.
In the midst of all this, we moved to Charleston, SC. In desperation, we went to our new local health food store and I explained my problem. “I need a medical doctor who is really good and thorough, but maybe has a different way of looking at things,” I said. The answer was quick and definitive: “That would be Dr. Lieberman.”
Fortunately, I got in on a cancellation opening. What an amazing experience that first evaluation was! Over an hour with a historian, a full hour with the Doctor. What an unheard-of luxury in a medical office! And so my journey to health began. Laboratory tests showed many different kinds of viruses and a bad yeast infection. Another test showed my immune system was weak and incapable of mounting much of an attack against the invaders. No wonder I was so sick! We used many “anti” treatments to clear the infections, and I inched forward towards health. Later, a new test for antibodies to gluten (a protein found in many cereal grains) showed I had severe gluten intolerance. On a gluten-free diet, my progress leaped forward.
And so my journey continued. Because I had been acutely ill for so long, on top of a rather poor health history overall, I didn’t just magically “get well.” It was more like shedding layers of illness—emerging from a constricting cocoon to greater freedom of health and function.
Through it all, I kept checking in with Dr. Lieberman. Visits with him were like a medical forum. I’d not only get the benefit of his medical opinion, but he’d share with me all he kept learning through prodigious research, plus what his large network of colleagues told him was working with their patients. Then there was the staff, who always “tend” to patients with genuine Southern warmth and hospitality. The waiting room and testing room at the Center are often like old homecomings—patients comfortably sitting and sharing with each other their stories of sickness and how they’re getting so much better with the help of the Center’s Doctors.
After 18 years, I still check in with Dr. Lieberman. Not because I’m still ill, thankfully, but because issues come up from time to time that I don’t want to become health challenges. At each new juncture, I’ll make an appointment and plant myself firmly in the chair in front of Dr. Lieberman, asking yet again, “What do you think, Doctor?” He talks to me, but he also listens. When I was facing an inevitable surgery and went to him pouring out my concerns and fears, he sat, pen over progress note, ready to give his opinion at any point. Finally, he simply sat back and just let me unburden myself while he listened, really listened for 30 minutes. When the knock at the door came signaling it was time for the next patient, he said just two sentences, but I was satisfied. Being able to talk, knowing that he was so deeply listening, had allowed me to reach some clarity in my thinking, and I knew his final diagnosis was correct.
Every journey, especially a health journey, needs a companion and a guide. I still feel, like the owner of the health food store said so long ago, “That would be Dr. Lieberman.”