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Greener Grass

We have a natural lawn – it has been patchy at best in the last couple seasons and it does not match those of the other houses on our street. When we got dogs this past spring, our neighbors warned us that it would be even harder to grow as they had experienced discolored patches and destruction of their lawn in the areas where their dogs peed.


Interestingly, since having the puppies in our yard, the grass is greener than ever. As I walked past a “don’t walk on the grass – recently sprayed” sign in my neighborhood, it dawned on me that perhaps the grass wasn’t the problem and the urine of the canine was not the problem – what if it was the interruption of the original relationship between the two that is the problem.

I recognize that toileting (dog pee here) and best friends (of man by colloquialism) seem to be a theme this week. While unexpected under the umbrella of This Osteopathic Life, hang with me and we will see how this all ties in.

There is much to be desired in the health care system as it exists in the United States today. Many blame the patients – disengaged, lazy, entitled, shirking responsibility for their health. Many blame the physicians – greedy, impersonal, in it for themselves, sold out to big pharma. At its core, medicine is simply about patients and physicians and it should be a symbiotic relationship – people with need engaging with people who care and have knowledge to address said need. Perhaps it isn’t the patients who are the problem and the physicians are not the problem but the interruption of the natural relationship between the two is the problem.

Before we get too caught up on comparing patients to grass and physicians to dog pee – I remind you that this is metaphorical…though the likeness in the underlying potential for fertilization I do remark as uncanny.

What if the natural relationship between patients and physicians could still be symbiotic? What if it were still possible to have them coexist and to actually serve to offer options back to better health?

The osteopathic concept teaches that the default of the system (human body) is to health and when all is moving, breathing, interacting as it should, health is the result. Health, however, is not the result many are experiencing. Investigating what has obstructed the health is a key aspect of osteopathic medicine. Listening – to the patient’s story, to the findings in their body, to the results of imaging, labs or special studies – and hearing where there has been a disturbance in the flow/ease and investigating if/how that can be removed is the work of the osteopathic physician.

The same concept can be applied to any system (health care) and understanding that when all is moving, breathing, interacting as it should, care of health is the result. Care of health, however, is not the result many are experiencing. Investigating what has obstructed the care of health is a key aspect. Listening – to the story, findings and results of studies – and hearing where there has been a disturbance in the flow/ease and investigating if/how that can be removed is the work.

If you didn’t want the brown spots on your lawn anymore, you could get rid of the dog or get rid of the grass. But most wouldn’t like either of those solutions. What if you could listen for what has obstructed the health of that relationship and see if there is an adjustment, a shift, a realignment that could be made that would make it possible for those two things to coexist and even support one another? What if that spray was actually interrupting the health of the system and discontinuing use of it could serve the health of all things involved?

If you don’t want the frustrations of the health care system, you can eliminate patients (many physicians are opting out of clinical care) or eliminate physicians (considering the growing anti-physician sentiment nationwide). But most wouldn’t like either of those solutions. What if you could listen for what has obstructed the health of that relationship and see if there is an adjustment, a shift, a realignment that could be made that would make it possible for these two things to coexist and even support one another?

Here is where the comparison expands a bit – what is the spray that is interrupting the health of the system of health care? Let’s consider it this way – is there something in the health care system where discontinuing use would actually serve the health of all things involved?

I’ll offer just one example here and encourage you to consider others. Productivity based reimbursement – how is the health of the patient served when the physician is incentivized to spend LESS time with them in order to see more patients in a fixed period of time? It is often argued that this is intended as a benefit because it creates greater access – making space in a day for more patients to be seen. Just like the spray on the grass, however, while the grass might get greener for a while, if the spray undermines its abilities to integrate the natural fertilizers in urine, this “growth supplement” actually makes the grass more vulnerable ultimately weakens an entire ecosystem (not to mention it is actually toxic for the dogs…shouldn’t we be concerned when we shouldn’t touch the grass for 24 hours…do we really think that toxicity simply absolves with the passage of time?)

The natural growth process takes more time. It isn’t totally uniform or perhaps as lush as the sprayed version. But it is able to be more fully engaged and sustainable in a variety of circumstances and it is never toxic to the dogs. I want to make clear that it wasn’t just the dog urine that made the grass grow – there was grass seed and watering and mowing – there are certainly measures that enhance the natural process without undermining the original purpose and possibility of the relationship. Through the osteopathic lens, the work is listening to what those are and encouraging them and performing an honest assessment of what those aren’t and eliminating them – for the health of all things.


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