A Hero’s Journey – Dr. Joan Barice – Advocate for “Love Never Fails”

By: Judith Mercado

Imagine being desperately ill but so poor you have to wait for hours, penned up with others like cattle, while you await medical attention. When it is finally your turn, you are treated by a harried physician whose first choice likely would not be employment in such a clinic. It is hard to hold on to hope and dignity under such circumstances. Alas, the poor and the victimized often find themselves in such a predicament.

Dr. Joan Barice found this situation intolerable, though not because she was a patient or one of those harried doctors. She simply felt strongly that treating patients with dignity and respect is conducive to health. She took seriously her motto of “Love Never Fails” and decided to transform one such clinic into one in which patients had specific appointments and also enjoyed treatment by the area’s best doctors. This achievement would be remarkable all on its own, but it is only one of many such accomplishments from one of the most amazing women I have ever met.

Service to others through healing and love has been the unifying principle of Dr. Barice’s life. As a graduate of Stanford Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, she could have chosen a life of ease. Instead, she has dedicated herself to caring for the poor, the elderly, and those afflicted by addiction and HIV.

Faced with her enthusiastic demeanor, one would not guess that she suffers from chronic, sometimes disabling, pain. Graced by her gentle spirit, one would not know that this intrepid woman has made 250 skydives and survived a plane crash in the arctic wilderness. Always motivated to keep learning, she lived in China for a year, studying qigong and acupuncture.

Just as she has tested the boundaries of her personal life, she has also been on the forefront of advancing the integration of safe and effective alternative healing therapies with those of conventional medicine. She has done this in clinical settings, in the academic and research arenas, as well as with her professional associations. For her accomplishments, she received the Certificate of Merit, the highest honor given by the Florida Medical Association for contributions to the health of the community and physicians.

The list of Dr. Barice’s achievements is indeed extensive. In this post, I highlight only a few. At the clinic mentioned above, Dr. Barice was instrumental not only in recruiting the highest quality doctors but also in offering education for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes management et al.

Another instance where she made a difference in people’s lives, this time across the economic spectrum, was through her role in getting addiction recognized as a disease to be treated in parity with other illnesses. Her successful activism at the state level eventually led to a similar shift at the national level. This has meant, among other things, that people seeking treatment for addiction could be covered by health insurance.

Dr. Barice’s own experience with disabling pain and the helplessness it engendered brought home for her the connection between the mind and the body. In Dr. Barice’s words, “A lot of things we don’t know about, but the importance of the mind/body connection is profound. Thinking can make you sick, and thinking can make you well.”

Her personal involvement with chronic pain has led her to test the limits and the possibilities both of mainstream medicine and of the so-called alternative healing therapies. She believes in accessing the best of both approaches to health care. For treatment of her pain, for example, she has undergone surgery but has also used alternative therapies such as acupuncture, essential oils, and nutritional supplements. Today, she lectures to medical students about the integration of mainstream and alternative therapies.

A discussion of Dr. Barice would be incomplete without also touching on another factor she considers significant for health—the spiritual component. Her strong faith is critical in helping her navigate the challenge of chronic pain. In her treatment of others, Dr. Barice, a devout Catholic, takes very seriously Jesus’ assertion, “What you do for the least among you, you do for me.” Nor would the discussion be complete without her insistence on giving credit to the many who helped and mentored her along the way.

I celebrate Dr. Joan Barice for her unflagging dedication to improving the wellbeing of so many in need. I honor her commitment to integrating the best of conventional and alternative therapies. I am pleased that someone of her caliber champions recognition of the role that mind and spirit play in health. For all this, as well as for her unstinting bravery and strength of character, she meets the definition of a hero. For her willingness to journey down paths less traveled in her search for greater truths, she is deserving of mention in a blog which celebrates pilgrim souls.


Stroke Signs And Symptoms

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability among adults in the United States. On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Are you at risk? Do you know the warning signs? Would you know what to do? How can you reduce your risk and improve your outcome if you do have a stroke?

You don’t have to be old to have a stroke. I have a friend whose son had a stroke in his 20’s while at college. It can happen to anyone. My friend Donna had a stroke at 71years of age. She’s the reason I am writing this. She did not know she was having a stroke until it was too late to get one of the new treatments that can stop brain damage, disability and even save lives. If only she had known – if only she had recognized the warning signs and got to the hospital within less than 3 hours after the first symptom she might have gotten TPA and it might have made her recovery so much easier. But she, like many others, knew well the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which are widely shared with the public, but knew nothing about strokes.

What is a stroke? It’s an event in which either a blockage of or a rupture of a blood vessel cuts off blood and oxygen supply to a part of the brain – causing the brain cells to die in that area. The brain controls the whole body, so depending on where the problem  is, you can get particular symptoms such as sudden numbness, weakness of the face, arm, or leg, usually on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance; or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Fortunately her hospital was designated as a stroke center. That, along with her determination to get well, whatever it took, improved her chances for recovery. They do state of the art aggressive treatment beginning immediately, including all kinds of rehabilitation. Recovery is possible, and the sooner the better. There is much more hope than there used to be. We used to think that if brain cells died there was no hope of recovery. Now we know brain cells can regenerate. Together with the new treatments, there is a lot more hope. And hope is very important. It really makes a difference. With hopelessness comes helplessness, and then brain cells cannot regenerate.

Donna was sitting, writing Christmas cards and had some tingling in her right toes. She wiggled her toes, shook her foot, and did not think much about it. They fell asleep. So she went to bed, slept through the night and when she got up to go to the bathroom her right leg would not hold her up, she couldn’t use her big telephone because her right arm and hand were numb and weak. She managed to use her elbow to call her sister’s programmed number on her cell phone that was in her pocket. Her speech was unintelligible but her sister heard the fear and came right over. Meanwhile she managed somehow to get the attention of her neighbor who noticed her face drooping and knew she had a stroke. He helped get her down the elevator and her sister took her to the hospital. Her blood pressure was high for the first time, and a blood clot had gone to her brain.  

Had she known the warning signs, she would likely have looked in the mirror the night before and a few other things that would have alerted her and she would have gotten to the hospital in time for this life-saving treatment. She was highly motivated, eagerly did all the therapies and then some – speech, occupational, physical therapy and more that she asked for to help meet her own special needs living alone, and using the computer. She made a lot of suggestions such as about patients helping patients, tailoring rehab to individual needs in addition to doing the routine things, about lightening up, and so on. She has made a remarkable recovery that she has worked hard for. She knows that she could have another stroke, and she’s determined to do her best to avoid that,

She wants to get this information out – she wants people to know what she didn’t know about warning signs and early treatments. She wants it to go out to everybody so the same thing does not happen to them. Thanks Donna for caring, and if it helps just one person it will be worth it.

If you would like to read more please go to this excellent link:

http://www.stroke.org/site/DocServer/ReducingRisk_8-09.pdf?docID=3027 reducing risk and recognizing symptoms


Information shared here is not intended as medical advice, and cannot substitute for professional medical advice and information. Information provided is general in nature and may be helpful to some people but not others, depending on their personal medical needs. Always consult with your personal physician before changing or undertaking a new exercise program or following advice designed for general audiences only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay getting care because of something you have read here.


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