I have learned so much by simply listening to the thousands of people I’ve met as a result of Generation RX and my other films like We Become Silent and Let Truth Be The Bias. Often times, the revelations come from individuals who have traveled to hear me speak; to be “taught” by me — but it is I who walks away feeling invigorated and educated by the personal sagas they share. It is, believe it or not, one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer in the first place.
As writers, we are supposed to be good listeners, supposed to be the link to reason, caring, and wisdom—but often, we dismiss the kind of knowledge that can only come from listening to countless someones we meet on our path.
George Edwin Bielby is one of the men who touched me during my early years as a filmmaker. I’d like to honor him, and tell why his life was such a stark reflection of all things good and bad about medicine in the modern age.
Mr. Bielby passed away on February 28, 1997 at the age of 90 years old. He led a relatively normal life—he and his wife Elizabeth raised two fine boys, whom they loved dearly. His life was unspectacular by Hollywood standards, with the exception of one important footnote: he was supposed to die 10-12 years before he did. Mr. Bielby suffered from arteriosclerosis, the most pervasive form of cardiovascular disease in the world. It is a plague which accounts for 40 to 50 percent of all of the deaths in the United States. It is our number one killer.
Mr. Bielby had his first heart attack in 1962 while fishing in a small town in Colorado at very high altitude. His next came nearly ten years later, and a third, nearly fatal attack came in 1984. The attacks increased in severity each time, and Mr. Bielby was prescribed beta blockers and other prescription drugs to quell the problem. He was not told to change his diet, watch his fat intake, decrease his sodium intake, or take any supplements. He was only told to take his prescription drugs. He said he could feel his heart getting physically weaker, but he didn’t know what else to do.
The bills were worrisome, adding tremendous stress to this Colorado native, so to pay for the expensive medical bills, he decided to sell his prize possession—his home of forty plus years. Adding further insult was how much out-of-pocket money his heart disease cost him: in excess of $50,000 over the years, even though he was “partially covered” by insurance and Medicare.
Mr. and Mrs. Bielby, who thought their golden years would be immeasurably different from what they were experiencing, were forced to move into a trailer in a small rural Colorado town during the 1980s. “It’s not so bad,” Mrs. Bielby told me once over tea in their cramped living room. “ The kids are gone now, so we don’t need as big a place....”
Mrs. Bielby was a strong woman who faced adversity head-on for over 80 years. She put up a good front. Her words didn’t reflect the pain of parting with most of the material possessions they spent a lifetime accumulating, but her eyes did—her eyes told the real story as she spoke.
By the time his fourth heart attack came in 1986, Mr. Bielby was near death, looking at riding out the rest of his years in a less than dignified manner. His conventionally trained cardiologist recommended angioplasty, but the surgeon on duty refused to operate, saying his arteries were so clogged—and his heart so weak— that he didn’t believe Mr. Bielby would survive the operation.
At what was undoubtedly the lowest point of this soft-spoken man’s life, the doctors sent Mr. Bielby home to die. He would be lucky, they surmised, to survive a few months in his present condition.
In their meagerly adorned trailer home, Mr. Bielby was depressed and found it nearly impossible to sleep. He couldn’t lie down because the oxygen wasn’t circulating well enough for him to breathe, so he had no choice, he had to sleep upright in his reclining chair, attached to an oxygen tank which clanked noisily outside the living room window. Mrs. Bielby slept on the sofa because “I was so afraid that my husband was going to die in the middle of the night.” She recalled Mr. Bielby, with tears in his eyes, asking her, “Why did you bring me home from the hospital, honey? I didn’t want to come back to this...I don’t want to live if I have to live like this.”
It was the Bielby’s darkest hour in fifty plus years of marriage. This gentle man, who had spent his life climbing mountains and fishing in coldwater streams, was going to die. It seemed like a sure bet.
THEN MR. BIELBY’S SON MADE AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY
Mr. Bielby’s son Dave is an industrious sort. While he suffers from Multiple Sclerosis himself, he just knew that something could be done to help his father, despite what the conventional doctors were telling him. Before they sent his dad home with no hope of survival, Dave began research that would change his father’s life in an amazing way.
Dave, also a resident of Colorado, began looking through medical journals for information and seeking out alternative/complementary doctors to treat his father. What he discovered both angered and elated him.
First, he began researching conventional medical journals, the ones trumpeted nearly every evening on the national news. After an elaborate intensive search, he found editorials in the New England Journal of Medicine which questioned the efficacy of the invasive conventional treatments for heart disease: angioplasty, heart bypass, and others. He discovered that for all the talk about “double blind controlled studies,”—the veneer which most in conventional medicine hide behind—that there were no studies which proved the scientific efficacy of heart bypass and the other major heart therapies. In fact, the further Dave Bielby dug into the data, the more disturbed and angry he became.
Armed with this new knowledge, he went to a seminar in Boulder in search of a natural remedy which would save his father’s life. He listened intently to what the doctors were saying about the positive effects of diet, nutrition and something called “chelation therapy.” He read Elmer Cranton’s Bypassing Bypass and learned more about chelation, and he even read Prescription for Nutritional Healing to get an overview of how to treat his father’s illness nutritionally. A whole new world was opening up to him—and much of it included treatments he had never heard of before.
“My father was a perfect example of why people are losing faith in conventional medicine,” said Dave. “In December of 1986, his doctors sent him home to die. They wanted him to sit around the house with an oxygen bottle running into his nose. When I asked my dad’s doctors about this new information—this new hope I had acquired for saving his life, they really got defensive, and told me ‘chelation is unproven—it is unsafe,’ and that he would die even sooner if he didn’t do the drugs they told him to. These men, who made tens of thousands of dollars off of my father over the years, literally used every scare tactic in the book. My family was quite offended that they wouldn’t even LOOK at the information we brought with us. They wouldn’t discuss it, they just dismissed us outright. It still astonishes me today.”
MILLIONS ARE DYING FROM PREVENTABLE DEATHS
Surprising as it might have been for Dave, it is quite apparent from the state of our nation’s health that millions are perishing because of a lack of knowledge. Cancer and heart disease are epidemic, and health costs continue to rise, even though modern medicine’s attempts to eradicate these plagues have failed miserably.
Health might be defined as "freedom from disease," however, doctors are trained about disease, not health. How to cure disease, not prevent it. In fact, very few hours of medical schooling are allotted to preventive health measures, concentrating instead on diagnosing disease and caring for the sick and dying. Don't misunderstand me, it is imperative that treating the sick and afflicted remains a primary goal of the modern medical practitioner. But along with the treatment of disease, physicians must become teachers of health as well.
Prescriptions for health should become the doctors primary tool, not just the CAT Scan, the laser, and the newest surgical intervention for atherosclerosis.
Heart disease, you see, is inherently reversible. One can reverse the blockages, reverse the symptoms, and get well again, even after years of weakening the heart through invasive and often ill-informed treatment choices.
We know now that nearly every conventional therapy for cardiovascular disease weakens the heart. Beta blockers weaken the heart. Calcium channel blockers weaken the heart. Diuretics don’t necessarily weaken the heart, but they dehydrate the body.
It may seem controversial to you, but most conventional cardiologists would admit that the whole theory behind treating a cardiovascular disease with drugs is to weaken the heart so it cannot work hard enough to bring on angina.
How many of those millions who have heart disease have ever been told to take L-Carnitine by a conventional doctor? Basically, conventional doctors would never give you L-Carnitine. It is a natural substance, available over the counter—and it was even advertised in the New England Journal of Medicine a few decades ago to a thundering silence. L-Carnitine is a unique substance that transports fat into the mydochondria and enhances energy. It is one of those elements that can enhance the strength of your heart and the efficiency of the heart, without many of the negatives associated with the conventional beta-blockers. Indeed, almost all drugs for cardiovascular disease make the heart weaker, they bring the heart down. They lower the ejection fraction, they slow the heart rate, and slow the blood pressure down. They actually weaken the heart. The weak heart won't feel the pain or doesn't get to the point where it needs enough oxygen for the pain, but in my opinion, the long time use of these beta blockers are debilitating, to be sure.
There exists, however, a natural, wonderful substance that can make the heart work better and stronger, and it was published in, of all places, the American Journal of Cardiology. As a matter of fact, there were several articles in the American Journal of Cardiology on L-Carnitine. But few physicians seem to be listening, except, perhaps, for so-called alternative doctors, who are handling the patients flocking to alternative medicine in droves.
There is a doctor I know in California who is in pediatrics and she gives all of her kids with failing hearts L-Carnitine. It is miraculous for cardiomyopathy in pediatrics. There’s another fellow whom I met at a bookstore in New Jersey whose grandson was told he had fatal cardiomyopathy. The child was six months old at the time—and the doctors gave him about another four or five months to live because his heart was very large and swollen.
Six years went by. And believe it or not, the doctor still told the parents that the child was going to die of cardiomyopathy, even though there was no cardiomyopathy that could be diagnosed. But the most important battle was won: that of the life of a young healthy boy, probably the only kid on the block who took L-Carnitine and Co-enzyme Q-10!
All of this means that it's your life. Don’t trust it to a doctor who isn’t willing to listen to your unique story.
In truth, that’s what Dave Bielby did: he made certain that his father saw a more open minded medical doctor. The result was a period of vitality and wonder for a man who— by the age of 80—had suffered four heart attacks.
By seeking out another Colorado physician, the Bielby’s went ahead with chelation therapy. They changed his diet, and gave him nutritional supplements for the first time in his life. His health turned around rather dramatically. Three days after the first chelation treatment, Mr. Bielby slept soundly in his recliner. Three weeks later, the combination of chelation, a changed diet and nutritional supplements allowed him to go back to his own bed. He was sleeping throughout the night without any problems!
Unfortunately, the Bielby’s had to pay for these treatments out of their own pockets. Each chelation treatment cost the Bielby’s $75. Medicare initially re-imbursed $26 per treatment—and steadfastly refused to pay for the supplements. Then Medicare cut the re-imbursement to $10; then $8; then they just stopped paying altogether.
The irony is, of course, that if a senior citizen is under the care of a conventional cardiologist enters a hospital for conventional treatment, Medicare pays for nearly all of the expenses: the cardiologist, the room, the prescription drugs, the x-rays and testing—everything! Something is dramatically wrong when less costly, less invasive, more helpful treatments exist and yet insurance companies won’t pay their fair share. But to the Bielby’s, all of the money for chelation and nutritional supplements were well worth the price. The boys enjoyed their father’s company—and Mrs. Bielby counted the blessings of every day for nearly a decade with her husband.
To hear Dave tell the story, the years from 1986 until his death in February 1997 were the best of his father’s life. “If anything, he over-enjoyed his newfound health,” Dave told me. “During that period, Dad never saw a hill he didn’t want to see the other side of. He beat us all to the top—and was waiting for us at the bottom. That’s how he lived the last ten years of his life—with dignity and vigor and an unbelievable passion—for life.”
George Bielby, it turns out, wasn’t a common man at all. He was a clear thinker—a man who led by example. He was an extraordinary man who sought the best that life could offer—grateful for every sunset, every drop of rain—every hill he encountered on the path of life.
That’s what I wish for all of you—the best life can offer. Armed with the proper knowledge, you will see that the road doesn’t always end where the doctors say it does.
Fourteen years after his death, and 17 years after I interviewed him, George Bielby is still an inspiration to me. He taught me early on that the wisdom of common people still mattered...and set me on a path to reveal their truth, despite the incantations of far too many in the medical field.