Sunday, March 30, 2008

Governor Paterson's Medicine Woman

First of all, I have to disclose that I like our latest scandal-plagued governor. I want to keep him. His scandals are underwhelming, frankly. The Albany reporters are clinging to their diminishing spotlight, their moment in the sun-- just one more scandal, no wait, don't cut away to the sports just yet, did you hear the one about the funding for the defrocked doctor? Lo and behold, the defrocked doctor is Serafina Corsello---I know her! My father went (or was dragooned by my mother into going) to Dr. Corsello in the '80's, for chelation therapy. What? What's chelation therapy?

Chelation is actually a treatment for lead poisoning. A chemical, EDTA, is dripped into the bloodstream, binds with toxic metals, and hustles them the heck out of the body. Probably every New Yorker could use a little chelation, but Dr. Corsello used to have a program touting chelation for heart disease on WOR radio.

WOR, once called Women Only Radio for friendly, chatty local programming of the Breakfast with the Fitzgeralds variety, played constantly in our house. My mother, the advertiser's dream, snapped up every vitamin, eye cream and nostrum pushed by WOR. So when Serafina Corsello bought a weekly hour infomercial for her services as a chelationist, Mom ate up every one of the then-Doctor's words, which came wrapped in an Italian accent richer than the fattiest prosciutto.

Mom made it her mission to get my cardiac patient father chelated. His protests were as useless as they usually are with my mother, and eventually he was closeted with the Doctor and a tape recorder, the better to capture the wisdom as it flowed. Dr. Corsello looked like Gina Lollobrigida, and sounded like an imperious Sophia Loren. The audience was brief, and my father was ushered from the presence.

Then he was hooked up to a pouchful of EDTA and left to cool his heels for several hours with several other people also reclining on chemotherapy lounges. They were exchanging stories of agonizing yet nebulous disorders; toxin-ridden, phlegmy, headachey, neuralgic disorders, all improving with the miracle of chelation yet always with more symptoms revealing themselves.

They asked my father what was wrong with him. "I feel fine," he said. "My wife thought I should come." The other patients paused, regrouped, and resumed talking to each other. He went back to reading the Times.

He came home laden with intriguing packets, bottles, and tubes, all with the Serafina Corsello label. They were expensive, and the needle on my quackometer swung into the red. When a doctor sells supplements or energy bars under his/her own imprint, to be purchased at the "clinic," beware. If the "clinic" is a rabbit warren of examining rooms and the doctor doesn't deign to enter them but grants you a one-minute audience where you do none of the talking, beware. If the staff hustles around speaking of the doctor in hushed voices suitable to a place of worship, get out.

My father went to Dr. Corsello every week for two months or so, dutifully took his milk-thistle and pycnogenol, and didn't get worse. Now here is where the story clouds, because he was also being treated with conventional drugs, so we don't know where to lay the credit.

It's instructive to remember, though, that conventional medicine killed him. Dr. Corsello's regimen did him no harm.

After Corsello, he was alive. After Crestor, dead.

Corsello alive, Crestor, dead.

But Corsello was defrocked, and Crestor is still on the market.


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