CATS Scans Western and Eastern Medicine [9000 Needles]
When you think about the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS) you think of live theater. You don’t think of championship bodybuilding or a victim of a brain stem bleed. Nonetheless, CATS brings the film “9000 Needles” to the Nevada Theatre, 2pm, Sunday, 9/28.
Needles. Acupuncture. There’s the connection. The CATS mission promotes cultural enrichment and diversity. A homegrown documentary, “9000 Needles” travels to mainland China to discover what the Chinese medical profession can do to help a super fit and healthy man recover from a wholly debilitating stroke.
The American health care system spit Devin Dearth out to fend for himself – thankfully with huge support from his family. Devin’s bodybuilder discipline drove him to regain speech and the use of his arms and legs. His progress in China was remarkable.
Doug Dearth -- Devin’s brother and the director of “9000 Needles” -- responded to a question: “Is it fair to say that you and others close to you had an ignorant view of people in China and of acupuncture and other aspects of the Chinese medical profession?”
His response, “Ignorance is a fair word. My family wasn't exposed to acupuncture. They were very opposed to us going to China. They were worried about safety and other things. Once Devin decided to go, the family spent a lot of time there. They felt safer there than at home. Instead of terrible memories, his daughter, who was nine, has great stories about adventures and how nice the people were.”
This film transcends limitations that could have mired this story. With long experience as a producer and writer, first-time director Dearth injects a genuine, professional tone on a home movie feel. His choices lean more toward documenting a challenging reality than indulging in sentimental overkill. He lays out the underpinning issues: considering euthanasia; differences between American and Chinese health care systems; organized religion. To its credit, “9000 Needles” proves an appropriately soft-hitting movie.
Between the cracks of typical film distribution to movie theaters or cable television, it’s gratifying to find opportunities to see something like “9000 Needles,” especially when the opportunity is boosted by the live appearance of the film’s director along with two dedicated practitioners of Asian-style medicine.
***from Q and A between Chuck Jaffee and “9000 Needles” director, Doug Dearth***
Chuck Jaffee: What's the worst of dealing with your brother's condition and his life-long challenge?
Doug Dearth: It’s those moments when you sit across from him and see how tough his life is going to be.
CJ: I have to ask. Do doctors suggest that intense bodybuilding competition caused this devastating brain stem bleed?
DD: No, and 90% don’t survive this sort of stroke. His bodybuilding may be why he survived. The way he was, including the dedication and commitment, that probably made his progress possible.
CJ: Is your brother’s progress magic, or do you feel you understand a reliable medical cause and effect that should be a routine part of treatment?
DD: Magic? No. Cells are dying. Messages need to get through damaged pathways, create new pathways. The first months are really crucial. If he had acupuncture sooner, he may have seen better results. And it isn’t just acupuncture. The Chinese doctors cut out the overmedication. They use herbs. It’s about circulation and oxygen and a thing called chi, but it isn’t magic. And it isn’t about getting rid of Western doctors. Western doctors saved Devin’s life, and we have great physical therapy equipment here.
CJ: What did you learn about yourself going through this whole process?
DD: I learned that you gotta take a first step, even if it maybe isn’t in the right direction. You can’t be paralyzed.
CJ: What's the toughest thing for you about trying to make this a movie that a large audience would want to see?
DD: Subjecting your family to the filmmaking. You want to give them privacy, but you know those important emotional moments are what you need to document.
CJ: What kind of distribution is "9000 Needles" likely to get? Does it look like millions of people might get to see this film?
DD: It’s tricky. We're pounding the beat; showing it where we can, trying to get media attention on shows like Dr. Oz.. We’ll see.
In the conversation with director, Doug Dearth, Chuck Jaffee fed him several topics and asked for quickie responses:
Bodybuilding: “Personally, I’m healthier now that I no longer do it; but it gave me a foundation for becoming really fit and healthy.”
Terminating medical life support: “You do the best you can with the decision. It’s a big gray area and it’s a lot of responsibility to put on a person.”
Family: “We’re lucky. When push came to shove, there has been a whole lot of support.”
Religious faith: “I’m just reminded of the revitalizing power of faith, and I know faith and the church brought so much support to all this.”
American health care: “I’m infuriated and furious even though it doesn't show up in the film. We have gotta take care of our own people.”
Chinese health care: “I saw some wonderful things. Acupuncture and special herbs, it's normal there, but Western medicine is well understood and accepted there, too. It is integrated.”