Recently a practice member noticed the little blue sign above the lintel of the doorway between the entraining rooms. “Who is Ellie Hondorp?” they asked.

It is not often that someone notices the sign. Yet this small sign reveals the true reason I went into chiropractic, though at the time I did not realize it.

It was 1980, I was a dancer working for rent at the uptown NYC ice-cream parlor Serendipity. The dinner shift had barely begun and already the line was forming at the host station up front. I had spoken with mom earlier that day and she assured me that I should not miss work to come visit her in the hospital, “Just wait til I’m home”, she said.

Mom was 47 years old, when she collapsed onto the floor with back pain. She had had back pain for many years and would pull out the corset with metal slats cinching it tight around her mid section when the pain got bad. Mostly she ignored it as best she could. This time the pain grabbed her, knocked her off her feet and the ambulance swept her away to the hospital. Not to worry everyone said, “she just needs back surgery but don’t worry, it is routine, they do it all the time.”

It happened so fast, her decision to go ahead. There was no time to consider other possibilities. Surgery was the only option given, she had tried medication but it just made her ‘loopy’. Plus she was scared and in pain, besides she trusted the doctors.

I was serving frozen hot chocolates to a large group of customers when one of the waiters came up to me and said that my father was on the phone. He never called me at work. The busy loud room went suddenly silent and still as I heard my father trying to tell me what I already knew. I became numb all over, I wanted to cry, to feel something, but I inside I felt like a zombie.

The surgery had been successful but after many hours of working on her body, they lost her to a massive pulmonary embolism. She essentially had suffocated from the inside.

IT is strange how what you think is the worst thing that could happen sometimes really does. I had never considered what it would be like to lose my mother, it was not ever a thought or something I could even imagine.

18 years later when I opened my first chiropractic center in Saco, Maine, I had a sign made. “Remembering Ellie Hondorp”.  I hung it above my office door, facing my desk to remind me that her life and death had made me search for options, alternatives.

So whenever I hear the phrase “routine surgery”, or hear someone casually consider surgery, I feel my blood rise up, my fists curl and my jaw clench, and “I say strongly and passionately, “You must try Network first” and unsaid I continue, “IF only my mother had…”