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  • R Johnson

An Inside Perspective of Dr. Tanaka


Several years ago, I decided to join my friend and colleague Dr. Steven Tanaka on one of his chiropractic mission trips to Guatemala, Central America. Despite some concerns for safety, I made the trip and this turned out to be one of the great adventures of my life. The country is painted in vibrant colors; parrot green hills and volcanoes under a china blue sky. The Mayan women’s multicolor clothes reflect an exuberance of artistic skill and sensibility. Bright and beautiful color vibrates everywhere you look.

On that trip, it was just the two of us and we worked hard to alleviate the suffering of the poor people who have little or no access to real health care. They do heavy physical work and experience many debilitating injuries which mostly go untreated. Providing chiropractic health care is the best and only real hope to restore their health and heal their chronic and acute injuries. They often resort to chronic drugs from medical providers which just mask symptoms and causes more health damage in the long run. I remember one man who had driven several hours from the borderlands of Mexico. He was suffering from bilateral numbness, dysesthesias and weakness in his upper and lower extremities as well as chronic debilitating headaches daily. Two years previously, he had fallen from a ladder and had not been able to work since that time. He was desperate for a way to return to work. In Guatemala, there are little or no social services. If you don’t work, you might go hungry unless you have a generous relative. We determined that he had cord pressure at his atlas vertebrae. It took two adjustments to make the correction and remove the pressure on his spinal cord. His symptoms of dysesthesia and weakness were eliminated and headaches were diminished and subsiding. This is one of hundreds of similar cases that we helped in Guatemala.

Dr. Tanaka has made this trip every year for ten years and many more to El Salvador every year since 1996. He has helped thousands of suffering people under difficult and challenging conditions including inside prison walls in El Salvador. Two years ago, Dr. Tanaka suffered his own health challenge with severe damage to his kidneys. It is still not clear what led to his kidney failure, but he required multiple days of hospitalization and he has needed dialysis three days per week since that time. This stopped him from working in Central America. Because we were inspired by his example of service to suffering humanity, Dr. Justine Rhee, Dr. Jennifer Liu and myself founded Tanaka Chiropractic Missions, Inc., a tax exempt 501(c)3 non-profit corporation to continue Dr. Tanaka’s work. Our organization is dedicated to educating doctors in the highest standards of chiropractic health care and providing care for underserved populations around the world. Currently we have a mission planned for February 2018 and plans for future missions to Peru and Easter Island.

Recently Dr. Tanaka’s health has been improving with the help of regular chiropractic adjustments, exercise (he loves to hike in the California coast range}, a healthy diet and of course his incredible positive and optimistic mental attitude. Because he has improved, he has qualified for a kidney transplant which will hopefully alleviate his need for dialysis and perhaps allow him to return to Central America in the future. The people of Guatemala are waiting for him to return because they love and admire Dr. Tanaka as we do.


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