To help manage her anxiety, Gena Spencer receives craniosacral massage from therapist Jeremy Kassib at Yampa Valley Integrated Health.

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To help manage her anxiety, Gena Spencer receives craniosacral massage from therapist Jeremy Kassib at Yampa Valley Integrated Health.

Monday Medical: A long trip on the road to healing

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More information about the healing qualities of Yampa Valley Integrated Health and the summer “Health Immersion Mondays” can be found by calling 970-875-2731 or visiting www.yvmc.org/integratedhealth.

Gena Spencer has put a lot of mileage on her car. Once a week she makes a 180-mile round-trip journey from Meeker to Steamboat Springs to receive what she describes as life-saving treatment at Yampa Valley Integrated Health.

Integrated Health is a program that gives equal weight to traditional and complementary medicine. Yampa Valley Medical Center began offering a range of holistic services a little more than a year ago. Gena Spencer’s physician referred her to the specialized care soon after Integrated Health opened its doors.

“It sounded more like mind, body and spirit. I was ready for that,” Gena explains. “I was at a severely low point in my life and in need of serious and immediate professional help.”

Gena’s health troubles started 16 years ago. That’s when she lost her 15-year-old daughter, Patty Jo.

The Spencers were in the process of moving from Hayden to Meeker. Patty Jo had just received her learner’s permit and asked if she could drive.

Gena’s memory of that day remains vivid. One moment, they were talking about the move, and in the next moment their lives were forever changed when Patty Jo missed a corner between Craig and Hamilton.

“Through the 16 years of despair I had turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the relentless and terrible pain,” Gena said. “I was caught in a downward spiral, losing sight and losing my grip on all the things that meant the most to me.”

During those years, Gena suffered and sought treatment for fibromyalgia, chronic pain, addiction, anxiety and debilitating depression. Attempts were made through conventional medicine to treat her symptoms, but Gena says she needed something beyond a prescription.

“Pills are not a quick fix,” Gena said. “You have to heal the inner self first, before you can fix the outside.”

Gena turned to Angela Silvernail Melzer, director of Integrated Health at YVMC. Melzer helped Gena deal with her deep-rooted grief and sent her on the path to sobriety by helping her enroll in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

“If someone is ready to heal, Integrated Health can really make a difference,” Melzer says. “Gena was ready. She was willing to take the first step and put in the hard work.”

After rehab, Gena returned to Integrated Health for intensive counseling. Social worker Carol Gordon gave Gena the concrete tools she needed to deal with life on life’s terms.

It’s important to note that Integrated Health is not a replacement for traditional medicine. The specialists at Yampa Valley Medical Center work closely with physicians to provide comprehensive care that might include Chinese acupuncture, neuromuscular massage, herbal therapy, counseling, nutrition services, meditation, yoga and qigong.

“We’re different,” Melzer explains. “We are a one-stop shop where people can receive all of the services under one roof.”

Melzer understands that many people may not be familiar with the holistic approach to medicine offered by Yampa Valley Integrated Health. That’s why she has created a new program called Health Immersion Mondays. The program allows people to try one service and one class at a low introductory price.

Although Integrated Health is located within a hospital, clients don’t have to have a health concern to take advantage of the services. Anyone is welcome to schedule a service of their choice.

For people who may be unsure of how they could benefit from alternative medicine, Integrated Health will perform an assessment and develop an individualized plan of care.

Gena’s plan included acupuncture, which helped curb her cravings and provided her with pain management. Massage therapy also has been instrumental in her healing.

Gena has tried craniosacral therapy and acupressure massage, which she describes as powerful healing experiences. Gena says the sessions help her manage her anxiety while providing relaxation.

It’s been a long road. The journey has taken Gena more than 9,000 miles by car. That may sound like a big number, but it’s actually small in comparison to the spiritual journey she has already made and will continue to follow.

“I am on my way to a life I never thought possible. I did not know what I was missing until I became sober, conscious and aware of myself,” Gena says. “I mean every word when I say Integrated Health has truly saved my life.”

Melissa Phillips Boldman is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at Melissa.phillips@yvmc.org

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