By Robert Tharpe
There’s nothing like the feeling of speed. Those who have ridden before know the excitement of twisting the throttle of a motorcycle and feeling the pull of your own inertia as it accelerates. Whether riding a cruiser, a dirt bike or a racing bike, there’s an element to riding on two wheels that you won’t find driving anything else. For some chiropractors, that element is a necessity. After using their hands to correct vertebral subluxations in the office, it is freeing—therapeutic, even—using those same hands to pull the throttle and take off down the road. In this issue, three DCs share some of the ways that riding motorcycles has improved the quality of their lives, and where the hobby has taken them during their lifetimes.
Paul Poirier, D.C.
It is difficult to provide a detailed enough account of the life of Poirier in a few hundred words. His expansive career encompasses both sides of the continent, from Cornwall, Ontario, to Los
Angeles and then back to Eastern Canada. Through a battle with brain cancer waged through the past decade, he has become very active in the cause for brain cancer awareness, but not so much as to overshadow his passion for Chiropractic—or motorcycles.
“There was no fancy story of how I got into Chiropractic,” he explains. “My father wasn’t a chiropractor, and I didn’t injure myself and have to go to one.” Poirier cites dentistry, Chiropractic and massage therapy as his possible career choices. “In dentistry, I found that there were a lot of overhead expenses, and I heard that massage therapists got burned out too easily. So my natural choice was Chiropractic.” When describing what motivated him to pursue that career, he says, “I wanted to do something with my hands, and I didn’t want to prescribe drugs. I just wanted to make a halfway decent living and enjoy what I do.”
Poirier has enjoyed the hobby of motorcycle riding since the age of 17. “I got my first bike in 1979. It was a Japanese dirt bike. And I’ve had a bug for it since.” Today, Poirier enjoys riding on the roads around Cornwall. “In doing what I do, I can’t necessarily take off for the weekend, but I can get a good five- to six-hour haul in on a Sunday afternoon.”
When asked what he enjoys most about riding, he says, “Like anyone who’s into riding will tell you, it’s a form of freedom. It gives you a powerful sense of freedom being on the road.” Poirier also uses riding for more altruistic reasons.
With something as serious and frightening as brain cancer, “It’s important to have a positive attitude about it,” says Poirier. Recently, he has been gaining a lot of support and media attention for his organization Bikers Against Brain Cancer. Through this outlet alone, Poirier has taken it upon himself to use his passion for motorcycling to spread the word about brain cancer and increase public awareness. When asked what gave him the idea, he responds simply, “Guilt.” Poirier recalls riding for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with a close friend, and through his experiences there, he knew what he had to do for his own cause. “One day, sometime in 2010, it just dawned on me that I needed to start something of my own,” he says.
While Bikers Against Brain Cancer is currently riding through the streets of Cornwall and the surrounding areas, Poirier has big plans for the organization in the future. He is attempting to organize a coast-to-coast ride, which he would like to happen sometime in 2013. His plan is to promote brain cancer awareness in 15 major cities throughout Canada, including Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal and Vancouver, and he wants people who have personally seen the effects of the condition to become involved. “I want to get people who know someone, a friend or relative, who is either struggling with brain cancer or who has died of brain cancer, and also [survivors] like me who can still ride.” These people, he says, will promote awareness in their own cities during their leg of the ride. “They’ll be the ‘hero’ of their city and get the media involved in that area.”
As of late January, Poirier experienced a personal victory with his own brain cancer. “The chemo is working, and the cancer is receding. It’s reached a major turn-around point, I think.” Poirier is confident that, with the right attitude, he will be enjoying motorcycling and his day-to-day career in Chiropractic for many more years.
Robert J. Rectenwald, D.C.
Robert Rectenwald is one of few chiropractors whose career in Chiropractic hits very close to home. With a motorcycling and racing history which includes dirt track and a decade-long career in road racing, he was nationally ranked with the American Motorcyclists Association, and had the pleasure of riding well-known tracks such as Road Atlanta and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Although he no longer races, motorcycling is still a major part of Rectenwald’s life outside the clinic.
“I started riding when I was 10,” he says. “It was my only means of transportation for a while. Back then, we’d put motors on anything we could get our hands on. I started out on scooters, and then went to dirt bikes.” Rectenwald recalls one of his favorite hobbies in his early days of riding: “We did lots of scrambles, which meant we rode our bikes really fast through the woods. We also did a lot of motorcycle hill climbs.”
But Rectenwald’s racing career was not without its crashes and burns, which led him to seek a helping hand from Chiropractic. “I started care as a result of racing, and about 22 crashes later, my doctor suggested, half-jokingly, ‘Don’t you think it’s time you chose a different career?’”
Pretty soon, Rectenwald took his doctor’s advice. He went to school and graduated from Life University, where he now works as a professor and faculty clinician. Although he has been in private practice since then, he has yet to hang up his motorcycle jacket for good. “After college, I went cross-country for a bit, from Pittsburg to Los Angeles. We rode 350ccs, which had seats as wide as a piece of paper.” Today, whenever he isn’t in the clinic at LIFE, he still likes to get out and ride the curvy mountain roads of north Georgia. “I still ride whenever I can. There’s nice scenery up in the mountains where I live, and it’s a good place to ride.”
At the clinic, Rectenwald spends a lot of time caring for people who have riding-related injuries, as well as those from other high-adventure hobbies. Because of his own experience, he knows exactly how Chiropractic can benefit someone who rides or races. “The help you get from chiropractic care is central to balance and coordination,” he says. “In riding, you want better coordination and a high level of safety.”
Rectenwald’s desire is for his patients to have a healthy lifestyle in whatever hobby they enjoy and to reach a point where they are free of pain or physical limitations. “There’s something I always say to my patients upon their first visit. I show them their X-rays and all the areas that need adjustment, and tell them, ‘Mine used to be worse. I had 22 crashes in my racing career, yet, after having consistent chiropractic care, I have no pain. I can get to work with no problems, and I enjoy my day-to-day life.’” Rectenwald wants anyone who seeks chiropractic care to know that their lifestyles can improve and that, with the help of chiropractic adjustments, they can be more satisfied with their lives.
Harold George, Jr., D.C.
Known as “Skip” by his friends and colleagues, George runs his own practice in the Lancaster, Pa., area. Active in his community, he is a board member for the Pennsylvania Fellowship of Chiropractic and the International Federation of Chiropractors and Organizations (IFCO). Perhaps more notably, however, George serves as a board member for America’s 911 Ride, a three-day motorcycle ride that visits all three sites of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I heard about the ride right after the attacks,” he says. The police-escorted ride begins as different groups of riders meet up in Somerset, Pa., then ride to Washington, D.C., and then to New York City. George’s responsibility is coordinating the group that forms in the Lancaster area. “Last time, we left with 140 motorcycles,” he recalls. “It can get up to about 1,800 in all during the ride.” George’s official title is Road Captain, and his responsibilities include getting people parked, troubleshooting problems with riders and maintaining safety and order.
George made a point of expressing his feelings about the reason for the ride. “The most important thing is that people tend to forget what happened. We want people to be aware of what’s happening in our world and to take time off to think about things.” George himself thinks of it as a way to get away from it all, take off and enjoy life. “When I’m on that bike, I’m not a chiropractor,” he says.
George, who frequently enjoys some time out on his Harley Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Ultra Classic, knows a thing or two about the peace of mind that a hobby offers. “At first, I was just a young, careless guy who took too many chances,” George says, recalling how he first got into riding. “After a few years, however, my wife and I decided to get back into it. For me, it’s a way to get out of the office and get a fresh perspective on Chiropractic.” George stresses the importance of this idea: “In Chiropractic, you need to have an outside hobby.”
Although he values his time off from work, George is still very devoted to his career. “I have a good team,” he says, in reference to his colleagues at George’s Chiropractic Health. “I like seeing the changing of lives. Most people don’t know that there is an alternative to the medical model of health. It’s neat to see the power of the body to heal itself.”