Dr. Caroline’s Journey

by Caroline von Fluegge-Chen

Dr. Caroline’s Journey

I believe that in order to fully experience life, it is sometimes necessary to reinvent yourself—to live in a new city, to meet different people, to find a new career, to embark on an unknown path, to discover the fabric from which you are made. This process seldom happens by way of figuring out everything in advance with logical precision. Most often, the twists and turns of the journey happen by accident. I have learned that in my reality, there are no accidents. In hindsight, the process that is guiding me on my own path seems carefully orchestrated by a force unknown. It seems as though every person I have met and every situation I have encountered has been in my life at the right time and at the right place. I am sharing my experience with you because it is the foundation of what I bring to my patients at Balance Atlanta Family Chiropractic.

For over 35 years, my father worked for Citibank in various international divisions and it is because of his job that my sisters and I were raised mostly in New York, Italy, and Germany. It all sounds very la-di-dah fancy and exotic. However, we still attended school like any other kid in the U.S., we still had piles of homework to complete each night, but instead going to baseball and football games, my parents would perch us on the stoops of cathedrals, castles, and museums on weekends and read to us from Frommer’s or Fodor’s travel guides. Having seen so much of the world at a young age, my appreciation for diversity and my quest for adventure was cultivated.

After I graduated from the Frankfurt International School, I started college at Tufts University near Boston, where I majored in history and spent a year studying at the French university, La Sorbonne, in Paris during my junior year. Back in Boston, I was an intern at a local advertising agency. Somehow I couldn’t get too excited about spending the entire day categorizing pictures of cranberries for the Ocean Spray juice account. When the agency lost the account and the entire department was fired, I knew the advertising business was too risky for me. My next internship was at Sotheby’s, the famous art auction house in New York. Being surrounded by priceless works of art was interesting, especially in the crazy high-stakes art world of the 1980’s, but I realized that I much prefer the energy of living people and figuring out what makes them tick to the dusty antiques of centuries gone by.

For the next five years I worked in Manhattan for a design firm that specialized in creating corporate identities for elite fashion designers, publishing companies, financial institutions, international museums, and real estate empires. For the most part, I liked the fast pace, long action-packed days, rubbing shoulders with the (already or wanna-be) rich and famous. Though I learned a lot and I met some wonderful people, something was missing. I felt like my mind, body, and spirit were in three different places. I felt unhealthy, I looked exhausted, and I was extinguishing my daily headaches with more and more painkillers. I needed a break to re-evaluate my life and figure out what the next step should be. That bike trip was not just a bike trip—it became almost a spiritual experience.

That break came when I took the offer to ride my bicycle across the U.S. from Seattle to New Jersey with a bike tour called the Coast to Coast Classic. Having gotten involved in long-distance cycling a few years earlier, I realized that I had excellent legs, heart, and lungs for the sport. Training in Central Park (only one small hill to climb) and at the gym (no hills whatsoever) rather than building up endurance by climbing the Rockies was just a minor inconvenience. To qualify for the ride, each participant had to raise $6,000 for his or her charity of choice. By hitting up everyone from Shapiro’s Hardware, and the Chinese laundry to corporate sponsors, I had the money in no time. Somehow I managed to arrange a six-week sabbatical from work.

I did not realize that the bike trip would change my life. Somewhere out in the middle of Montana, under that giant expanse of blue sky that was so far from New York City, I realized that there was something else I wanted to do with my life—and climbing the corporate ladder was not it. I had no idea at the time what my purpose was supposed to be. However, by completing the 3,500 mile bike trip, I proved to myself that I could accomplish anything I set out to do—provided I have the vision, guts, and determination to play life at 150%.

After the trip, back at my marketing job and still in a quandary about life, I accompanied my friend, Lauren, to her chiropractor during our lunch break. Lauren knew my history of suffering from migraine headaches and she suggested chiropractic might help. Truthfully, I did not know much about chiropractic, but if it could help me combat the headaches and help get me off of the pain medications, I was all for it. I was amazed by the office: Parents, children, business people, and athletes streamed through the waiting room; pictures of smiling patients were all over the walls; good music and Dr. Smatt’s laughter bounced off of the walls. This was a chiropractor’s office??? I thought chiropractic offices were all about back and neck pain, car accident cases, and scary-looking electrical devices.

Dr. Smatt took me aside and explained to me that people go to chiropractors for many reasons. Some want to treat their back pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, knee problems naturally without the use of drugs or surgery. Others go because they heard chiropractic helps with allergies, ear infections, hormonal problems, etc. Many seek chiropractic care because they feel great after getting an adjustment, they stay healthier, and they want to lead an active life filled with vitality for the rest of their life. I was so inspired by his ability to educate and empower me to trust my body’s natural ability to heal, that I decided to become a patient.

Dr. Smatt taught me how important the nervous system—that is, the brain, spinal cord, and nerves—really is. Everything is controlled by the nervous system—our thoughts and emotions, movement of muscles, breathing, digestion, the immune system…EVERYTHING! He told me that the system is so sensitive that any kind of emotional, physical, or chemical stress put on the nervous system will cause a breakdown leading to sickness and disease. I pictured the nerve system as big computer network and if the operating system, cords, programs, virus protection systems, and power supply were not installed or hooked up just right, the network would fail. It was obvious that the stress from work, an out-of-balance diet, and the spinal trauma I experienced from falling down concrete stairs when I was one, fracturing two backbones when I was 17 in a ski accident, carrying heavy backpacks in college, poor posture while sitting at work, and the many times I have either tripped or whacked my head and various limbs in acts of clumsiness contributed to damaging my spine, irritating my nerve system, and weakening my ability to be healthy. Under Dr. Smatt’s care, my headaches disappeared, I got off of the pain pills, and I never felt better. To make a long story short, Dr. Smatt’s commitment to assisting people reach their potential in life by helping create a foundation of health is what inspired me to follow his footsteps. Though I would face over four years of graduate school as well as pre-med classes, I was determined to do what it takes to make a difference in the lives of others. It is interesting to me that while packing to move to Atlanta for school, I noticed that ¾ of the books on my shelves had to do with healing. In the past, I never realized my passion for health would lead to my next career. The teacher showed up when the student was ready.

Had I not gotten healthy through chiropractic, I wonder what my future would have been like. More headaches? More doctors? More drugs? Poor performance at work because of sick days? Not much of a social life because I was feeling lousy all of the time? I wonder how many people there are who are suffering like I was. I’d like to help them. I wonder how many people think their body is supposed to fall apart as we age. I would like to help them stay youthful and active. I wonder how many people have more faith in the poisons the drug companies push on us every day than in our body’s natural ability to heal as it was designed to by innate wisdom. I would like to show them an alternative. I wonder how many health issues Americans face as adults could have been avoided had their parents taken the initiative to create a lifestyle of wellness and prevention while they were children. I’d like to educate families so that future generations don’t face the same predicament. I wonder how much money companies waste on high health insurance premiums and employee sick days. I’d like to educate corporations on keeping their staff mentally, physically, and spiritually balanced. My question really is, “How can I serve you?”

It is my personal commitment to empower people to make better choices with regards to their well-being. I believe each person was put on this planet so that we can express our human potential to the highest degree possible. That might mean being an amazing musician, or an incredible parent, or a business tycoon, or a famous artist, or a published writer…the list goes on. From my own experience, I know for certain that full self-expression is impossible without having optimal health as a foundation from which to launch one’s talents. The body’s natural healing abilities work flawlessly unless there is interference. It is my job to remove the stress in your nervous system that is interfering with your capacity for optimal health and self-expression. It is for this reason that I created Balance Atlanta Family Chiropractic. I welcome you with an open heart, an open mind, and open arms to join me in the experience.

The rest of the story: Dr. Caroline’s journey took her from the world of advertising, art, and marketing to the realm of healing. Over the course of the years, the skills she acquired during the trip have served her to become a compassionate teacher and visionary. She is a chiropractic consultant for the NHL Atlanta Thrashers, a yoga teacher, a neuromuscular therapist, and an expert in pregnancy and pediatric chiropractic care. Dr. Caroline teaches wellness seminars in corporations, and is frequently the guest speaker for community and business organizations. Most recently her work has led her to the realm of film and DVD where she is creative director and executive producer for a series of educational programs on health and wellness. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, David, and she continues to participate in long-distance biking events, plans new travel adventures, dreams of being a rock star (even if just for a week), spends way too much money on books and music, and approaches each day with curiosity.