“Something within me had changed. It was the recognition that anything is possible if you have the vision, guts and determination to play full out.”

Dr. Caroline von Fluegge-Chen

BalanceAtlanta_2016-3037I grew up in a household where holistic health was practiced. Both of my parents are of German descent. We learned to manage illness in line with traditional European methods: special herbal teas, essential oils, saunas, lymphatic massage, wholesome soups, and most importantly, rest. To this day, I still recall Mom sweet-talking me into guzzling yet another green smoothie and taking my vitamins. Years later, when she became certified as a yoga teacher, poses like “downward facing dog” and deep breathing exercises were added to the program.

Only as a last resort were we given prescription drugs. At the age of five, I dumped the antibiotics to treat recurring tonsillitis into the living room fish tank. An hour later, the fish floated belly up, clearly dead. It made no sense: if the drugs were to keep me healthy, why did they kill the fish? My contrarian beliefs were already evident.

I went to college in Boston, never thinking I would have a career in science. I was an economics and art history major – one for me, one for my dad. That combination served me well as an intern at Sotheby’s New York, the world-famous art auction house. Eventually, I got a job as a project manager at an advertising agency. Our clients were fashion magazines, record labels, publishing companies, and financial institutions. Though I enjoyed my work, I began getting major migraines every few weeks. A migraine is no ordinary headache. Imagine having 40 jackhammers pounding on your skull. You can’t see, hear or walk. The slightest sound or movement set off a blinding cascade of pain.

Not knowing what was going on, I sought treatment from every specialist you can imagine. Advil and herbs were no match for my agony. At the age of 23, I honestly wondered if the quality of my future life had come to an end. MRIs and CT scans were negative. Dietary changes didn’t help. A counselor told me what was already obvious – I was under extreme stress. Exercise and sleep, both essential to healing, were ineffective while my brain was on fire. A friend, Lauren, stepped finally stepped in. She couldn’t stand seeing me suffer, and she was tired of hearing me complain. One day, she asked me to go with her to the chiropractor. I had no idea what a chiropractor was other than having a vague recollection of my mom seeing a chiropractor way back in the 70’s. I figured, since I tried everything else, what did I have to lose by going to the chiropractor? At least he wasn’t going to prescribe handfuls of debilitating drugs like the docs in the white coat had.

The chiropractor’s office was located on the 17th floor of a building right on Madison Avenue. I didn’t expect to find a practice filled with families and kids waiting their turn for an adjustment. The receptionist at the front desk was warm and friendly. There were pictures on the wall of happy patients. Dr. Smatt’s bellowing laugh resonated throughout. Wow. Here’s a doctor who was positive, who took a keen interest in me, and who explained how interference to the nerve system and spine could be the cause of the migraines. Taking a trip down memory lane, it all made sense to me: I had a significantly, very, very fast birth according to mom; I wore a leg brace for a year as an infant because I had hip dysplasia; I fell down concrete basement stairs at the age of three; I broke two vertebrae in my lower back in high school; I was accidentally smacked in the face by a softball in college; and for most of the day, I was hunched in front of a computer. No wonder my spine was damaged.

After 6-months of chiropractic care, I was migraine-free. Dr. Smatt was so inspirational, that I decided to do a 180-career switch and become a chiropractor myself. While the corporate world seemed enticing to someone fresh out of college, it was apparent that my true nature is in line with lifting people up with health, rather than stepping on shoulders to get ahead in the rat race.

Copy of Bike_3It took a bit of soul-searching to find the courage to make this leap. I had just accepted a job at a rival ad agency. That same week, I received a letter in the mail inviting me to ride my bicycle with a group from Seattle to New York at an event called The Coast to Coast Classic. Having always had a passion for long-distance cycling, and with the experience to prove it, I knew I had to let my future employer know I needed to postpone the start of my new job. What audacity I had! Somewhere out in Montana, under that Big Sky where the air is clear, I realized I could not go back to the concrete jungle. Something within me had changed. It was the recognition that anything is possible if you have the vision, guts and determination to play full out. Being small and stressed was not in the cards for my future. Upon my return to New York, I packed up my bags, moved to Marietta, GA, and spent the next five years earning my doctorate in chiropractic. As a graduation gift from my mother, I enrolled in yoga teacher training.

That was nearly twenty years ago. I have never stopped studying the science, art, and philosophy of chiropractic and all healing arts that promote greater life expression. Serving the good of families by promoting optimal mental, physical, emotional, and social well-being lends to healthy communities worldwide. When we make a difference to one person (as my chiropractor did for me), we raise a generation of people who are healthy, inspired, and productive. Our future depends on it.

In 2000, I opened the doors of Balance Atlanta Family Chiropractic. Through an unexpected set of circumstances, I became one of two chiropractic consultants for the NHL Thrashers and visiting teams. Though my start was with hockey players, eventually, the practice evolved to care for pregnant moms, infants, kids, teens, parents, and business people. With Atlanta being a hub for the film industry, you may even see a few celebrities at Balance Atlanta if you look carefully. The foundation of my work has always been chiropractic care. A clear nerve system depends on a spine that is free of damage and stress. Over the years, the scope of practice has grown to include BrainCore Therapy and Functional Medicine to address brain performance and optimal body chemistry, respectively. Though patients come from all walks of life, everyone is treated as a valued member of my own family. Balance Atlanta is not a job. It is my calling.