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Healthy ambition

To be a successful chiropractor, human dynamics are critical. You are not fixing a car, you're dealing with a nervous system and a delicate part of the body.

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"After a near-death experience while driving in Canada, I was inspired to write health and wellness books for children," says Dr Abouchacra.

Dr Oudi Abouchacra, children's author, health lecturer and director, Chiropractic Specialty Clinics, Abu Dhabi

To be a successful chiropractor, human dynamics are critical. You are not fixing a car, you're dealing with a nervous system and a delicate part of the body.

When I graduated from the Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas, Texas, all I needed was a signboard to start my practice in Toronto, Canada – and a little advice from my mentor Dr Thomas Kalina.

My brother owned a car rental company and had lots of room in his building, so he partitioned it, kept a quarter of the space for himself and gave me the rest. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about his generosity and faith in me.

My first patient was a guy who walked into the office off the street …

… so that he could sit down on a chair and take a pebble out of his shoe. He asked me, "What are you doing?" and I explained that I was a chiropractor.

He ended up coming for treatment once a month for four years! Like many chiropractors, I built up a successful practice through word of mouth referrals. In fact, I barely spent a cent on advertising.

Life was going along very smoothly until my father died in 2004.

His death had a profound effect on me. I began to think a lot more about family and decided to reunite with my family here in the UAE. Within 60 days, I sold everything and came out here to the UAE to be near my brother and sister.

I remember my father's words every day and they inspire me. He lives through me, because he is part of me. At a deeper level, I link my purpose to him and that is how he lives on.

My father's spine had degenerated to the point where it fused together and no longer had joints. There was no flexibility at all. Imagine that.

He once said that everyone has a right to know about the condition of his spine. Since his death, I have given hundreds of lectures at schools, corporate functions, conferences … even at a flower shop … trying to educate people on how to keep their spines healthy.

Often I give people tips such as how to sit when they are at the computer, the best ways to sleep and so on. There is a lot people can do to minimise interference with the nervous system and keep the spine stress free.

When I speak to children in schools, we discuss overall health. I have started a programme called ACED, which stands for attitude, chiropractic, exercise and diet. The children learn that if they master their health, their dreams are ACED. This went over really well with the students I met and I know from their feedback that they were really inspired to live healthy and well balanced lives.

My father instilled in me the importance of health. ACED was actually his philosophy.

After a near-death experience driving …

… in Canada I was inspired to write health and wellness books for children.

This has developed into a series of books called ACED with the main character being Little Naite. He gets his name from the word innate, a word that chiropractors use to describe the inner wisdom which runs our body. Every culture has a word to describe the invisible electrical impulses that silently keep us alive.

Thanks to my father, I've been inspired to give people the keys to master their health.

My father used to say that people have a right to know at a young age how to take care of their health. The first item to master in order to build a healthy, balanced and grateful attitude is that of 'Breaking through versus breaking down'.

I find that people need to be empowered by bad experiences.
I wrote a Little Naite story in which he learns that in maths class in order to get the answer right sometimes you must use a negative sign and at other times the positive sign. But he discovers that in life he can label experiences as he wishes.

My other books are similar in their approach. Move Your Body teaches about the simplicity and importance of exercise balanced with rest. Fuel For Life touches on the power of eating right. I see Little Naite serving as a guide for children, escorting them through their journey of health.

When I was an intern in the US I worked with a patient who had difficulty walking.

Her name was Holly Craig and due to her progressively deteriorating condition, she was put on muscle relaxers indefinitely, had several knee surgeries and was told that eventually she would be wheelchair-bound.

We worked hard at treating the weaknesses in her spine, known as subluxations. Within 10 months she no longer needed crutches, she discarded her medication and never did sit in her wheelchair. This young lady, a single mom of five, inspired and transformed me – so much so that my latest book Super Natural You is based on her remarkable story.

What is incredible is that Holly's dream was not only to walk, but to climb the Colorado mountains! I loved the fact that she dared to dream what most of us often give up on. In fact, one day I returned home from work, parked myself on the couch as I usually did and watched hockey on the TV.

I remember this moment so vividly: I glanced down at my legs, all emotional. Here I was blessed with good health and fully functional legs and I wasn't even using them!

That's when Holly's inspiration moved me into action.

I set a goal for myself to run a marathon. Before graduation, I was only able to run up to 10 kilometres due to a knee injury. Time ticked over as I rehabilitated my knee, moved back to Canada and opened a practice.

After my father died I put a lot of my goals on hold. Then I moved to the UAE and thankfully was blessed with the opportunity to work with the doctors of Chiropractic Specialty Clinics, two of whom are marathoners.

They rekindled my love for running.

I have been training for over a year now and … see my knee injury and my break from running as a blessing in disguise as I have learned so much about how to prepare for a marathon.

I think it is quite fitting that my first marathon is scheduled for November 19 in Beirut, my birthplace.

I have been running since I was a kid, I love it. But more importantly it adds the element of challenge to my life, which I think is necessary. As my colleagues put it, "marathoning is a metaphor for life."