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Nashua Hospital adds reiki

By Hattie Bernstein Thursday, May 20th, 2004 12:00 pm

Reiki treats the entire person including body, emotions, mind and spirit, and it creates benefits such as relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being. It is a simple and natural method of spiritual healing and self-improvement.

“Change occurs one heart at a time,” says Yvonne Dunetz, the reiki master, former school board member and 2001 Nashua Citizen of the Year who was recently approved by the medical executive board of Southern N.H. Medical Center in Nashua to provide reiki in the hospital.

Under her contract, which may be the first the hospital has ever written for a practitioner of complementary medicine, Dun-etz is allowed to participate as part of a patient’s health-care team. Her privileges, approved after scrutiny by the executive board, also allow her to write on patients’ charts, adding to observations made by doctors, nurses and other providers.

“Yvonne was easier for us (to approve) than another might have been, because she had worked for us (as co-director of a now-defunct wellness institute at the hospital),” says Dr. Emory Kaplan, a pediatrician who serves as hospital chief of staff. “We had hands-on experience with her, which made it easier, and she was also the wife of a former chief of staff.”

The privilege allows Dunetz to accompany her patients to the hospital where she plays “reiki music” on a compact disc player while administering the ancient, hands-on healing treatment. She treats patients before and after surgery — and sometimes during procedures. Moreover, since her office at 1 Prospect St. is directly across the street from the entrance to the medical center, she has a short walk to work.

Before she had hospital approvals, patients visited Dunetz in her office before heading across the street for surgery or other procedures.

A trained social worker, Dunetz worked for several decades in health-care administration before finding her calling as a reiki master. She says she recognized her sensitivity to energy healing while sitting with her mother before she died.

“I could feel the energy leave her body, the warmth and peace and connection,” Dunetz says.

As a reiki practitioner, Dunetz brings a mother’s comforting presence to her clients. She tucks them under the sheets on her reiki table. She lovingly lays on her hands, assisting the body in self-healing.

“You were my angel,” a patient once told her after undergoing reiki before and after surgery. “I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without you.”

For Dunetz, those words were a gift.

“It was a profound moment for me,” she recalls. “I realized we all can be each other’s angel, make a difference in people’s lives.”

An engineer, who requested anonymity, says a staff person in the office of Dr. Gary Dunetz suggested he consider reiki before undergoing a radical prostatectomy recently. Diagnosed with cancer, the engineer was experiencing extreme anxiety — a condition that turned out to be related to a childhood trauma. Dunetz, the surgeon and Yvonne’s husband, also spoke with the patient about the relaxation treatment.

“For me, it worked,” says the 62-year-old engineer. “It got me prepared for surgery, helped me heal afterwards.”

Dracut, Mass., resident Lisa Dejadon had a similarly positive experience. She was referred to Dunetz through a child psychologist who was treating her 8-year-old daughter for anxiety and suggested the treatment might be an alternative to medication.

“I’d never heard of it before. She (the psychologist) called it ‘relaxation therapy,’ ” says the mother, who was so heartened by her daughter’s improvement that she learned the technique herself. “Just seeing her do it, I was thinking, ‘I don’t know about this.’ But going there weekly, then every other week, the results were amazing.”

Dejadon isn’t the only skeptic turned believer. Because reiki hasn’t often been studied with the same rigors and checks as other medical therapies, physicians often dismiss it — until they see its effects. Kaplan, for example, says he continues to consider the treatment adjunctive. But he recommends it for patients for whom other treatments have failed. And he says he has witnessed positive results.

“It’s helpful to some patients even when we can’t explain it scientifically,” he says. “It helps. It’s safe.”

Adds Dr. Stephanie Wolf Rosenblum, vice president of medical affairs at the hospital: “We recognize allopathic medicine doesn’t have all the answers.”

Wolf Rosenblum says Dunetz has proven herself as a part of the multi-disciplinary team in the hospital — even without being an employee there.

“She is certainly a trailblazer,” says the physician. “There are very few adjunctive or complementary medical providers that have concerned themselves at all with the care of an inpatient.”

But Dunetz, who started learning reiki 10 years ago, is passionate about sharing her training and skills with anyone who is hurting — hospital patient or otherwise. She says the hands-on treatment can decrease blood pressure, heart rate and other symptoms of anxiety while promoting deep relaxation and a sense of peace. As a result, it helps patients sleep better and improves both psychological outlook and physical health.

A traditional reiki master, she also holds the most advanced credentials that can be earned in her field. Her skills and their results, moreover, so impressed her husband that he took the first level reiki course.

“I keep an open mind to things,” says Gary Dunetz, admitting he doesn’t understand “exactly” how reiki works. “A lot of things we do (in medicine) are not scientifically proven, but we know that a patient responds to having a hand held, to comfort.”

Still, integrating an ancient healing art into a modern hospital isn’t business as usual — even though it is happening in other parts of the state and country.

“With the hospital, which represents the scientific method, and physicians, for them to integrate (reiki) is not an easy thing,” he says.

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