Piecing the puzzle together: How alternative medicine helped save Jackie Lithgow's life


Jackie Lithgow was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a fight broke out nearly five years ago at Bloomsburg University.

It lead to a traumatic brain injury that could have kept him wheelchair bound his entire life. But as Jackie and his father say it ended up being a miracle.

"It was a life changing event, when those parents get those phone calls that parents don't want to get. We had that phone call," said Jim Lithgow.

February 23, 2014 was the night that changed everything. Jackie Lithgow, a student at Bloomsburg University, was at a party when suddenly everything went dark.

"I don't remember that, but I do remember my college friends," says Jackie.

"One of his buddies got hit, fell to the ground. As Jackie turned to look Jackie got hit from behind, fell back and cracked his skull on the cement, that was it," recalls his father, Jim.

Jackie's parents rushed to the hospital.

"We just sat there and looked at each other, this can't be happening," Jim said.

Jackie was in critical condition.

"So when we got there, they had a bolt in his head to try to relieve pressure. The doctor said, 'Listen, if it gets worse we have to take at least take one piece of his skull off.'"

Then came a 15 day coma and setback after setback.

"The process, it was long," said Jim. "The roller coaster ride was tough but we had so much support."

From intense physical therapy to speech therapy. Jackie fought to be Jackie again.

"I really took it to heart to show other people who were following my journey," he said.

Months after that horrific night, Jackie was making progress but still far from himself.

"He came in a wheelchair, the whole left side of his body was paralyzed, couldn't do anything but his attitude was there," said Dr. Christopher Turnpaugh at Functional Medicine.

"Going to see Dr. Turnpaugh and having all these things combined together is really a blessing," said Jackie.

Dr. Christopher Turnpaugh practices Functional Medicine in Mechanicsburg. It was there where Jackie Lithgow took the next step forward.

Or as the Lithgow's coined it, the last piece of the puzzle of care to make a leap.

"I wasn't going to deal with having injuries that I had, I wanted to get better," said Jackie.

Dr. Turnpaugh specializes in Functional Neurology, which helps fire up parts of the brain. As he says, it begins with nourishing the brain.

"Does the brain have the proper raw materials if you will, the fuel to even work correctly? And in Jackie's case it didn't have the right fuel," says Dr. Turnpaugh.

That factor is determined after a number of blood tests.

"Different standard lab tests, which are reflective of not disease states but insufficiency states, and that's the grey area where functional medicine thrives," Dr. Turnpaugh says.

These tests worked as a guideline to determine what Jackie needed to help the healing process.

"Something simple like tumeric or cur-cumin, resveratrol, giving some sub straights for the mitochondria."

These are just a few of the supplements that Lithgow took while working towards his recovery. In just days after adding functional medicine into the mix, Jackie began to make progress at physical therapy.

Dr. Turnpaugh says , "His occupational, speech, and physical therapists all said, 'I don't know what you're doing, but we're able to get breakthroughs now that we weren't able to before."

Along with supplements and different compounds, Jackie had to switch his diet dropping certain foods that inflame the brain.

Jackie says he cut out gluten and sticks to a low sugar diet, "because sugar inflames the brain and there's many different things he told me to get better faster."

The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.

"When you do this type stuff long enough you’re going to see some quote on quote miracles happen," says Turnpaugh.

Jackie and Jim both note that Turnpaugh wasn’t “the” miracle, but a part of many miracles. The many doctors with Geisinger, the number of therapists, and finally the last piece of the puzzle, Dr. Turnpaugh.

"No matter what life throws your way if you believe in yourself, and you believe in others that will help you, you can get through any obstacle you face," says Jackie.

Today, Jackie is on his way to a bright future. The many doctors part of his strong recovery have nothing but high hopes.

Jackie and his family started the Jackie Lithgow Foundation to raise money and awareness for people who experience traumatic brain injuries.

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