María Fuentes: "I came to the IMO to get advice on low vision and ended up recovering 90% of my sight"

María Fuentes, a doctor, homeopath, mother and child specialist and health educator, suffered a detached retina in her right eye in September 2010.

Between September of that year and February 2011, María Fuentes had to manage with 40% vision and accepted that she would have to get used to being visually impaired for the rest of her life. In February, however, her optometrist advised her to visit IMO and, if necessary, put herself in the hands of their Low Vision Department. Dr Isabel Nieto performed cataract surgery on her right eye and inserted an intraocular lens, which greatly improved her vision. A month later, the surgery was repeated, this time in her left eye, and it was discovered that the eye was not amblyopic, but myopic, which could easily be improved with another lens. By March last year, María Fuentes had recovered 90% of her vision. After having worn glasses since she was a teenager, she now only uses them for long distances.

How did you find this process?

It has been an incredibly satisfying experience. I came to IMO with a very poor prognosis, but not only did I not end up with low vision, as I had been told in Cadiz, I left with 90% vision. I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to me now being able to see clearly without glasses and to continue working as a doctor and writer. I want to particularly highlight the roles of Dr Borja Corcóstegui and Dr Isabel Nieto, who treated me, and the low vision expert, Carol Camino, who guided me. I also need to mention Rocío Suazo, my optometrist in Cadiz, who encouraged me and put me in contact with IMO, and who does a wonderful job of prevention with a truly holistic approach.

Holistic?

Holistic comes from the Greek word "holos", which means viewing something as a whole rather than a collection of constituent parts. Holistic medicine is very old and, over the years, has become neglected in favour of specialisation. It is, however, making a comeback, as we become increasingly drawn to a holistic approach, because viewing things as a whole enables us to understand better and act more appropriately. The holistic approach is inevitable, cannot be put off any longer and is the direction in which we are heading.

Is IMO’s subspecialisation compatible with the holistic conception of medicine?

I was actually surprised by the holistic approach adopted by IMO, which, by definition, is highly specialised. I found it had a great holistic perspective, highly effective inter-professional collaboration and real interdisciplinarity, which I have found in very few places. For me, it was a surprise and a cause for great admiration. From the outset, I was given hope that the initial diagnosis and prognosis could be improved, which I consider an essential element of therapeutic predisposition and healing. And its effectiveness is clear to see. Another pleasant surprise is that IMO does not focus solely on the technological side of ophthalmology, but also encompasses physiological aspects through its optometry work, which not all ophthalmologists take into account. As an ophthalmology centre dedicated to vision, I think it is the most holistic possible.

There will be those who think that the concept of holistic medicine is part of an alternative, minority and unscientific trend.

In the scientific world, even the great experts and leading centres are being drawn to a more holistic approach. At conferences for quantum physicists, it is common to find philosophers. There are areas in everyday medicine that are also going in that direction; it is not yet widespread, but it is a trend. People need to consider this concept, because it helps them understand things better from the perspective of what happens in their lives and does not involve incomprehensible language or bias. Monolithic systems, such as the health system, always lag behind the general population, when it comes to adopting new outlooks, but it is a paradigm that inevitably tends to consolidate itself, or, at least, that is what I think, as I do tend to be an optimist.

How should the current health system change?

It is too technological and pharmacological and is disrespectful of physiological and biological processes. But progress is being made. Less conventional medicine, which, a few years ago, was viewed with suspicion by many, is gaining credibility. The World Health Organisation, a universal benchmark for all, for example, views homeopathy, acupuncture and Chinese medicine as scientific methods. Similar views exist at the highest scientific levels. It is also common for scientists and people from the higher echelons of the cultural world to use this type of medicine. At ordinary levels, it is more difficult, because other organisational and economic criteria are involved. High-level medicine is, however, beginning to cast its eye further afield, especially when confronting major diseases. If we addressed all of the factors that trigger major disorders in our bodies, we would undoubtedly benefit greatly. We know that electromagnetic fields and chemistry alter cells and we know that profound and long-lasting emotional experiences change chemistry and cellular processes. We know a lot about what alters cells and their growth. We do not have the full answer, but we do have many small answers.

So how should it be done?

By practising preventative medicine, which is, in fact, the basis of health. And, holistically, which also involves government, the economy and culture.

You are the author of Mujeres y salud desde el sur. Why women? Is health a gender issue?

As a woman, I have been able to see at first hand how health and women’s lives are intrinsically linked. In my 27 years of clinical work and research involving women, I have observed that daily life, socio-cultural roles and the emotional and biological make-up of women are closely related to women’s illnesses. Because of this, I decided to try to explain, analyse and investigate the reasons behind this situation and its consequences, and attempt to provide some suggestions on how to address the issue. Moreover, the health system, as a social system, applies different parameters for men and women in terms of diagnostic, therapeutic and research methods. In other words, gender medicine does exist.

Do women become ill differently?

Yes, but there is also another important difference: women have a special link with health. We are still the main carers in the family and society. Throughout history, women have become experts on caring for others. One of my jobs involves giving lectures and workshops to the general public, and 90% of the people who attend, irrespective of the topic, are women. Women are firmly embedded in the fabric of life, and the association with caring and health is something that beats within all of them. When a woman becomes pregnant, she becomes greatly interested in her body and health, more so than ever before. Regardless of the population segment she comes from or the cultural level she has, 90% of women become much more interested in life processes, general care in life and their particular care. Pregnancy and motherhood are moments of maximum openness at all levels. Someone once said, "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."

Is that why you specialise in mother and child care? What does the job actually entail?

Mother and child care involves everything from conception to the child’s early years of life until the age of three. It is a world in itself, involving different specialists: gynaecologists, midwives, neonatologists and paediatricians. Each deals with one particular aspect, but none are responsible for the whole. After having worked in this job for 30 years, I believe that from the moment a life is conceived we can begin to understand many of the biological and psychological processes that occur in that child during its first months and years of life and beyond early childhood, when many pathological processes, which originate in that early period, develop. Theoretical and clinical studies have been carried out on the concept of primal health and have explained how the design of the basic health system originates from the first nine months of life in the womb and in the first nine months after birth. This is when the immune, endocrine and nervous systems are developed and the foundations are laid for future health and illness.

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