You’ve served your country, now serve yourself

Long deployments. Separation from loved ones. Punishing weather. Constant watchfulness. Bullets. Rockets. Grenades.

Help for veterans: Starting Point owner Deborah Nixon- Karistinos, left, and accupuncturist Jahna Sturges inside the Merrimon Avenue spa. Photo By Kent Priestley

War has never been good for soldiers’ minds or bodies, and it doesn’t look to earn a gold star on that count anytime soon. For each person killed or maimed on the field of battle, scores more suffer traumas both major and minor during their service, from homesickness to major depression, chronic pain to post-traumatic stress disorder.

In April 2006, a twice-deployed Iraq War veteran visited Starting Point spa in north Asheville for treatment. As he explained to owner Deborah Nixon-Karistinos, he’d sought out cleansing therapy because of the chemicals he was exposed to overseas—fuels, solvents, and ordnance tipped with depleted uranium—as well as things, says Nixon-Karistinos, “that we don’t even know about.”

That visit was the seed for an idea: To offer a free-of-charge series of treatment to local veterans as a way of complementing the care they receive through the Veteran’s Administration and other providers. Called Helios, the program began early last month and so far has helped eight vets with care ranging from massage to chiropractic therapy to nutritional counseling and colon hydrotherapy. It’s free and it’s ongoing. All vets need to do is call, make an appointment and show up during program hours with a military ID or copy of their DD-214 form as proof of service.

“People continue to suffer long after they return,” says Nixon-Karastinos, pointing to one client’s recent visit to the clinic. A Gulf War veteran, the man was suffering residual pain from injuries received in a parachuting accident.

“He’d been in pain for 14 years,” she says. “I called him to check in after he came here for treatment and he said he was pain-free.” Relief lasted a few days before the pain returned, less severe this time. “These aren’t miracle cures, but they’re very effective,” the spa owner says.

Starting Point’s team of licensed professionals includes acupuncturist Jahna Sturges and cranial-sacral specialist Gayle Sovinee. Both therapies, says Nixon-Karastinos, have proven effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, a common complaint of returning combat vets.

“I grew up during the Vietnam War and saw those images every night on TV,” says Nixon-Karastinos. “And I really feel that it’s one thing to say, ‘Bring our troops home.’ But when they come home, that’s when they need us the most.”

“To have the tools to help people, and not offer them, just feels neglectful,” Sturges adds.

The Helios program takes place at Starting Point Internal Cleansing Center and Spa, located at 959 Merrimon Ave., the first and third Sunday of every month, from 1 to 6 p.m. All military veterans are eligible to participate. For more information, call 255-2898.

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