The About Michelle Steffens Video shares stories about Michelle’s early health struggles in childhood through her early thirties. Michelle Steffens later married Page Buchanan and founded Isthmus Acupuncture Center, LLC in Madison, WI. Michelle changed her name to Michelle Meramour in 2017 to establish her career as an author, educator, and public speaker.
As Michelle Steffens, my childhood and early years were a struggle due to a birth defect, constantly feeling sick, and two car accidents.
My earliest memories were of having an upset stomach and going to the eye doctor for a birth defect that caused me to suppress the vision in my left eye. I was one of those kids whose eyes were turned out and you never knew where I was looking. The eye doctor would place a patch over my right eye trying to force my left to see. I remember suffering from intense nausea, irritability, and dizziness throughout my childhood from this. I also found it very difficult to read and play sports, which left me frustrated and self-conscious at a young age.
I also felt very sick after drinking milk and eating dairy products so my parents gave me carnation instant milk while my older siblings enjoyed cow’s milk. Since my father was diabetic and we didn’t have sugar or soda in the house, I usually just drank water.
At age 16, I was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous melanoma spot on my left knee where I had a scar that didn’t heal well from childhood. A surgery to remove an area of skin large enough to clear the margins was successful and I have had no further recurrence of skin cancer. This wake-up call encouraged me to improve my diet dramatically.
At age 18 I underwent my first of two eye surgeries to correct the birth defect in the muscles that stabilized my eyes. Because my brain suppressed the vision in my left eye, I continued to see only out of my right eye after the surgery. I then began four years of physical therapy to teach my brain how to work with the left eye. Again, I was suffering from intense nausea, dizziness, and frustration caused by the physical therapy. At age 21, I had a second eye surgery on my right eye and for the first time in my life, I saw naturally out of both eyes and had depth perception.
At age 19 I was involved in a car accident where I was rear-ended at an impact of 45 miles per hour. My chin hit the steering wheel and I injured my jaw bone. My right foot was on the brake so I ended taking the full impact on my right leg and jamming the hip bone into the socket.
Immediately I suffered migraine headaches, neck pain, and back pain. The MRI’s revealed that I had degenerative disc disease that runs in my family. I needed a six-hour reconstructive jaw surgery and the surgeon told me I had the jaw joint of a 70-year old woman and he had never seen that much degeneration in someone my age.
My older brother had already underwent two back surgeries and I could see where I was heading if I didn’t figure out why this was happening and what to do about it.
I was born in 1969 and grew up before the age of the Internet in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I started to visit my local health food store in the early 1990’s to read their reference books and learn about supplements that could help my problems.
At age 20 I decided to remove sugar, dairy, and most bread products because I thought it was contributing to the inflammation of my bones and connective tissue. I learned that the antacid medications and proton pump inhibitors I had been on for over 10 years likely caused me to not absorb the minerals in my diet further contributing to the bone and disc degeneration. With my new diet of low inflammatory foods, the constant stomach pain and acid reflux went away and I was finally off the digestive medications.
I added a few supplements every week until I remember counting a total of 26 capsules daily – but that enabled me to get off all the prescription medications and start to self-heal. I didn’t like taking so many supplements but was willing to take them as an alternative to the medications I was prescribed.
Then at age 25, I was driving down US HYW 19 in Clearwater, FL at 65 mph when two cars flew across the median and hit my SUV head-on. I remember the accident so vividly – time slowed down and I said to myself, “why are these cars coming parking on the median? – Oh, they aren’t parking, they are coming right at me” then I turned to my son Michael, who was almost 2 years old, sitting in his booster seat next to me and I remember saying to myself, “I think this is the last time I am going to see you.” I braced for the impact as to not hit the steering wheel again and ended up bending it back. One of the cars (another SUV like mine) was changing lanes and didn’t see the smaller car in his blind spot. Their tires collided sending both of them spinning out over the raised median. The car I hit was airborne. His right rear tire hit my hood and I watched it stop just before my windshield. Then it flipped fully and landed upside down right in front of my car. The police officer said if the other vehicle would have been six inches higher I would have been dead.
Because the impact was over 100 miles per hour, I suffered a closed head injury that was misdiagnosed at the hospital. My body went into shock instantly and my blood pressure fluctuated around 140/110 with the diastolic number staying over 100 constantly. My heart rate became very irregular, and I could only sleep three to four hours a night. And even though I was only 25, I suffered from severe hot flashes and night sweats and now mildly stuttered and stammered, which I had never done before. I had panic attacks every night when I tried to sleep. My body felt as if it was shaking inside 24 hours a day. I couldn’t focus and I tried to go back to work after two weeks and quickly realized that I could barely function. The neurologist put me on short-term disability and tried a variety of high blood pressure medications, beta blockers, sleeping pills, all of which I responded very poorly to because they were treating the symptoms and didn’t realize my pituitary had been damaged.
About four months after the accident, while on disability, I met an acupuncturist who said to me, “I think I can help you.” At this point, I was willing to try anything. In Florida acupuncture is a covered benefit by insurance so I was able to receive treatments for a $16 co-payment. After three treatments, my blood pressure and heart rate began to stabilize and I started sleeping a better – around four to five hours a night and my constant hot flashes and night sweats were reducing. I was able to return to work and felt like my life was somehow going to be ok.
After receiving acupuncture for a few months, my progress plateaued and my body recognized I needed a new approach. I found another acupuncturist, who was trained in China and treated many of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as evidenced by the pictures and handwritten thank you notes in his office. His experience in treating head injuries provided me with much relief. I still had all my symptoms, however, they were greatly reduced and manageable. I continued acupuncture every other week for a few years.
I enjoyed my career as an accountant, however, it didn’t speak to my soul. I decided if I could become an acupuncturist and help people like it helped me, then that would be the most rewarding career I could have. At age 29 I decided to quit my well-paying job in lower management and move across the country to go to school and become an acupuncturist. My family thought I was crazy and my friends were sad to see me go.
In 1999, I started at the Midwest College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I was in the last class taught by Japanese-style practitioners and I was fortunate enough to learn both Japanese and Chinese styles. My internship supervisor recommended I take classes with Kiiko Matsumoto, the master in palpation based acupuncture in the US.
In my third and final year of acupuncture school, I realized that our school simply taught what was needed to pass the national boards, and wasn’t enough to provide highly effective treatments. I decided to study with Kiiko Matsumoto and Bob Flaws and began creating a style that ensured a positive response prior to inserting the acupuncture needles.
After years of always checking and double checking my work as an accountant, it came naturally for me to do the same as an acupuncturist. I relied on feedback from the patient’s body to guide the treatment process and ensure lasting benefits.
After finishing school in 2002, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin because the community was open to acupuncture and it was a great place to raise a family. Even though I was new to the area, because of my treatment approach, my practice grew quickly from referrals and within two years my schedule was completely full. After six weeks in Madison, I was set up on a blind date with now husband, Page Buchanan. To find out about this next phase of my life, please watch the about Michelle Buchanan video.