As an acute medicine doctor working at a leading Perth hospital, Dr Amy Carmichael was someone who seemed to have it all. She was a high achiever from a young age, received top grades in her medical degree at university in the UK, and was travelling the world as her career went from strength to strength.
But Amy told Bushy Martin on the Get Invested Podcast that while she may have had a perfect life on paper, the stress she was under as a result of a gruelling workload was changing her into someone she didn’t want to be.
“I remember working as a senior cardiology registrar in Perth … and I would be on call for the whole of WA,” she said.
“So we would get all the helicopters fly in from North Australia. And I was called about every single case going on in WA that needed to come to a tertiary centre. And also all the cases that were coming through ED in which they wanted people assessed to see if they had an acute coronary syndrome, a heart attack.
“And I remember literally this phone never ending to a point where I remember going to the toilet for a pee, and I remember this phone going, and I remember bursting out, crying in the toilet, being like, wow, I cannot even go to the toilet without being rung.
“It definitely led to a lot of stress, weight gain, acne, and just losing my sense of self. I lost everything that I was as an individual, as Amy, and I became a doctor.”
A major life change for Amy came when she broke her leg badly during a surf lifesaving event in Perth. She went from an active, athletic young person, to feeling like a 90-year-old and being completely immobile. She had to take eight weeks off work and began to reassess what she wanted to do with her life.
“That accident was actually my gift,” she says.
“I remember having to have a wheelchair in the apartment and a camel backpack so I could have water because I couldn’t reach anything. That dramatically affected my mental health and really made me reflect on my purpose in life and how much I was giving rather than getting.”
Amy flew to meet her mum in Bali while she recovered, and on the beach one day turned to her and told her that despite all the training and hard work, she wasn’t going to be a doctor anymore.
“I think being in the privileged position of seeing life and death happen so quickly, millisecond to millisecond, all the time, I really started to understand the gift of life.”
Amy began exploring natural medicine after a friend did Reiki on her and she felt amazing after the treatment.
“I first became a Reiki … then I did neuro linguistic programming to try and understand the framework and conditioning when we’re a child and how that affects our thinking now … it just sent me on this trajectory of learning so many different modalities.”
Rather than conflicting with the formal medical training she had received, Amy actually found that natural medicine fit really well with her experience in acute care.
“The work that I did in acute medicine, you know, it can’t be replaced by this type of medicine,” she says.
“If you’re having a heart attack I’m not going to say ‘smell some lavender’… acute medicine still holds its place (but) there’s so much evidence on looking at nutrition now and how that plays a huge dramatic effect in what diseases occur and also how we can prevent those diseases.
“And I just find it so negligible that there are still doctors that think that, you know, you can eat what you like and it doesn’t affect you.”
Amy sees functional medicine as looking at a whole person and seeing everything that would affect health and wellbeing, from the spiritual and mental self, to chemistry, genetics, nutrition and a person’s microbiome.
“It’s really taking everything in and then saying, OK, how can we optimise it and how can we prevent it or how can we even reverse certain chronic diseases, because 80 per cent of chronic disease is preventable and reversible.
“There’s a review paper that suggests it takes 17 years before research evidence reaches clinical practice… so for me, I feel like I am truly at the cutting edge of medicine and how it will be in the future.”
Listen to the full podcast interview here.
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