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  • Writer's pictureErin Stefanacci

"Please help me, I'm going to die."

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

Those were the last words I remember uttering before my heart took a temporary break.

It was about 10 years ago. I just finished playing a soccer game and I was starving. I decided to have one of my favorite snacks... bean salad, something that I had grown-up eating with no problems. About 5 minutes later, my palms and soles of my feet started getting very itchy. I thought maybe I was exposed to something at the soccer field. About 5 minutes after the itching started, I began to have difficulty breathing. I've been an asthmatic for my entire life so having difficulty breathing was not new to me. I went and used my emergency inhaler but it had no impact. I decided to get into the shower to "rinse off" whatever I had been exposed to. I got out of the shower and the breathing difficulty had gotten worse. I used my Epipen and told my parents to call 911 because I knew something was very wrong.

Luckily, we lived fairly close to a hospital at the time so the ambulance arrived shortly after 911 was called. As the stretcher I was on was being hoisted into the back of the ambulance, the last thing I remember saying to the paramedic is "please help me, I’m going to die.” And that is exactly what happened. I ended up flat-lining, in ICU on a ventilator. Obviously, I’m here to write this story but I wouldn’t be if it hadn’t been for conventional medical care.

I've grown up with allergies but it was this last allergy that almost killed me.

The first allergy was detected at 8 months of age. This was discovered when the babysitter fed me peanut butter. I got a rash and started to swell. At various times throughout my life I have discovered that I am also severely allergic to chickpeas and soy. I learned this in the similar way as the peanut butter, just by eating those foods and having severe reactions to them. The last allergy was the one that led to my near-death experience. It's how I found out I am allergic to pigeon peas.

"Please help me, I'm going to die." by Dr. Erin Stefanacci

From allergies to pharmaceuticals

I grew up wanting to be a "doctor", more specifically a surgeon of some sort. Just before starting my undergrad degree, I decided to get a job in a pharmacy. Since my plan was to go to medical school, I wanted to start learning about something that is heavy in the conventional medical world right away, pharmaceuticals! I ended up working in a pharmacy for 9 years. I had various jobs for the company I worked for during those years, including district inventory manager and instructor for the pharmacy tech board exam. It was my time spent in the pharmacy that taught me the downside of conventional medicine. It was a very stressful environment and one where I would see many patients never actually achieve "health." Instead, patients would begin on one medication for a chronic symptom and come back a few months later needing a medication for the side effects of the medication they started with. Some would even be prescribed two or three blood pressure or cholesterol medications. Yikes!

My pharmacy experience had positive lessons as well. In working with so many patients and other pharmacy professionals, I honed interpersonal skills, learned a lot about insurance and pharmaceuticals, and learned leadership and delegation. All of these would be helpful when I eventually started my own practice.

I am thankful for my path because I realized I didn’t actually want to be a direct part of the conventional medical scene at all. Due to my severe reactions to some foods, I have seen the importance of the conventional medical system first-hand. I would not be here without the current system and progressions that have been made in health care. That being said, when it comes to chronic disease and symptoms of disease, the conventional system falls short. Too many drugs are being prescribed for things that can be shifted and changed with the use of diet and lifestyle, as well as adding in specific key nutrients that the body is missing to function properly. This is where functional medicine comes into play.

From Conventional Medicine to Functional Medicine

After my time in the pharmacy, I decided I wanted to help people find health without the use of drugs and surgery. I decided on chiropractic school. After starting with chiropractic school something just didn’t feel right… I just couldn’t see myself adjusting people all-day, everyday. I was going to leave chiropractic school and go to medical school but deep down I knew that wasn’t the right thing either. Shortly after that, I was introduced to functional medicine and I knew that was the path for me. During my time in chiropractic school, my weekends were spent learning functional medicine and how to heal the body without the use of drugs or surgery. And as they say… the rest is history.


Today I am a licensed chiropractor and yes, I do help individuals with musculoskeletal complaints. The majority of my practice, however, focuses on functional medicine. Before I start working with patients I ask a question... what are you hoping to get out of this partnership? And the answer varies -- weight loss, less bloating, improved sleep, less pain, better stress management, less fatigue, feel like myself again, run again, and the list goes on. Whatever my patient’s goals are, those are my goals as well. And together we can achieve those goals.

From Boston to Florida to Asheville

For those of you that don't know me, I am one of 3 sisters. We always stand out when we are together because we each have different color hair - I'm the blond and the others are red-haired and brunette. I was born in Boston but raised in Florida where I met my husband, Anthony. We moved to Asheville a little over a year ago and opened Carolina Holistic Health. I enjoy being outside - running, cycling, playing soccer, spending time with my dogs, and hiking with my husband.

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