Your journey begins with the number 56. Tell us about it.

As long as I can remember, football has been a constant. Even before 56 became my epithet, I was a rising athlete. My athletic resume is teemed with titles like Captain, All Star, Player of the Year … as early as high school I believed I was on an NFL trajectory. Just prior to college graduation my dream was realized, I signed to the Buffalo Bills. I couldn’t have drafted a better narrative if I tried. Unfortunately, it was a short-­‐lived. Within a year I’d blown out my knee and despite months of grueling physical therapy, doctors confirmed exactly what I feared the most—that my knee would never be the same. As quickly as it had risen, my star plunged. Describe life after football. I was lost. Angry. No matter how hard I trained to get back in to the NFL, my knee just wouldn’t cooperate. It was the first time in my life that my body refused to do what I commanded. No amount of hard work and perseverance would cut it. It was over. Without football, I was missing purpose. I desperately needed to recalibrate, I just didn’t know how. What happened next? Fitness, strength, and conditioning had always been a staple in my life, so I leaned upon it. Driven by a renewed curiosity of the human body, I enrolled in a Master’s program in physical education. Then, just as I was becoming adjusted to a life without football, life dealt another blow—my mother succumbed to breast cancer. How did you cope with such a significant loss? I don’t know that there are any words to describe how it felt. Or how it still feels. It’s cliché to say your mom is your best friend, but she truly was. She was my rock, my confidante, my cheerleader—my very first coach. Before she passed, she revealed that despite my facade, she could tell I wasn’t in a good place. She reminded me that good enough had never been good enough for her youngest son and that settling had never been my way. “Pitit mwen, mwen konnen ou. Genyen yon bagay w ap chèche. Epi ou bezwen ale jwenn li”, she said to me in her native tongue of Creole. Essentially, she was telling me that there was something I was seeking that I had yet to find. And that I needed to go find it.

A mother always knows, doesn’t she?

Definitely. My mother cast a bright light on what I’d been trying to conceal. That I was out of alignment—existing, but not living. On a subconscious level, I knew there was something else I was supposed to be doing. The question was what. After that pivotal talk with my mother, it became clear. Take us on that journey. After she died, I packed up and moved to Florida. In Miami I taught at a community college, worked out religiously, and embraced yoga. Yoga taught me how to calm my mind and relax. This new sense of calm provided me the mental space I needed to navigate the next chapter of my life—medical school. You’d been out of school for years. Was it scary starting medical school at this stage of your life? Hell yeah! Before I could even meet the requirements necessary to apply to medical school I needed to take basic science classes. There I was, a 34 year old in a classroom of freshman at Florida International University. It was humbling and I had countless moments of doubt. At 38, I began medical school on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis. Those first two years, away from my support system, were the hardest. But if there’s one thing football has taught me it’s that when the pain (physical or mental) gets intense, you have to dig your heels in and push harder. That resilience is what carried me through to graduation.

Wow. This already sounds like quite the comeback story, but there’s obviously more.

It definitely doesn’t end there. I’ve been blessed to experience internships and residencies at some of the most prestigious and reputable healthcare systems in the country. I transplanted organs, resuscitated patients, and saved lives. Things I never imagined would become a part of my day-­‐to-­‐day, but what I really learned from those experiences was so very much greater. I found that thing I’d been searching for some thirteen years prior, the thing my mom knew I had been seeking—my purpose.

And what is that? Your purpose.

To heal people who are in pain. But not along the traditional linear path I’ve been on. Rather by using holistic alternative methods, such as CBD. While I was in medical school I acquired an injury that required surgery. The subsequent pain was unbearable. My new normal became a life riddled with headaches, body aches, and insomnia. As a medical professional I was well aware of the side effects of prolonged usage of pain relievers and I knew there had to be another way. One day, a loved one suggested I smoke marijuana to feel better. Even in college, when marijuana was an undergrad’s drug of choice, I rarely touched it; my athletic career was too valuable. However at this point in my life, I was desperate for relief so grudgingly I tried it. Almost instantly, everything changed. Medical research supported what my body confirmed, that Cannabis could provide sustainable relief from pain and anxiety.

What exactly does research say about Cannabis?

There’s a stigma attached to the use of Cannabis. Only recently are its health benefits receiving their due acknowledgment. Research indicates that Cannabis has been successfully used to treat the side effects of chemotherapy, neuropathic pain, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer … the list goes on and on. Embedded within my company’s mission is education. We’re here to provide patients with all of the info they need to make informed decisions about their path to wellness.

What do you say to critics of alternative medicine and holistic healing?

Lack of understanding lends to criticism. Marijuana is misunderstood, and therefore criticized. If you look at history, you’ll learn that many of the ‘wonder drugs’ of modern medicine derive from plants. Aspirin comes from willow bark. Opioids come from opium poppy. Quinine, used to treat malaria, is extracted from the bark of Cinchona trees. These are facts. How can one argue against history? Again, there’s simply a lack of education at play and Dr Damas Wellness exists to facilitate that education and provide services that enable patients to reach a state of well-­‐being.

It sounds as if nearly everyone can benefit from treatment at Dr Damas Wellness.

Without a doubt. Our services address the wellness needs of a wide spectrum of people. Our patients run the gamut from parents of autistic children to cancer patients. Then there’s what I refer to as the Hervé prototype, the middle-­‐aged man suffering with chronic body pains—the guy who has tried everything without sustainable results. There’s also that woman in her thirties, who is overwhelmed by the stresses of life be it her job, children, caring for elderly parents, or all of the above. My patients come from different walks of life, but what they all have in common is the desire to be healed. And now I know that’s my purpose—to provide healing.

Credit: Zoe Mcknight

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