Laura Madden's Blog

Stories of change

Lafayette Avenue Community Acupuncture

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I used to get migraines- splitting headaches exacerbated by looking at anything, listening to anything or smelling anything. I missed days of work on end, stuck in bed with a throbbing headache that would make me puke. That all changed when I started seeing an acupuncturist last spring.

In 2007, I had been telling my friend, Hope, then a student at the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences, about my headaches. She asked me if I’d like some seeds for my ears.


“Seeds that I press into certain parts of your ear. Each part of your ear represents a different part of your body,” she explained.

“Well, what part of the ear represents my head?”

Months later, Hope excitedly told me the news: upon graduation from the Swedish Institute, she and her peer, JoseLo, would open a community acupuncture clinic. The best part: it was at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, a 5 minute walk from my place in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

LAPC was founded by militant abolitionist Theodore Ledyard Cuyler in 1857, who pressed president Abraham Lincoln relentlessly on the emancipation of slaves in the south. Under the direction of a different pastor, the Presbyterian church was later opened in Korea. In the early 1970s, to reflect its multiracial, multicultural community, the church commissioned a mural for its upper balcony by a young Pratt Institute artist, Hank Prussing. LAPC continues to grow as an inner-city church with a strong gospel foundation; outstanding music (including the best choirs in the city); a full menu of education programs and social service projects; and a high profile in the community. Many of its members, feeling alienated by more traditional church models, have “discovered” LAPC after attending a show or course.

Walking through the church offices to the clinic is like an enviro-warp: noisy construction and the rainy weather outside are soothed by the scent of incense and the sounds of Buddhist meditations. Sitting down at a table to fill out a comprehensive medical history chart, memories from childhood flooded back about my health- why, yes I did have bloody noses as a kid, those veins had been cauterized… Why yes, I had suffered trauma- I’d had a car accident in which my face hit the steering wheel… Why yes, actually my job is pretty stressful managing a team of six assistant editors, a coordinator, and 12 edit rooms all with different deadlines. No wonder I have headaches….

Two needles on either side of my temple, a couple in each wrist, and a few in each leg later, I was sailing. I couldn’t move for, like, half an hour. Any time I thought about work, I clenched my jaw, which hurt at the points where the needles were sticking out of my temple. The lesson was not lost on me: don’t think about work when you’re not there. I went back the following Tuesday, and every Tuesday for the next couple months. My headaches aren’t completely gone, but I am way better able to manage them.

Appointments are walk-in only on Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am and 3pm- soon they’ll be open Saturdays, too. Two board-certified graduates of the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences run the place — one currently on paternity leave — and they charge their rates on a sliding scale between $10-$50 per visit.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11217
Ph: (718) 625-7515


Written by Laura Madden

May 9, 2010 at 10:22 pm

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