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Beloved chiropractor bids farewell to first and last Soo patient

Doctor's last decade of pain, sickness, and loss accompany what he describes as heavenly miracles and new beginnings

Dr. Richard Parissenti of Back to Health Chiropractic and Wellness Center saw the first and last of his patients, Denise Deford, on Thursday, Dec 1, 2022.

He walked into the office to find Deford calmly waiting, just as the day he opened in September of 2011. Except, the woman before him was nearly 50 pounds lighter, pain free, and no longer conjested. 

Parissenti’s eyes filled with tears. He stood in the open hallway overwhelmed by the memories each room contained. 

“I just realized it was the end of an era in my life,” Parissenti said. “The greatest and worst things happened to me during those ten years. There was a sign on the wall. It was one of the first things that I hung up here. Its words really hit home.”

The sign read: "What lies behind us & what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."

Parissenti reflected on the last decade, practicing chiropractic medicine in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Some walls echoed back memories he could only describe as miraculous. 

“There were a lot of instances where people got well, and I was like… ‘That wasn’t me,'” Parissenti said. “You just knew there was something else going on. That's when I realized, there was more to this than just me.”

He talked about elderly men and women stricken by pain with limited mobility. 

“I just do some treatments with them, and they start to get better,” said Parissenti. “The body does all the work. I just remove the interference.”

He referenced an 11-year-old girl bound to a walker. 

“They actually thought she had multiple sclerosis (MS) or Guillain-Barre syndrome,” said Parissenti. “They found out it might be a bulging disk. I treated the bulge in her disc. Within 48 hours, she no longer needed the walker.”

After about ten visits, the little girl enjoyed the mobility of any young child her age. 

“I am not the healer; God is the healer,” the doctor said. 

In just ten years, Paissenti lost both his parents and had a child of his own.

He also began sharing the physical pain of his patients.     

“I had bone spurs in my neck and back that had to be removed,” he said. “It was pressing on a nerve and creating pain down my leg when I laid down. Anytime I wanted to sleep, I couldn't.” 

Parissenti endured three years of constant throbbing pain. His health rapidly declined following surgery.

"I had no electrolytes in my body and was passing out," said Parissenti. "My heart almost stopped. I didn't go to the bathroom for almost a week. My body was filling with toxins. That was the only time in my life I really thought I was going to die."

Around 3 a.m. one morning, Parissenti was the weakest he had ever been. The room started spinning...

"My son woke up in the middle of the night, but I wasn't making any noises," he said. I thought I was gonna die when he showed up. He looked at me and said, 'Daddy, you okay?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Okay,' smiled, and went back to bed."

That was the moment Parissenti knew he would survive. After all, what would a son do without his father? 

"I got the electrolytes and salt in me, and started to come back," he said, adding one more thing worth fighting for.

Parissenti's patients meant a great deal to him. 

“This place kept me going,” he said. “It was always my motivation. Whenever I had someone in front of me, I didn't have to think about my problems. I focused on solving theirs, and that's what healed me.”

Parissenti remembered his arrival to the Saut in the winter of 2011. His car windows had been smashed out following an airport break-in. 

“They took out my stereo,” Parissenti said. “I had no no panel in the front, just wires.” 

Although the ride was frigid and cold, spirited “Yoopers” like Deford soon warmed Parissent's heart.   

“I came to terms that it was time and walked back into the room,” he said. “I just had the feeling of gratitude and started treating her.”

The past ten years have gone by way too fast for Deford, also thinking back to that very first visit. It was one she was most unsure about.

“On the first appointment, the shocker came when he told me what it was going to cost to fix everything,” Deford said. “I told him I had to think about it, since I lived on a fixed income.”

Parissenti provided a somewhat similar account, stating, “When she first walked in, I said, ‘It's going to take one month for me to fix your neck.’ I told her how much it was going to cost. She goes, ‘See ya, I'm not coming in for a month.’ She came back a week later with the money. ‘Do it,’ she said. I said, ‘Alright, let's do it.”

Deford’s neck pain improved within one month, as Parissenti had promised. 

“I had been in a car accident about 10 years prior,” Deford said. “When I started here, I couldn't turn my neck or look over my shoulders. I couldn't turn my head all the way to look behind me. Now, I have full movement.” 

Deford also suffered from chronic sinus issues, causing an infection every winter. 

“I kept telling her, we can fix that,” Parissenti said, unveiling a specialized detox. “She goes, ‘No, you can’t.’ I go, ‘I'm telling you, I can, and you won't need meds.'”

Four years slowly passed by before Deford agreed to the doctor’s regiment. 

"I said, ‘By the way, you will lose about 12 pounds while doing this,” explained Parissenti. “She goes, ‘Okay, let's do it.’ She got better within one month. She didn't have any sinus issues that winter, the winter after, and the winter after that.”

Sure enough, Deford dropped few pounds. 

“He went over things to eat and not eat,” said Deford. “He told me what to stay away from during the body cleanse. I have just stuck with that.”

Deford started her weightloss journey on Jan. 13, 2020.

“I am down 46 pounds,” she said. “You learn to eat clean: lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and lots of water.” 

Deford was also sure to take the prescribed vitamin packs and drink healthy protein shakes.

“After that, I just started exercising,” Deford said, energetic and mobile as ever. “I don't want him to leave because I don't know who I'm going to see. He has me off medication.”

Former Chiropractic Assistant Gabriela Behling was also forever changed over her time working with Parissenti. 

“I was a patient,” she said. “I worked for Kmart for 38 years and retired. He pulled me out of retirement. Nobody does what he does. He has machines that no one else around here has. I was just on a plan where I lost 65 pounds. He took care of my sinus and migraines. He always keeps up with his education to know the latest and greatest.” 

The time has come for Parissenti to take that knowledge to Florida, where he will embark on a whole new journey with his son by his side.   

“I am buying a practice,” he said. “It will be called the same thing, Back to Health Chiropractic and Wellness Center. I'm taking the same sign. I'm just putting it up on the other side of I-75.”

As for the Sault, Parissenti said the people living in it made a decade of ups and downs well worth it. 

“I am grateful they chose me to work with, and I'll never forget them,” he said of his many patients. “As my son gets older, I'm going to reflect on my favorite times with him growing up. I'll always think of Sault Ste. Marie, and it will put a big smile on my face.”

Parissanti was raised in Canada. Eventually, he crossed the boarder and pursued American citizanship.

"I am American in here," he said, patting his heart.

Parissenti went on to graduate from Logan College of Chiropractic in 2000. His son was born in Wisconsin in 2016.

The remainder will go down in Sault Ste. Marie history when Parissanti heads south to live in a location that better support his political views – “The United States of Florida.”