Gregg Kirk [ Photo by Marc Clery]
Life wasn’t supposed to turn down this road for Gregg Kirk in 2003. He was uber-healthy, enjoyed the great outdoors, was 2 years into his marriage, had a well-paying web job at Pitney-Bowes, wrote music part-time in his home studio, loved to brew beer and smoke an occasional cigar. He meditated daily, was a Reiki master who led a settled down life after hectically running a monthly magazine called Big Shout out of Philadelphia for a spell. He was the poster boy for good health all his life, until one day he had weird symptoms, such as every time he ate, he had to lie down for a few hours, exhausted. Symptoms became worse. Massive headaches, nausea, almost a debilitating paralysis after eating, more havoc ensued…
At first he was told he had Leaky Gut Syndrome. Then something else and something else and so it went. Most medical people were clueless early on and even harsh in their assessment of his condition. He consulted a battery of drs over the years, faith healers, anyone and every angle he could muster up, from sound healers who applied musical science to his dilemma to con men who make money off the afflicted. I assure you, there are many snake oil salesmen out there preying on the sick, and Gregg ran into his share of them. At every angle, he hit a wall. Then he got even more sick. There were days on end when he lived in a fog. He couldn’t eat most of the food he loved, had to avoid all fruits, beer, and the normal diet he spent the previous decades in his life eating. He would pass out at business meetings, track in the recording studio for 30 minutes and then pass out for 3 hours, and there were times when he had no energy to move off a couch. He eventually ate fistfuls of pills daily. One time I recall he had to first swallow 17 pills before we could go out to eat a late lunch. It got to be so mentally confusing at the worse moments, and so depressing, he believed he was going to die and asked God to relieve him of this burden of suffering. So thoughts of suicide certainly were not far off, a common effect of the depression and helplessness of Lyme Disease sufferers. He was ready to go. I remember our conversations from those dark days. It was a helpless feeling watching one of your best mates fall into a deep mental funk from a tick bite. I couldn’t grasp his sickness and the multitude of ways it afflicted him. Who could? One could make note of the various effects and string them together to have a general idea, but you’d have to be there in that same boat to grasp the hopelessness and clutching of straws. Ticks are found in all states of the continental USA. And Connecticut has plenty of them. Lyme, Ct, was the epicenter for a cluster outbreak of people having a set pattern of symptoms that would later be identified as Lyme Disease.
Meanwhile, more tests over a multi- year period confirmed that he suffered from misdiagnosed, advanced Lyme Disease and the co-infections that are associated with this horrible affliction. For into a decade he fought this disease and somehow kept his family in tact, kept his job [and even climbed up thru the ranks ], recorded 2 full CDs with our then band The Figurados, stumbled thru some live gigs[ barely] and became a doting father. He did these accomplishments while he was half there, a miracle in itself. But he knew he was really sick, and could see how Lyme was distorting his clear internal vision and sense of living life to the fullest. He was poked with needles relentlessly, took tons of antibiotics, endured bad medical PICC line approaches, tried herbal healing, sound healers, and just about anything under the realm of “Alternative” that one can muster up. You do those sorts of things when you are dying. You have this thing called Hope.
One day, he stumbled across a Oprah Winfrey show featuring a faith healer of note in a small town in Brazil. He looked into it more and decided to go visit John of God in Abadiania, Brazil, and went thru the rigid protocols in place to make sure he was going to have some level of success. He believed this would work. And for Gregg, it did.
Here is the event in a nutshell in his own words;
I’m a musician, and one night during a performance I almost passed out on stage for no apparent reason, and I instinctively felt the need to get off of all antibiotics. I discovered another doctor in Manhattan who prescribed a combination of herbs instead of synthetic meds. After starting his protocol, I experienced stronger herx reactions than I had with the PICC line and he recommended I scale back my dosage until I felt better.
I remained on this protocol for a few years but felt my quality of life was only a fraction of where I wanted it to be. I continued to do research online and during my travels I stumbled upon a video episode of Oprah Winfrey’s, featuring a healer from Brazil named John of God.
Something about this episode appealed to me. The fact that thousands of people traveled to meet this man who healed them through energy, love, and faith, and trained doctors who had been sent to debunk him couldn’t. In fact, many of them had spiritual experiences that showed on their faces. I was intrigued enough to book the 10-hour plane flight and take the pilgrimage.
On the day I arrived, two counselors sat down with me to find out why I had made the journey and to translate my healing intention to John of God, who only speaks Portuguese. When I told them I was there to be healed from Lyme disease, they looked up from their notes and said, “and what else?”
I laughed, “Do I get three wishes?” to which one of them asked, “Why stop at three?” I could see they were serious, so I told them I’m a musician and I would like to heal people with the music I write and perform.
Always a spiritual person, it made such an impact on him that he decided to devote his life to fighting what nearly laid him low. All subsequent music he wrote would come from this healing process, and he is now working on tracks for his 3rd Zen Engines record. But that’s the small part of all this. Kirk has always been a doer and thinker. He was deeply moved by others suffering this disease at its worst and who ended their lives when they had no hope, no finances, no medical coverage. Kirk knew he was lucky he had a great employer in Pitney-Bowes, with good insurance, but others didn’t so he decided to start a non-profit organization called Ticked Off Foundation to start to help people out in their sufferings from Lyme. Now that Lyme is showing up in all states of the continental US, never has the moment been better for this charitable organization to flourish in its mission of mercy. Every state needs a Lyme Disease plan. We were bandmates thru this entire eventful ordeal from late 2001 until December 31st, 2010. It birthed several solid records, the latter,”Lesson Two”, included some of what Gregg was going thru, lyrically speaking. Along part of the spiritual journey we have shared – since 1977 we have been friends and co-writers – we both wound up taking musical roads less travelled afterwards. What’s amazing is there has always been a Calling to Gregg, and he heeded the Calling requested of him in a spiritual manner to help other people in dire need. The path he walked on led him to the place where he is now. He’s known humility and suffering up close and personal. It reflects in his daily routine. He’s humble. Grateful. And giving back. It’s a great story about how one man can make a difference. And how you can, too, no matter what illness strikes you or those you care about.
Custodire boni operas, indeed
Today, 14 years after this fork in his road occurred, he is cured, looks great, thinks clear, and is a beacon of information about how to fight back against Lyme Disease. Because the leading killer of Lyme Disease victims is suicide, and knowing how bad off he was at his worst moments and how that type of physical and mental stress can cloud a person’s mind up with irrational thoughts, he started Ticked Off Foundation to prevent suicides in Lyme victims via a series of musical concerts and motivational speaking in various parts of the country, bringing an awareness, hope, and help to those knocked down and suffering from the ravages of this disease. He has a number of regulars in his posse, with growing numbers, as he continues his crusade against Lyme. Ticked Off just did a concert in Hawaii this winter that did well, received good media exposure and more are planned in the future. Kirk has won this battle on so many fronts, it’s hard not to cheer the guy on. You can donate to the cause, and be a part of something that might make a difference in someone’s life.