From his first breath, Dr. Donald Carrow
was unique, destined to be newsworthy. His birth in 1934,
announced in newspaper headlines, hailed his arrival - the first
baby born at Jacksonville Memorial Hospital’s brand spanking new
maternity ward .
When he died unexpectedly 69 years later,
thousands who knew him only as talk radio’s "medical maverick"
mourned his death as deeply as though they’d lost a family
member or close friend. Prominent among the mourners expressing
sadness and sympathy were countless numbers of patients eager to
voice their gratitude to a one-of-a-kind physician whose
pioneering treatments – based on out-of-the-box thinking and
rare wisdom - had saved their lives.
The on-air memorial service broadcast two days after his
death was a two-hour tribute to a physician always ahead of the
times, who followed an independent path regardless of the
personal cost and fought for what he believed to be right and in
the best interest of the patient, right to the end.
A detailed biography of Dr. Carrow’s adventures and
accomplishments in the years between birth and death would read
like a Robin Cook novel with truth-stranger-than-fiction
material suitable for a made-for-TV movie. His life story begins
like a classic soap opera: his dad deserted the family when he
was only ten, leaving Don, his older and younger brothers, to
fare as best they could under the care of a mother with scant
financial or emotional resources.
All three boys rebelled, as fatherless boys are wont to do,
and as they dropped out of school and became juvenile
delinquents, they were remanded to reform schools until each
reached age 18. None of the Carrow brothers progressed past 8th
grade in grammar school; none attended high school. With no
education and no family to fall back on, as each was turned
loose, he joined the Army.
Don’s military career took off when he became a boxer and
fought his way through the ranks to emerge as Heavy Weight Champ
of the 5th Army in Germany. The same year, 1956, he
was discharged from the military, and with no plans for the
future, funds available from the GI Bill of Rights inspired Don
to go back to school.
Despite never having taken even one high school course, he
applied to the University of Miami at Coral Springs, and was
admitted with the proviso he make up for the loss with remedial
classes. His first year, he got straight D’s; but then to his
surprise, he found he liked learning, buckled down, and earned
straight A’s for the rest of his academic career. Graduating
from the University of Miami with high honors as a chemistry
major, he was immediately hired by one of the nation’s largest
chemical firms. In the ensuing years, he further distinguished
himself by inventing many patentable compounds which enriched
his employer and enhanced Don’s reputation. One of Don’s patents
resulted in Johnson’s GloCoat; another was bought by the
Gillette Company and was the basis for the famous hair pomade
DippityDo which earned Gillette $17 million a year for 17
straight years. Don was rewarded with $50.00 for each of these
After eight years of over-achievement and under-compensation,
a frustrated Don Carrow decided he’d have a more rewarding
career as a doctor than a chemist, and so in 1964, he applied
for admission to medical school. As might be expected, few
institutions were interested in enrolling a 30-year-old high
school drop-out, but fortunately a personal recommendation from
the physician father of his lab partner at the chemical company
where he still worked, saved the day and resulted in an
interview with the head of admissions for the University of
Louisville Medical School. When Don arrived, the first question
he was asked was: "Why do you want to be a doctor?"
Carrow’s response shocked Dr. Smith, the admissions officer.
"I know what I’m supposed to tell you, "Don replied, "but
actually it’s because I think being a doctor is the only way
I’ll ever make a lot of money."
Dr. Smith leaned back in his chair and said: "Let me tell
you. I’ve interviewed 250 applicants to date, and you’re the
first to give me an honest answer. You’re accepted," and Don was
admitted as a medical student on the spot.
After graduation, Don completed an internship and residency,
specializing in anesthesiology in the surgery unit of the
cardiac division of the local hospital, overseeing 2,000
bypasses. His management skills were so outstanding, in 1978 he
was invited to supervise the opening of an anesthesiology
department for a new cardiac unit at a Largo, Florida hospital.
For the year he was there, the newly minted Doctor Carrow,
grew more and more disenchanted with the medical treatments
routinely practiced at the hospital. More often than not,
patients who entered the hospital for some relatively minor
elective surgery, ended up with a bypass procedure. The tactics
used to convince patients to agree to heart surgery,
characterized as ‘threat and intimidation’ by Dr. Carrow,
disgusted him. He was vocally critical of the way patients were
being rushed into unneeded surgical procedures, all to profit
Years later, Dr. Thomas Graboys of Harvard University
confirmed Dr. Carrow’s description of the unethical behavior
he’d witnessed, and publicly accused the bypass industry of
setting up ‘scripted teams’ designed to convince the innocent
into accepting bypasses based on dishonest, untruthful warnings.
One of the hospital administration’s recommended ways of
convincing reluctant patients into accepting heart surgery, was
to target the male patients’ wives, pointing to a spot on the
spouse’s heart x-ray, calling it the ‘widow-maker’.
While at the University of Louisville, Dr. Carrow grew
determined to do something to alleviate one of the most serious
results of botched surgical procedures. Patients kept on bypass
machinery for hours longer than adviseable, require long-term
respiratory support, and as a result, contract infections from
the machinery helping them breathe. The antibiotics needed to
counteract the infections cause further health problems.
Based on his chemical expertise, Dr. Carrow understood that
silver is a natural antibiotic, anti-viral element and so he
developed a silver filter for the respirator that would block
the pathogens. As predicted, with silver filters in place, no
patient on a respirator developed infections – there was a 100%
reduction in respiratory infections among patients recovering
from bypass. Hospital personnel were so impressed, they called
in the respirator manufacturer to witness and document the
research and results.
The hospital administrators expected an immediate endorsement
of the silver filters. Much to their chagrin -– and Dr. Carrow’s
outrage – the manufacturers explained that while the results
were obviously impressive and beneficial to patients, they could
not consider changing their equipment to include the silver
filter since contracts with pharmaceutical companies for
antibiotics would be endangered. The physicians who had backed
the work said nothing – just nodded in silence. Dr. Carrow
judged the non-response wicked beyond belief! How could health
practitioners walk away quietly from an agreed-upon improvement
in patient care? That was not his style – not then, not ever –
as many were to learn over the years.
In 1975, Dr. Carrow’s disapproval of hospital procedures
became a more personal issue. It all started when an attractive
young medical technician working for the hospital’s blood bank,
came to Dr. Carrow’s attention. "Where’s the good-looking gal
I’ve been hearing about," he was heard to ask one day when he
visited the lab.
"What a loudmouth boor," responded Deborah Ray, the lady
singled out, who at the time was dating a Carrow colleague named
Paul. As luck would have it, weeks later, Deborah was invited to
a party at Don Carrow’s apartment, and she attended expecting
Paul to be there. "He’s here," he reported, but "he’s with
another gal", Dr. Carrow chuckled. Instead of leaving in a huff
– her first instinct – she stayed, found Don interesting to be
with and agreed to date him.
Luckily for them, and hundreds of thousands of others, the
relationship stuck and matured – and held strong for the
subsequent 28 years. When Deborah suddenly fell seriously ill
with Crohn’s Disease in 1977, she was scheduled for an emergency
operation. Dr. Carrow, learning of the impending procedure,
rushed to her bedside where she was being prepped, and demanded
a second opinion, convinced the drastic surgery (a cholostomy)
was unnecessary. His unwelcome interference caused a noisy row,
but Dr. Carrow’s timely intervention prevailed, and "literally
saved my life," Deborah says now, remembering that day.
Surgery avoided, Dr. Carrow later introduced Deborah to a
new, more natural, health-promoting form of medicine. He
suggested a number of herbal and nutritional alternatives
designed to heal, gradually weaned her off the medications that
were causing toxic reactions, and coaxed her back to full
In a classic example of "no good deed shall go unpunished",
Dr. Carrow’s revolt against the hospital’s doctors, did not go
unnoticed despite the favorable result. His excellent on-the-job
performance and reputation in the field of anesthesia
notwithstanding, he was summarily dismissed from the local Largo
hospital. As a further retribution, the hospital ‘black-balled’
him as a disruptive influence, so that when he applied to other
institutions, they told him they could not hire him.
Thoroughly disgusted, Dr. Carrow decided to escape the
confines of the medical bureaucracy, and strike out on his own,
by opening a private, fee-for-service practice. In 1979, he
established the first holistic health facility in Tampa, Florida
– and immediately ran afoul of the medical establishment, when
the advertisement of his new office in the local papers offended
the Florida State Medical Board. And thus began a 19 year
conflict with the reigning authorities.
For the next twenty-four years with Deborah Ray at his side
as his right hand researcher and helper, the practice caught on
and grew. It was at this time that circumstances changed the
course of Dr. Carrow’s medical career and also had the spin-off
effect of benefitting hundreds of thousands of others. Dr.
Carrow, began suffering from angina and other cardiovascular
problems, and having witnessed the inadequacy of bypass surgery,
was eager to investigate non-invasive alternatives for himself.
He asked Deborah to look into a relatively unknown treatment:
chelation therapy. After she presented him with 40 articles
published in medical journals supporting chelation, Dr. Carrow
responded: "Not enough. Find me more." After she presented him
with 3,000 confirming studies from the International medical
literature, Dr. Carrow decided to investigate further by
visiting Dr. Ray Evers – the pioneer chelation physician – in
Dothan, Alabama. What he learned there convinced him to try
chelation therapy on himself, and then, satisfied with the
results, he was determined to add chelation therapy to
treatments offered at his new office. Coincidentally, Dr.
Carrow’s first receptionist told him of her experience with Dr.
Ray Evers. Like many he’d observed while on the hospital staff,
this young woman had entered a hospital for a simple
hysterectomy. But once she complained of a minor chest pain, the
bypass surgeons teamed up with their well-rehearsed routine.
They convinced her that a bypass operation was indicated using
phonied up diagnostics to support their case.
The procedure proved a disaster and the young woman suffered
almost total amnesia, mental confusion and incompetent to return
to work. Unwilling to accept this outcome for a valued employee,
Dr. Carrow proceeded to restore her to functional health with
the help of chelation therapy. The treatment series proved so
successful, he decided to make this non-surgical cardiovascular
treatment a cornerstone of his medical practice.
That was 1979 and for the next 18 years, despite there never
being a patient complaint lodged against him, the Florida State
Medical Board initiated 1700 malpractice charges against Dr.
Carrow, for offenses termed "departures from standard of care
practices." The majority of these accusations spotlighted his
chelation practice – complaints which ignored the fact that the
ground-breaking Rogers vs. Florida Board of Medicine case
adjudicated in Dr. Rogers’ favor in 1978 by the Florida Supreme
Court, established chelation as a legally allowed medical
practice for all time.
The remainder of the charges involved Carrow’s use of Vitamin
E, hair analysis, magnesium infusions and comparable medical
procedures unacceptable to his colleagues despite substantial
scientific support. To make matters worse, each time the Medical
Board instituted trumped-up charges, they sent copies to the
local papers, which printed the tales as though they were
substantiated complaints. As a result, the Carrow’s patient load
was periodically cut in half. For the 18 years these
unjustifiable attacks on Dr. Carrow went on, his legal expenses
averaged $13,000 a month! In the ensuing years the Carrows (Don
and Deborah Ray were married 4 years after they met) were forced
into bankruptcy twice because of these unending onslaughts.
Finally, in 1991, nationally-known nutritional guru Jeff
Bland, PhD voluntarily appeared before the Florida Hearing
Officer and presented an eight-hour testimony specifying the
scientific validity for every one of Dr. Carrow’s therapeutic
decisions. At the end of this impressive performance, the
Medical Board’s lawyer stood up, faced his clients and said:
"Gentlemen – you have no case here. You never did have a
supportable case. Drop these charges – NOW!"
Not until 1997 were all 1700 charges dropped. Dr. Carrow felt
vindicated and he and Deborah Ray celebrated a great moral
victory. There was no compensation however, for the years of
unwarranted persecution and the financial setbacks incurred.
"And Don was too proud to ever take a dime from anyone for
his legal defense," Deborah recalls. "It was just not his
style." What enabled them to survive was the radio show they
began in the Tampa market in 1982, which proved so popular, it
was nationally syndicated in 1991, eventually reaching listeners
in most major markets. To this day, it is the most influential
program of its type in the entire country.
The announcement of Dr. Carrow’s death on August 13th
brought forth a spontaneous outpouring of patient testimonials
from those who had listened – and heeded – his advice over the
many years. E-mail, letters, condolences, flowers, and other
evidence of long-time devotion to the Carrows flooded the office
within hours after news of his passing.
"I wouldn’t be alive today if it were not for Dr. Carrow,"
was the message related over and over again.
Another call-in reported, "He taught me to stand up to the
doctors and gave me the courage to do that. It’s really paid off
for me – makes them mad, but so what."
"He not only saved my dad’s life," reported another caller,
"he added six full years to his life - and they were healthy,
pain-free years. My dad enjoyed life to the very end – all
thanks to Dr. Carrow.
Even Dr. Carrow’s characteristic gruff ways endeared him to
listeners, as one recalled: "I called one day to recite a litany
of health problems – a literal laundry list of complaints. Dr.
Carrow listened without saying one word, and then when I
stopped, he asked, ‘You dead yet?’ – and when I laughed and said
‘No’, he said, ‘Well, then there’s hope we can do something for
you.’ And I got the message. He had no patience with complainers
– only for people seeking solutions and expecting to find them."
Countless callers mentioned Dr. Carrow’s repeated reminder
that all listeners down a liquid magnesium citrate drink each
day – to counteract the almost universal magnesium deficiency
rampant throughout the supposedly healthy population.
"We start every day with our magnesium drink and a toast to
Dr. Carrow," is the way one advocate put it. "We’re among the
lucky ones to become patients and will be patients forever."
The causes that Dr. Carrow defended for two-and-a-half
decades - scientific support for effective nutritional non-drug
methodologies – will continue despite his death. Deborah Ray,
his helpmate, wife and radio partner for the past 28 years, has
dedicated herself to keeping his message alive and is
maintaining both the medical facility so many depended upon and
the radio show that has influenced untold millions.
Heading the list of Carrow-triggered projects that will move
briskly forward is the newly announced drug-free nutrition-based
protocol for congestive heart failure, based on many of the
heart-health boosting strategies Dr. Carrow had advocated for
many years. Key ingredients of this therapeutic approach include
the magnesium citrate drink which had long been a Carrow
trademark and the Indian herb Arjuna, whose benefits he was one
of the first health professionals to recognize and ECP (Extrernal
Counter Pulsation) the non-interventional FDA-approved treatment
for increasing coronary artery circulation..
To insure the widespread adoption of this break-through
approach to an epidemic disease (congestive heart failure now
claims 5 million sufferers, and 600,000 new cases are diagnosed
annually) physicians nationwide are being recruited to join the
team of research-minded doctors willing to oversee the protocol
and document patient outcome results.
(Further details are available on the website at
"Don was not a politician," Deborah Ray reminds us. "He
always said, there were as many bad doctors in alternative
medicine as there are in orthodoxy and he had no patience with
uncaring profit-motivated physicians wherever they could be
found, even among colleagues. His latest crusade was to be
against uneducated chelation doctors attempting to cash in on a
therapy he helped popularize."
"We’ve got a bunch of jerks running around defrauding patients
and taking their money claiming to know something about
chelation," he complained, determined to educate people to
choose only legitimate physicians. That crusade will also
continue under Deborah Ray’s devoted guidance.
Now broadcasting three hours a day, six days a week in most
important national markets, The Deborah Ray Show (webcast at
HealthyTalkRadio.Com) is a powerful supporter of nutritional and
Thanks to Deborah Ray, the Medical Maverick’s legacy lives
on. A permanent memorial to Dr. Carrow and his many
contributions to holistic medicine is underway with a book
documenting his pioneering efforts scheduled to be published by
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