publication June 2008; reprint from our January 2004 magazine
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
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 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 and 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 brother 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 Heavyweight 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 Ds, but then to his surprise, he found he
liked learning, buckled down, and earned straight As 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 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 that, 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 became 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 advisable 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
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," Don reported, but "he's with another
gal." 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 health.
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, 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 24 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 benefiting 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
own 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 phony
diagnostics to support their case. The procedure proved a disaster,
and the young woman suffered almost total amnesia, developed mental
confusion, and felt 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
That was 1979 and for the next 18 years, despite the lack of a single
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 that 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,
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 four 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
"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
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 use External Counter Pulsation (ECP), the non-interventional
FDA-approved treatment for increasing coronary artery circulation.
To insure the widespread adoption of this breakthrough approach
to an epidemic disease (congestive heart failure now claims five
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 HealthSavers.Info)
"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 would complain, 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
is a powerful supporter of nutritional and natural medicine. 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 mid-2004.