By Gloria Young
Journal Staff Writer, Auburn Journal Tuesday August 24, 2010

When spinal meningitis struck Brian Larsen as a toddler, doctors told his family it would be a miracle if he lived through it. “I had a fever of 109 (degrees),” Larsen said Monday. “Four others also contracted it and they passed away because of a vaccine in the hospital.” Larsen made it through the illness but it left him totally blind. As part of the recovery process, his doctor suggested he visit a chiropractor. So Larsen’s father drove his then 18-month-old son to appointments three times a week for two years. “The second year that I was adjusted, my vision started to return through the (chiropractic) manipulation,” he said. “I’m alive through the grace of God and chiropractic care.” Larsen gradually gained back 50 percent of his lost eyesight and his experience with chiropractic care made a strong impression. “I decided at a very young age to become a chiropractor,” he said. Larsen, who grew up in Oroville, went on to Chico State University, studied chiropractic care at Palmer College and established a practice in Roseville.

Now he’s taking over the office of Dr. Thomas Kusel in Auburn. Kusel, who is retiring after practicing in Auburn for 25 years, handpicked Larsen as his successor. “There has to be a compatibility between doctors when you’re handing over patients because you’ve established a long relationship with them and their families,” Kusel said. “I really felt a responsibility to find someone to fill my shoes or exceed my shoes. With Larsen, I feel really comfortable that I’ve done that.” For Larsen, the rapport with Kusel was a deciding factor in joining the business. “I’d been looking around at several practices in Southern California and the Bay Area, and I always prayed and tried to be led to where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I always wanted an amazing mentor so that when I took over their practice, I’d be comfortable with them ethically. When I met Tom, I knew immediately he was amazing and truly loves his patients and his profession.”

As the result of his sight impairment, Larsen’s sense of hearing and sense of touch have become more acute, he said. “It has caused me to be a great listener and to listen to patients and understand what they’re going through and relate to them,” he explained. Larsen’s chiropractic skills are also impressive, according to Kusel. “I had him give me a treatment,” Kusel said. “I immediately realized this guy has a gifted capacity to find and correct the stuff going on in my back. It was a immediate recognition of his skills.” Kusel built in a four-month overlap with Larsen and will leave the office in mid-October. He and his wife, Sue, plan to move to Costa Rica. Sue Kusel, who retired from Kaiser in 2009 after more than 30 years in nursing, was one of the founders of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce’s Black & White Ball. “She proposed the idea to (chamber CEO) Bruce Cosgrove and he embraced it,” Kusel said. “She’s very involved in the community so it will be hard for both of us (to leave Auburn).” Larsen’s wife, Sandy, is a medical social worker and they have a daughter.

Both doctors use the diversified chiropractic technique and Larsen doesn’t plan to make any changes to the business, he said. “From headaches to low back pain and knee pain, (we treat) all conditions stemming from the spine and extremity pain from the knee ankle and shoulder,” he said. “We adjust whatever joint is being afflicted at the time.” His first few weeks in the Auburn office have been very positive. “The patients have been embracing and just wonderful,” he said. One of those patients is Meadow Vista resident Ann Rowland, who has been visiting Kusel’s clinic for about 10 years. “Dr. Tom sent out a letter to the clients saying he was retiring and had found the right person to take over the practice,” she said. “I’m happy to have met (Larsen) and I think he’ll be wonderful. … Some things I’d been experiencing he named and addressed and I was very impressed by that.” At the same time, she’ll miss Kusel. “He’s become kind of a friend,” she said. “I see him and his wife around town quite frequently. He’s been a great person to know and a great chiropractor.”