Archive for tag: volunteer

Mission in Nicaragua

Nights in Nicaragua were dark. It wasn't just because electricity was on short supply, although that was true. Nights were serious, reflective, and quiet...because days were bright, hot, and characterized by exhausting work in the clinic. During our 10-day program at NDI's integrative medical clinic in Nicaragua, we volunteers maxed and relaxed as we bounced along at the whim of the country, its people, and its water shortage.

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"Are you coming back next year?" is a question that I heard my own voice and those of others asking from Day 1. Because of the earthquakes, the water shortage, the power loss, and the run-of-the-mill "getting to know you" period with the new doctor, many of the responding voices said, "No." By day 10, there was a noticeable shift towards "YES." How did Nicaragua dig into our hearts and pull us towards the Yes end of the spectrum in just a few days?

2014-05-13_nic4Fellow NUHS AOM students Irene Walters, Yvonne Gonzales, and Melissa Espinoza, and our invaluable ND student, Kaley Burns, committed to helping a very poor and very remote community on the island of Ometepe during our trimester break. What we discovered there was how deserving and appreciative the people of Los Angeles, Moyo, Altagracia, and many other nearby towns are of the natural medicine clinic that serves their needs.

Some days went by quickly, as dozens of people were called up from their backyard waiting room chairs, where they had sat patiently for several hours, only to be rewarded with a tincture, a needling session, and a massage as applicable for each condition. Other days seemed to drag on forever as we sat waiting between patients in the stifling 99 degree heat in a 3-room clinic. Either way, we made it back to our homestay families each evening for a hot meal and a cold shower.

Nicaragua leaves me with so many take-aways that each year I've been hard pressed to name the most important thing I learn on this trip. The value of integrative medicine? The versatility of botanicals? The severe need and appreciation of the people on Ometepe? The feeling of being so sure that I am on the right path? Um, all of the above!

The nightly discussions at the Rancho after long workdays, hot dinners, and cold showers provided the missing information that I've been seeking for years. Why are these people unable to receive adequate care in their own country on their own accord? Why do Americans feel a need to travel to Central America and assist? Learning about the history of Nicaragua and its relations with the U.S. is not just enlightening for the volunteers, but it also helps us understand the role that America and other first-world nations have played in pushing Nicaragua to its current state of affairs today. Why do we go there to help? Well, because we were part of the problem in the first place.

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Nights in Nicaragua were dark for a reason. Yes, as everyone pointed out on Facebook, we had access to the Internet...for about 20 minutes per day, at one location, if it even worked at all. The nightly Internet access was a small part of our experience, dwarfed by the gravity of our work during the day. Nightly classes and discussions in the Rancho--our open-air meeting place in town--allowed each weary volunteer to start processing what we did that day in a meaningful way. With each huge, scary gust of end-of-the-dry-season wind, we grabbed at our flying papers and felt the country penetrate further and further into our hearts and minds.

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Will I go back to the NDI clinic on Ometepe island? Yep. I want to see how many of those malnourished children used the toothbrushes that I handed them. I want to see how many of the little kids with a parasite felt better and started eating again. I want to see the woman whose blood sugar was over 400 report that the Berberine was helping manage her diabetes better than the Metformin was(n't). I was relieved that we didn't see any brink-of-death premature babies this year, but there were still many, many people who needed our help. I'll be back. And I hope that next year YOU come with me!

One of Those Kinds of Posts

Ok, I'll do one--one of those kinds of posts. I usually think it's more interesting and relevant to share information about some topic of concern or awe to those of us in alternative medicine, but this time I'm just going to do what the original intention of this AOM blog probably was. I'm going to share what it's like to be an acupuncture student fighting her way towards the end of the trimester.

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Now, I'm not fighting because I'm bored, confused, or frustrated with my classes. On the contrary, I enjoy the nights I get to drive in a car by myself and sit quietly for 4-5 hours learning about something I love. It's the most relaxing part of the day. Hey, I have active young children, a messy husband, and a sometimes too-demanding teaching schedule to juggle all day. Give me a graduate night class any day of the week!

No, I'm not fighting in a bad way. I'm excited to reach the end of this trimester because the day after it ends, I'm getting on the airplane for Nicaragua. Two weeks in Central America is just what the doctor ordered for this stressed out, over-committed student. I'd love to say I'm a good flier, but that wouldn't be true. With that missing Malaysian plane, I'm going to be grinding ear seeds into my PC6 points until they're bleeding. Awesomely inopportune time for that mysterious tragedy. Not to be insensitive, but I barely make it through my flights as it is. Rescue remedy? Yep, I'll be using that heavily.

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The past several months have been leading up to this medical mission trip, and soon I know it will be here, then already--sadly--behind me. Since last year's trip, I haven't been able to get that clinic off my mind--not that I want to! NDI's integrative healthcare clinic serves so many appreciative and needy people, and it's the only medical setting I've ever experienced where providers of several medical fields all circle around and get to take a crack at each patient who walks in the door. I know that when I start my first shift, a middle-aged Nicaraguan farmer will come into the clinic with the chief complaint of back pain. If I used a machete all day, I'd develop back pain, too. Instead of that patient being confined to the limits of one provider's medicine, this patient will reap the benefits of the naturopath, the chiropractor, the acupuncturist, the psychologist, and the massage therapist on staff at the same time. He might get an adjustment, soft tissue work, some needles, and even a tincture for the road. I can't get that sweet deal anywhere in the United States, that's for sure. Did I mention it's free? Sign...me...up.

This is the future of medicine, people.This is it. Integrative medicine is the way. True, I have to get on an airplane to immerse myself in it at this point, but I promise you one thing--I'll bring it back.