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Return to Nepal

This would be my 6th trip to Nepal, but my first time experiencing it during monsoon.  The valley was bone dry when I last left and after 7.5 months without rain everything was covered in a heavy layer of dust. Today, the valley is a sea of green and mud from months of monsoon.  When it rains, it’s as though a wall of water is falling for hours at a time. But the air is clean, the temperature and humidity much more manageable than the 90+ degrees in Kathmandu with humidity trapping in the pollution.

It feels like a homecoming for me, I am very excited to see my “Nepal family”; ARP staff, friends, Monks, patients, and even the dogs.  I am greeted by big smiles, prayer hands, blessings, wagging tails, chai tea, and an excited monk running into me around a corner when he hears of my arrival.

I look out the window and I see my “favorite stroke patient”, Mr. Thapa. He is the 43 year old Nepali police officer who suffered a severe stroke over 10 years ago. We have reported on his case and development over the last 3 years.  Today he is 30 minutes early and waiting for the clinic to open, squatting on his heels in the alley. This is a new range of motion I have not seen from him before. He is excited to show me a lot of other new ranges of motion he has gained through his acupuncture treatments. He puts both his right arm and leg through almost noodle -like dance motions, he is thrilled with the treatments, the level of care, and his improvement. At this point he comes to work on his speech and excess saliva.  Anne Frances will work with him 3 times a week for the next month focusing mainly on scalp acupuncture. 2 weeks later his speech is clear, the saliva level is no longer an issue and suddenly he is speaking English! He has always used some English words and fragmented sentences but he is now conversational.  It’s hard for everyone in the room to contain their joy, excitement and laughter.  Before the stroke, Mr. Thapa spoke multiple languages (Nepali, Nawari, Hindi, and English).  Immediately after the stroke it was only Hindi which remained, interestingly not his first language. So the question that now comes to mind; does he now feel confident enough with the decreased saliva level to speak more English? Or did the scalp treatment awaken a part of his brain that has been asleep for years?

One day after Mr. Thapa's speech improvement, I saw an article published in the Kathmandu Times that reported a study in Korea and Germany has found that Acupuncture is not effective in helping with post stroke rehabilitation.  I literally laughed out loud.

ARP and the Vajra Varahi Clinic continue to be a welcome part of the Chapagaon community. We treat multiple patients from the same and extended families as word spreads of the level of care and the results from acupuncture and herbs. Some patients still hike multiple hours each way, out of the hills for treatment.  This year I met a family who had rented a room in the village so the husband could receive treatment for his stroke multiple times a week. We also had an opportunity to perform a house call on an older woman who had just experienced a stroke only 6 days earlier. This is a rare opportunity for ARP as most of our stroke patients suffered from their episode years earlier.  Treating the patient on the floor, both Anne Frances and I began to work. When we finally looked up from our patient we were surrounded by her friends and family of all generations, a monk, and our taxi driver all whom were sitting cross legged and praying for her.  It was an amazing lesson in the power of group healing and prayer.

Years ago I had the privilege of studying under an acupuncturist who referred to all his patients as his teacher. Each patient gave him the unique opportunity to learn something new about not only the individual in his office, but also the medicine and himself all from the perspective of his patient/ teacher. I have tried to keep this in mind during both my travels and treatments. My greatest teacher on this trip has been a 68yr old man with Parkinson’s. He has taken all the pharmaceuticals for his condition and after years the medication is no longer effective. His shaking is uncontrollable, but he has learned that by keeping beetle nut in his mouth his speech is not a problem.  He looked at me one day during treatment and asked if this condition was something that he had caught from someone and was worried that he might pass it along. He said that people avoid him on the bus and out in the village, some fearful that he has been bitten by a demon, causing his shaking. It was eye-opening to me; I see a man with Parkinson’s but to most in Nepal this condition is a mystery that holds quite a stigma as a result of lack of understanding.  Even with all the difficulties that Parkinson has presented to his life, his real fear was about passing it along to a stranger. I am very grateful for the new perspective my teacher has given to me.

I would like to thank all those who have and continue to help support our project. It is a blessing to be of service to the wonderful people of Nepal. 

– Namaste, Leith Nippes

Admin note: Leith Nippes is a co-founder of the Acupuncture Relief Project and serves on the Board of Directors. Without Leith's endless energy, enthusiasm and dedication to inspiring our community of acupuncture practitioners all over the world... this project would not be possible.

Project Prepares for 2010 Nepal Clinic

I am tremendously proud to announce that eight volunteer practitioners have been selected for the Acupuncture Relief Project's 2010 Nepal clinic. Our volunteers will be working at the Vajra Varahi Healthcare Clinic in Chapagaon Nepal from September 18th 2010 to March 1st 2011, providing over 300 treatment days of medical support to the people of this region. Our team aspires to offer nearly 6000 acupuncture and herbal treatments over this time period.

Nepal's fragile government continues to struggle to maintain control resulting in wide-spread episodes of violence, corruption and economic devastation. We feel strongly that our efforts are beneficial in providing a fundamental human-right of basic health care to a region that is completely without government services. In addition our practitioners will get first hand experience providing primary care in a third world environment. This unique experience helps them build the skills and confidence it takes to provide exemplary and effective care in their own community practices.

Please consider making a cash donation in support of our gifted and generous volunteers.

$10.00  — Provides for 10 people to be treated in our clinic
$20.00  —  Pays a local interpreter for one week
$50.00  —  Supports one practitioner for one clinic day
$100.00  —  Pays for our team's clinic supplies for one day

Think for a moment about how much impact we can have when we can treat up to 120 people for as little as $100.

Donating is easy: Click here to make a tax deductible donation via our website or send a check to Acupuncture Relief Project, 3712 NE 40th Ave., Vancouver WA 98661.

I sincerely thank you for your continued interest and support.

Andrew Schlabach
President, Acupuncture Relief Project

Emilie Salomons Project Recap

I arrived in Chapagaon, Nepal with two large bags overflowing with medical supplies. Appointed as the sole available doctor for the monsoon season in the ongoing rotation of health care practitioners organized by the Acupuncture Relief Project, which provides services at the Vajra Varahi Health Centre.

The Vajra Varahi Health Center has been open for two years now and offers a myriad of health services. These services are available for an optional 5 rupee donation (equivalent to around 7 cents), which allows the clinic to accept everyone and anyone who walks through its doors.

After hundreds of treatments I have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the conditions the people of Nepal live with on a daily basis without consistent medical care and supervision. Although there are hospitals and basic primary care options available, in many cases not only is it too far to travel, but the cost of services deter many from seeking the assistance they so desperately need and deserve.

I recall at one point begging an older gentleman to go to the hospital to seek treatment for what appeared to be the early stage of a second stroke. He was reluctant because not only were the treatment and diagnosis costs far out of his financial range, but the expense of the journey to the hospital alone, was too much for him. This scenario is not uncommon at the Vajra Varahi clinic, which acts as a primary health centre, a general care facility and unofficially, a triage for the hospital.

Once the word got out that I was in town and open to treat patients, some people walked hours to get to the clinic to have their ailments looked at, others commuted considerable distances, staying with friends or distant relatives for weeks, leaving their families behind in order to receive their long overdue treatments. Ailments included paralysis, reoccurring seizures, extremely severe varicose veins, uncontrolled asthma, TB, severe rheumatoid arthritis, Bells Palsy, Parkinson’s, hernias, vaginal pro-lapse, malaria, un-abetting fever, dysentery, and a multitude of gastric complaints. Patients were incredibly thankful to have the clinic available to them and offered tokens of their appreciation continually despite my polite decline and explanation that it was my job and they needn’t give me anything.

The other project I participated in while in Nepal was the training of eight HIV/addiction center staff in the “Five needle protocol” for substance withdrawal. The Sathi Samuha centre offers live in care for HIV positive clients and their families as well as detoxification services for substance abusers and a safe house for sex trade workers. They have three other facilities, which also offer out patient substance abuse prevention and harm reduction safe injection sites. The training went exceptionally well, as the center’s staff had been asking to be trained in the “Five needle protocol” for years and were excited to finally have a new tool to help with withdrawal symptoms, relapse prevention and program retention. The eight Sathi Samuha trainees were diligent students and learned the material very quickly. Finally armed with a cost effective tool to battle the growing problem of substance abuse, they finished the training excited and determined to help as many patients as they could.

My final impression at the end of the journey is that the Acupuncture Relief Project, the Vajra Varahi Health Centre and the Sathi Samuha Centre are three honorable and genuinely effective programs serving the impoverished, disenfranchised Nepalese population. I feel incredibly privileged and grateful to have been a part of this project. –Emilie

Admin note: Dr. Emilie Salomons is now practicing at Acubalance Wellness Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. We sincerely thank Emilie for her contributions and wish her success in her new practice.

Yoga for Low Back Care

As an acupuncturist spending a few short months in Nepal, I often wondered if the healthcare we were offering was making any lasting difference.  I saw many chronic issues related to the stress of a difficult lifestyle and cold climate. I would ask myself how I could best help my patients in the long run. Since many of my patients suffered from low back pain, I recognized that some gentle stretching exercises would probably help them a lot.

YogaHere in Nepal, there is very little yoga or other stretching done within the culture.  I decided that I could either teach them individually or in a group setting. From my own experience practicing yoga, I noticed that people are often much more likely to stretch in a class together and it is helpful to the overall healing process to share experience with others.  So, I chose a date to have a Back Stretching Workshop and my colleagues and I started putting the word out during our clinic treatments. I wondered if the people of Chapagaon would be excited to learn some new skills to help themselves live more pain free?  Many of our patients travel 2-3 hours or more to the clinic, usually on foot.  Would they make the journey? 

On the first day, 10 people showed up and we all joined on the rooftop patio, elbow to elbow, on bamboo mats to learn some basic yoga stretches.  Sonya, one of our clinic’s dedicated interpreters, helped them understand my directions and move into the stretches.  They did a great job of picking up the poses, with drawings to take home so they could continue.  And at the end, they couldn’t wait to come back to class the following week.  It was one of the most gratifying things I did while working at the clinic!

I loved their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  It was simple, it brought people together, and it gave them a tool they could use for their own well-being. –Leela

Admin note: Leela Longson is now practicing at Confluence Clinic in Portland Oregon. We sincerely thank Leela for her contributions in providing basic healthcare at our clinic in Nepal and wish her success in her new clinic practice.

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