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Chiropractic in the jungle

Updated: Oct 11, 2018


On September 28, 2006, I arrived, with six other chiropractors, in Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic. We were on a mission. It was a chiropractic, not a religious, mission. We were not sponsored by any church and were of many different faiths.

We did, however, share a common purpose: to promote chiropractic and adjust all those who are subluxated throughout the world, especially in developing countries where resources are terribly limited. We hope also to identify and nurture possible chiropractic students among those deprived areas so they may return to their countries and work as chiropractors.

The night we arrived, Todd Herold, DC and I were interviewed for an hour on a major Dominican Republic television station. Early the next morning, Todd and J.C. Doornick, DC, were guests on "Good Morning Dominican Republic." During each broadcast, we announced that chiropractic would be available in five locations over the following two days. 

As soon as the Friday morning show was over, we all converged on local church where hundreds of people were already waiting to be adjusted. They had started lining up at 5 a.m. for a chance to be given adjustments by the chiropractors from the United States. Some showed up alone, others brought their entire families, from children to great‑grandparents.

More than 2,000 people came to the church, including every nun from about 10 parishes. After adjusting several hundred people, Dr. Doornick, Dr. Herold and David Hect, DC, were taken to two orphanages, where many of the children were severely disabled and had been abandoned in the streets of the Dominican Republic.

All were adjusted that day and when I finally met up with these chiropractors during dinner, they looked tired and indescribably sad. In fact, Todd ‑‑ needing to purge his intense sadness at what he had witnessed ‑‑ vomited for three hours and did not appear for dinner.

The next morning, though, he and the rest of our group were up at 5 o'clock and ready to go. We spilt up and went to three different locations.

J.C. and I teamed up with two nuns, a medical director from a remote hospital, and an assistant. The six of us crammed ourselves into a tiny vehicle meant to hold only four. One of the nuns took turns sitting on our laps!

Sweltering in the 100‑plus degree temperature, we drove for two hours through the jungle mountains without air conditioning and arrived at a small city around 8 a.m. By 10:30, we had adjusted about 200 people ‑‑ many of whom arrived on mules just to see us.

It was then that I witnessed my first miracle of the trip.

I was startled when several people started yelling and screaming, running up to me and pointing, urging me to hurry out into the street. A man had collapsed and was apparently dying.

J.C. ‑‑ 15 years younger than I ‑‑ sprinted past me and reached the man first. He had no pulse. J.C. didn't hesitate. He adjusted the man's atlas and immediately the man opened his eyes, motioned with his arms as if a wave of energy was going through him. I gave the fellow some water and he gradually came to his feet. This was witnessed by 25 people and our Dominican assistant captured it on video.

We went back to our post and adjusted more people, including every priest in the parish. It was finally time to move on and after a lunch at one of the priest's homes (which was tasty, although I wasn't familiar with any of the food groups!) we piled back into the car and drove for another hour before reaching a hospital in a small mountainous city.

Again, word had somehow traveled before us and hundreds of people were waiting outside the hospital to get adjusted. J.C. and I were first given a tour of the hospital and adjusted every MD, nurse and patient in the hospital.

They opened the doors for the people waiting outside and the rush began. I adjusted 86 people in the first hour. The hospital issued each person a number, and our two chiropractic assistants told the chiropractic story to 20 people at a time, taking the numbers and making sure they all were taken in order for their adjustments.

We adjusted people from newborns to those well over a hundred years old. Despite the large numbers and rapid turnover, each patient received the perfect adjustment. It was if time had slowed. (I use this approach in my tennis game... I'm able to slow the ball down in my mind's eye!)

Still, the pace took its toll and during the next several hours I slowed down considerably. So did J.C., although he'd never admit it!

The chiropractic story we told them was simple. "Chiropractic reunites the physical with the spiritual. The chiropractor releases the wisdom of the doctor within."

As night approached, we began the long winding drive back to our base. All I could remember was how happy and appreciative the people were to receive chiropractic. It was strange but it felt that I had received the greatest chiropractic gift that day.

When I met up with Todd that night he shared his chiropractic miracle with me. The day before, one of the youngsters at the orphanage ‑‑ a three‑and‑a half year‑old boy ‑‑ had been listless and couldn't move or talk. He had been placed on a table and examined for subluxations. During the adjustment, the boy started crying very loudly and was very frightened. Yet, when Todd and David arrived at the orphanage on Saturday, the boy was running around and urged the two doctors to adjust everyone in the orphanage.

During our four days, we adjusted people in schools, churches, and orphanages. It was a truly rewarding experience. The people ‑‑ thousands of them ‑‑ are waiting for our return on March 29. We'll adjust cases you'd never think of seeing in your offices.

"Adjusting people at a pace I didn't think was humanly possible and having them come back the next day looking for you with a big smile on their face to tell you they felt 'mucho Mejor' (much better) was awesome," said Doreen Sundin, DC, one of the six doctors on this trip. "It was beyond awesome. All of those things and much more made this a memorable experience. But what made this an experience that will always be etched in my mind's eye was the overwhelming sense of inner strength I personally walked away with, knowing that I had made a difference."

Marti Hecht, DC, expressed similar excitement: "I was not sure what to expect ... but I have to say WOW! The people of the Dominican Republic were so warm and welcoming. I am not convinced that the people knew what to expect from us either. I do know the many patients we saw were there because they knew we could make a difference in their lives ... they wanted to be there. Many came from miles away with the hope of feeling better and they left knowing we helped them. All day long. we received thanks and smiles from each patient, even if we could not communicate by words."

Marti particularly remembers an incident that occurred while she and David were at a small church about 45 minutes from town. "We were in a small room, no bigger than 8 x 12 with two windows," she recalls. "We had six chairs to see people. At one time, I looked outside and there at least 12‑15 children of all ages peering in the window with such curiosity. Then at the very next instant (so it seemed) our whole room was filled with children! First, those who had been looking in, then more and more. Some left to bring back their siblings but all left with huge smiles. It was great to be appreciated. It was a tremendous feeling to be able to give, just to give. It definitely makes you hope our own patients would be so grateful."

Dr. Dave Hecht added that "that this was absolutely amazing. My patients have been asking me about the trip and I tell them that I'm walking on a cloud. To be able to affect so many people in such a short amount of time was incredible. I look forward to serving even more on next trip. To just be able to deliver the goods with minimal verbal communication and know they 'got it' was just so awesome. From the handicapped children in the two orphanages to the massive amount of people from infants to super seniors was rewarding beyond words."

Although the doctors on this mission gave generously of their time and energy, they all agreed they received far more. Mission member Craig Fishel, DC, told me afterwards that, "Nothing I have ever done can compare to this experience... The idea was to give and receive. Whenever we give, we receive. In chiropractic, we give of ourselves. There is nothing that transcends the physical and spiritual so wonderfully as the chiropractic adjustment. Practicing in New York City, I sometimes need to reconnect and refocus. A weekend seminar may help to repair the symptom sometimes, but the core that needed repair for me was my heart."

Since returning people have asked me to tell them about it. It's very hard to summarize and explain. The memories and stories are etched in my brain but I don't want to share them all for two reasons. First, some are my own and personal and, second, you must go and make your own.

This trip is happening again in March. Get your hands to Puerta Plata. I found my heart there. Who knows what you'll find.

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