Jamaica Trip – Final Post

This is the final post in a 4 part series about my mission trip to Jamaica.  With this post I pick up with a discussion of the observations/lessons learned from the trip.

  • Patient stories
    • One patient was suffering from hip and leg pain, going down into her feet. I treated her glutes and calves, but it didn’t seem to help her pain much.  Randy was occupied, so I figured I would just rub her feet, as that was her main complaint.  When she got up from the table, she felt much better and gave me a big hug.  Randy and I looked at her chart after she left, and he noted that she was diabetic. He said that rubbing her feet was probably the best thing I could have done for her.  It made me feel really good that my instincts were right!  This patient came back on Thursday and waited for over an hour for another treatment.  Unfortunately, she was still 7thon the list by the time she had to leave.  She lobbied hard to get moved up the list, but we were worried about a revolt, so instead of a treatment, I took a few minutes and showed her how to roll out her feet and lower back using a Yoga Tune Up ball.  She left happy and satisfied, with some solid self-care tools.
    • I had one patient with pain radiating down his leg. I treated his glutes, and the DO student working with me performed OMM on his piriformis, but our treatment did not help and actually seemed to exacerbate his issue. We deduced that his pain must originate higher up in the body – possibly a result of a herniated disc.  Randy took the patient back down to the DOs, who agreed that a disc could be a culprit. The DO was able to help with the pain and also provided a referral for an MRI.  It was a good lesson for me to see that while we can do A LOT to help patients with pain, somethings cannot be fixed with structural therapy.  It’s so important to be part of a medical team, so that patients can get the help they need.
    • I had one patient with pain around the sacrum and the xyphoid process.Randy had never encountered that combination of pain before, so he started running through the list of muscles that connect the hips to the chest.  Psoas!! I worked her psoas and almost immediately she felt a referral up to the exact area of her anterior chest pain.  That was a lesson to me that, if the book doesn’t have the answer, use your common sense!
    • I saw several people literally start DANCING when they got off other therapist’s treatment tables! There was a really amazing energy and joy permeating our beautiful open-air treatment space.

On Friday, we got to relax.  We took a boat trip along the coast, up Black River, and out to a bar built on stilts in the middle of the ocean. I got to see a real, live crocodile.  It was like seeing a living dinosaur.  It could have been the coolest thing I have ever seen. The wind was powerful that day, and it was having fun pulling up bits of the ocean and tossing it in my face while we were in the boat.  I was obliterated by the wind and sea, and I couldn’t be happier.

In a nutshell, this week showed me the importance of being present with the patient, listening to his or her full story and absorbing all the facts, and taking things slow – no need to rush.  I also learned you can’t learn how to do massage therapy by reading about it. You have to DO IT – that is where things start to make sense and you can start to tie the book learnin’ to a body.  It is one thing to be told that someone with a lower limb length inequality will have medial leg pain on the short leg and lateral leg pain on the long leg.  But when you SEE that on a patient, you remember and integrate it. It becomes part of your muscle memory.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on this trip. I spent the week in a paradise, surrounded by people I love, admire, and respect, eating amazing food, having real conversations, and learning my brains out.

It has forever changed me. <3

 

Jamaica Trip – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the Jamaica series!  With this post I continue the review of my observations/lessons learned from the trip.

  • I definitely experienced many highs and lows over the course of the week. After some treatments I was in the depths of despair, feeling 100% inadequate and overwhelmed.  And then the next patient would respond really well to the treatment and to me, and I was back on cloud 9.  It was a complete yo-yo of emotions, both exhausting and exhilarating.  On the bus back to the hotel each night, I would reflect on the day, on how hard it was, on how I didn’t feel as if I knew what I was doing, on how uncomfortable I was, being in a position of uncertainty and doubt. Net, even with all the discomfort, I was so much happier after a day working on and with my fellow humans than working in an office on a computer all day.
  • I need to study more! We learn so much so fast in this program.  I need to find a way to remember what we have been taught because in the thick of things, my brain really struggled to retrieve all those trigger points, muscle attachments, and protocols.  I could feel the solution to the puzzle just outside of my consciousness, but I could not quite grasp it.
  • If/when I do this again, I need to learn Patwa! While most of the patients spoke English, with the accent and with being slightly hard of hearing, I had SUCH a difficult time understanding exactly what was being said.  Thank goodness for gestures!!
  • I need alone time!! Seven days surrounded by 30+ people was a bit overwhelming.  I meditated almost every morning for 30 minutes, sitting within ear shot of the ocean.  I think that contributed so much to my sanity.
  • My preconceived notions about who we would be treating were completely misinformed. My first patient had been a stockbroker in NYC for several years!  Many of patients had lived in England for years and retired back home to Treasure Beach. One of my patients had actually been to Iowa State University to learn about agriculture!  These brilliant, sophisticated, kind people had moved back to their roots and were busy improving their community.  Very inspirational.
  • Hugs and blessings are a very fulfilling form of payment, especially when your food and housing needs are met.
  • I want to learn more OMM (osteopathic manipulative treatment) from the doctor of osteopathy students. From the glimpse I received, it really piqued my interest.  It seems as if they use longer holds (moving patients into areas of the “barrier”) to effect changes in the tissues.  I want to learn more about this, as I have a few patients who are very pain-sensitive, and I think this might be a gentler approach for them.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the 4th and last installment. 🙂

Jamaica Trip – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the Jamaica Trip series. 🙂

On our way back from the Falls, we stopped at the Sports Clinic that would be our base of operations for Monday – Thursday.  A few members of our group had been working ALL day to organize the rooms, equipment, and pharmaceuticals that would be used by the osteopathic doctors and students. They were set up on the first floor of the facility.  Our neurosomatic therapy group (4 students and two teachers) would be set up on the second floor of the building, which was an open-air area overlooking the sports fields and a big hill.  The view was awesome, and more importantly, the area was super breezy and open.

Monday started our first day at the clinic.  We didn’t know what to expect – would the Jamaicans be interested in neurosomatic therapy?  Would we be sitting on our tables, staring off into the hills for 8 hours?  The answer was a resounding NOPE!  Starting with the very first day, we were BUSY, seeing patient after patient after patient, breaking briefly for lunch and water and bathroom breaks.  Word had gotten out that muscle and joint pain treatment specialists were in the house, and we were booked solid, with patients waiting all day long to be treated.

I wish I had taken better notes over the course of the clinic days. I fully intended to, but with my day starting at 5:30AM and ending around 10:30PM, I just couldn’t find the time to write!  But here are some general impressions, memories and observations about the experience.

  • A patient, calm teacher with a good sense of humor is invaluable.
    • I have not yet learned how to treat the lower body. However, each day of treatment presented a consistent theme of pain focused on the lower body.  On Day 1, everyone presented with knee pain. Day 2 was sciatica, and Day 3 was lower back.  Day 4 was a blur.  When in doubt, all I had to do was catch Randy’s eye, and he was there in a flash to give me guidance and insight on what to do.  I worked on so many glutes, TFLs, psoas, and upper traps!
    • In some instances, Randy palpated with his hand on top of mine, helping me understand where to go, what I should look for, and what I was feeling.This was SO HELPFUL!!  It put my sensations into a context that immensely increased my awareness and understanding.
  • Growth/challenges.
    • As I mentioned at the outset, I really struggle with self-confidence.This has especially been an issue for me as I’ve started massage school.  For the past 20+ years I have worked in business and banking, so the majority of my time is spent in my head and not in my body.  I only used my fingers to type on a computer.  While I can learn things cerebrally quite well, embodying the knowledge into a felt sense is extremely challenging. I often find myself just going through the motions (e.g. Step 1, compress.  Step 2, compress with opposition. Step 3, glide).   I have bouts where I seriously doubt my ability to be a successful therapist.
      • Working on over 25 people over the course of 4 days helped me see that, while I still have SO MUCH more to learn, I already have the ability to help people feel waaaaay better over the span of just 45 minutes.  By Day 4, I had found my flow. I was comfortable with the patients, could chat and treat, and I was having FUN.  I was finally RELAXED.  I no longer had to hold my breath while I was treating. J.  The bonds with the patients were becoming more synergistic – I was able to solicit better feedback from them, and by working together and communicating constantly, I was able to sink into the tissue and effect change.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 3!

Jamaica Trip – Part 1

Well, I’m back from Jamaica.  It seems very surreal that I was there. I still can’t quite believe it.  To be honest, before I left a big part of me was kind of hoping that something would come up that would prevent me from going – I would get a debilitating case of diarrhea, my boss would forbid me to go because I am SO vital to the ongoing operations of the bank, my passport would get revoked by the US Government – SOMETHING.  I knew this trip was going to force me out of my comfort zone, make me grow as a therapist and as a human being, and put me in situations where I did not automatically know the A+ answer.  It’s SO much more comfortable to avoid growth, you know! Fortunately, the Universe did not comply with this latent desire.  My karma in this life is to become more self-confident, and the Universe was happy to oblige to make sure this happened.

The trip started off with an easy plane ride from Orlando to Montego Bay.  And then I hit the first snag.  My school, The Center for Neurosomatic Studies, was donating 3 massage tables to The Treasure Beach Women’s Group for use during this and successive clinics.  Shipping the tables proved to be prohibitively expensive, so 3 of us therapists brought tables along with us.  I dragged my 30 lb., unwieldy table through the airport to the “Nothing to Declare” Customs lane.  I assumed that since the school was DONATING the table, it did not need to be declared. The Customs clerk quickly disabused me of this notion and sent me over the much longer “Declare” line, full of people with 10-foot high stacks of luggage.

When it was finally my turn, I explained the situation to the clerk.  After lots of questions about the table, where I was going, what I was doing, who I was doing it with and for, the clerk seemed very confused about what to do and consulted with several other clerks in the areas. Eventually it was decided that I would have to pay some fee in order to bring the table to the clinic. Argh.  They assessed the fee, plus several different taxes, and then sent me back into the airport to get some Jamaican dollars so that I could pay the fee. I paid the fee, showed the proof to the clerk, hoisted the table onto my shoulder and escaped into the heat, where the rest of the group was waiting for me so we could start the 3 hours mountainous trek to Treasure Beach.

If you are at all faint of heart, or if you do not enjoy bumps, sudden, unexpected increases and decreases in speed, barreling around blind corners, sharing very narrow roads with cows and speedy on-coming traffic, I highly suggest doping yourself with Dramamine or some other sedative for bus trips into the heart of Jamaica. That being said, it was actually a really fun ride, especially since we stopped for some amazingly delicious Jamaican food on the way.  Jamaican food is the best food.  ‘Nuff said. We arrived at our hotel late Saturday night, found the treasured remote controls for the in-room AC units, and crashed into bed.

On Sunday, after a stop for snacks at a supermarket (which was made up of 95% carb snacks and Coco Mania rum), we headed out to YS Falls, a gorgeous natural waterfall that offers zip-lining and rope swings into mint blue-green water.  It was stunningly beautiful.  Like most of the jungle and coastline I saw in Jamaica, it was so beautiful that it looked almost unreal.  Such a beautiful country!

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!