Chiropractor Comes to Aid of Refugees at Camps in Jordan, Colombia

(Contributed Photo)
An 85-year-old Bedouin woman shows her appreciation to chiropractor Jacalyn Buettner after receiving a much-needed spine adjustment.

    When Jacalyn Buettner says “serving people is my mission,” it isn’t just talk.
    The Orinda resident who has run a chiropractic practice in San Francisco for some 34 years recently volunteered her services at refugee camps in Jordan and Colombia with Flying Doctors of America.
“It’s difficult to understand the trauma those I saw in Jordan had undergone as they fled from bombings, saw their homes destroyed, lost everything.” She says. “They were from Syria where, it’s estimated, half of its population has been lost, with over 6 million people moving out. Many were well off before the war began, but now they all are living in tents where the heat is intense and such basics as clean water, decent bathroom facilities are difficult to find and there is no work for them. Such a feeling of hopelessness pervades.”
    Buettner, who is one of the few chiropractors to go on these trips, says she can understand why the refugees’ spines give them so much pain — they are so tight. She remembers a 12-year-old girl who had lost the fingers on one hand in a bombing. 
    “She was in so much pain, living with intense fear.  I treated her every day and in the end she was smiling,” she says. “What a gift that was to me.”
    On this trip the group stayed in Amman and took more than an hour bus ride to Altra where a clinic was set up in an English school. More than 700 patients a day were triaged (this included taking height, weight, blood pressure, and the complaint) and then sent to the appropriate classroom. There were surgeons, dentists, nurses and pharmacists.
    “The most common problem was infection, dental work was badly needed, and we did see a lot of gunshot wounds. Also, there was a great deal of depression,” she recalled.
    “Most didn’t know what a chiropractor was, but it turned out I was the busiest doctor there.  I often saw 100 patients in our long days. Healing through chiropractic care is what I do and the results were so gratifying. Besides treatment, just knowing that someone cares about them, raises the refugees’ spirits.”
    The group of refugees in Colombia who had fled Venezuela had different problems. With the economic chaos in their country, their money was worthless so they lacked the ability to buy food.
    “In the city of Cucuta we worked with a priest, Father David, who feeds 2,100 each day. Some people walked three days, in flip flops, to get over the mountains to Colombia, carrying what belongings they could in a pillow case,” Buettner says. “I remember one family where the mother was nursing a baby and also had a two- and four-year-old. Even these little children walked. They said they were walking to find work, money to buy food and a better life. Again dental work and problems of infection were paramount. Also, there was so much fear and tension causing pain which I was able to alleviate.”
    All who travel on these trips pay their own way. For almost 30 years Flying Doctors of America has been bringing together teams o health professions to care for people who would not otherwise receive medical care. They operate under the “Mother Theresa Principle,” which means they focus on the poorest of the poor.
    The organization has flown more than 300 missions and provided free medical care to more than 285,000 children, women and men. Among the areas served are Mexico, South America, Central America, Caribbean, India, Africa, South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia), China and Mongolia. They are always looking for more volunteers.
    You don’t have to be in a medical profession to go. Buettner’s friend, who works for Oracle, came and helped run the pharmacy.
    Buettner said an interpreter translated some of the comments patients:
    “I wish all people are like you. I feel I’m a new person.”
    “I’m so happy and lucky to be treated by you. Thank you for coming all the way from the states to help us.” 
    “Thank you.  I swear I love you.” 
    “These love-filled statements are why I serve,” Buettner says.

(Contributed Photo)
In Jordon with Flying Doctors of America, Buettner treated patients living in a Syrian refugee camp with minimal shelter and a small patch of farmable land.

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