Gulf Coast storm victims get woman#8217;s point

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 19, 2005

Acupuncturists Without Borders keeps some pretty impressive company.

The group provided their 3,000-year-old skills to relief and emergency workers at the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

That’s when the New York Fire Department learned of the emotional, physical, and mental benefits acupuncture can provide, especially during, the most traumatic and stressful of times.

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And now, four years later, Acupuncturists Without Borders was in action again after another widespread disaster.

Dr. Susan Zimmer, who normally practices at Slone Chiropractic Clinic on Pruden Boulevard, was a part of the team that went to Louisiana following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Firefighters from New York City were also in Louisiana in October, from the 19th through the 26th, when Zimmer was there.

The group was in Lafayette at the time and, “the New York Fire Department introduced us to Louisiana,” Zimmer said.

“They already had the experience of what acupuncture could do. So many people had a positive experience from before that they wanted to tell others.”

Throughout the week, Zimmer said she was part of a team that worked in eight different venues in Lafayette, New Orleans, and even onboard a ship temporarily housing Federal Emergency Management Agency workers.

AWB volunteers worked in fire departments, in tents, and literally door-to-door offering their skills and comfort to residents, evacuees, and the thousands of volunteers who are still involved in relief and rebuilding efforts.

The procedure is Ear Acupuncture, and can be simply focused on five points on the ear, according to an article by Dr. Laura Cooley specifically about the procedure’s effects following traumatic events.

According to Cooley, those treated report the following results: increased mental clarity, improved ability to cope, improved alertness, improved ability to sleep, reduction of aches, pains and muscle spasms, reduction of depression and anxiety, and reduction of intrusive recall.”

As word spread of their talent and results, Zimmer said they were even asked to come treat American Red Cross doctors and nurses in an outdoor facility that the ARC had established as one of their bases.

Practically, acupuncture was a perfect solution for many reasons according to Zimmer.

“It’s easy to reach people; there’s no special high-tech equipment; and it’s very inexpensive.”

A single acupuncturist can treat between 20 to 40 people at the same time, which also made it an ideal answer to the Gulf Coast’s problems.

About the reliability of those little needles, Zimmer said, “It’s the oldest health remedy in the world. It’s been used by more people than any other type of medicine and it’s time-proven by thousands of years.”

And it provides positive results, said Zimmer, recalling working in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, helping a 20-year-old man who had an injured back and had been taking analgesics to try and aid the pain.

“All the Red Cross could tell him was to go back to his doctor; of course his doctor was no where to be found. We worked on him and he was so happy because we could give him drug-free care; that was an example of how we could help when their was nothing else there for the people.”

While in a suburb of New Orleans largely made up of Vietnamese refugees, Zimmer said she treated a 95-year-old man who had severe leg pain.

At the end of the treatment, Zimmer said, “He gave me this big smile, with big white teeth.

He didn’t know any English, but he was very appreciative.”

Zimmer said in many instances the results were immediate and provided more than physical pain relief.

“It helps people emotionally, a lot of them just started crying once they sat down.

It was their first chance in a long time to just talk,” Zimmer said.

“There were very few people that were used to it. For most Americans in general, it is very new,” she said.

As the capabilities of acupuncture become more widely known, Zimmer and the rest of Acupuncturists Without Borders workers hope acupuncture will become a recognized addition to the government’s disaster-relief system.

“We aren’t paid at all by FEMA, but as we get known, maybe they will want us to always be a part of relief efforts,” Zimmer said.

If Acupuncturists Without Borders needs a good reference letter, the FDNY seems like a good place to start.