Over my Spring Break I made my eighth trip to Honduras to join other physicians in providing free medical care to about 2,000 patients.
I’m proud of the work we accomplish on this volunteer trip, organized by the Hackett Hemwall Patterson Foundation. I serve on the board of this non-profit organization, which has trained thousands of physicians worldwide in the latest in prolotherapy techniques.
Prolotherapy is an injection therapy treatment that uses dextrose, high concentration glucose or sugar, to help heal injuries and reduce pain. It’s been around for decades but it’s still considered cutting-edge treatment that has greatly relieved joint pain and helped repair soft tissue injuries.
The Foundation has made 46 annual mission trips to Honduras, and this time we brought together some 70 physicians and staff from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Turkey and South and Central America. We set up three clinics in the towns of La Ceiba, Olanchito and Tela – trips that required long bus rides after long plane trips followed by a long afternoon and evening of setting up our makeshift procedure rooms.
But the payoff came when we started helping people who came from far-away villages, farms and towns. Some came by foot, walking miles to get treatment for their feet, ankles, shoulders, elbows and back.
Many are people who rely on their bodies to survive – working in fields or transporting water by buckets to make their evening meals. There were many familiar faces, people who have returned for treatment from years past because they re-aggravated old injuries or have new ones. And our payment often came in the form of a piece of fruit or hugs.
Yet as rewarding as the actual clinic work was, equally rewarding was the work we did in our “off” hours. As co-clinical director, I helped coordinate and organize an educational curriculum for medical staff. We had two lectures every day, and on Saturday we held a conference workshop that included hands-on training on how to perform prolotherapy injections, diagnose injuries and more.
At the Hackett Hemwall Patterson Foundation, we are developing a standardized curriculum that will be taken globally to serve as a model for prolotherapy training. Think about it: Prolotherapy is a relatively quick, simple and cost-effective procedure for treating soft-tissue and joint injuries. By helping develop a standard of learning and training for healthcare professionals, we hope to make it a game-changer in developing nations as well as here in the U.S.
We can positively impact hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and build upon an already impressive legacy that has made the Foundation a go-to resource for anyone who is serious about pain management and non-surgical alternatives to musculoskeletal treatment.
And while we are creating this curriculum, we will continue our mission trips to Honduras, Mexico and elsewhere to bring prolotherapy treatment to people who could not otherwise afford it. It’s made for some great Spring Break memories, and I expect it will make for many more to come.
Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed in the WTC circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com. You can follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DrZaharoff