I recently returned from my 12th mission trip to Honduras with the Hackett Hemwall Patterson Foundation, where I was honored to work at one of three clinics providing free Prolotherapy injection treatments to indigent patients. I also served as the program director for the educational track for physicians.
I keep going back because the work is incredibly rewarding, helping ranchers and other laborers recover from joint injury and pain. Equally as important, I get to help patients around the world by educating physicians from across the globe who attend these mission trips. They learn about the latest, most effective ways to utilize Prolotherapy treatments. Doctors from Croatia, Italy, Central American and Canada were among the 30 or so physicians and dozens of non-physician volunteers who joined us for this year’s trip. Honduran medical residents and faculty are also training with our group.
What’s remarkable about the commitment these physicians have to this mission is not just the philanthropy involved, but also the bravery. Honduras elected a new president last year, and there was a lot of tension and some violence with protests about possible voter fraud.
The Foundation board, on which I serve, sent a representative to Honduras in February, Chet Hermansen, to drop off supplies and to get an on-the-ground assessment about the potential for civil unrest in the three communities where we set up our mission trips annually — La Ceiba, Tela and Olanchito. We received assurances from local officials that while there had been unrest in the capital city and some other metropolitan areas, the more rural communities had few if any such problems. Still, in good conscience we let the volunteers know about the situation, and we still had one of the biggest volunteer turnouts in the history of this mission trip.
Speaking of history, this was the Foundation’s 49th year making this trip to Honduras, and there is every reason to believe we will be back for the half-century mark mission in March 2019.
Prolotherapy involves the injection of a solution of dextrose (sugar) and lidocaine into damaged tissue or joints to help promote healing. Prolotherapy and other Regenerative Injection Treatments – such as Platelet-rich Plasma Therapy and Stem Cell Therapy – are non-narcotic, non-addictive, non-surgical treatments for musculoskeletal injuries. They are being used daily around the world to help treat everything from sprained knees and tennis elbow to chronic tendonitis, osteoarthritis and acute ligament and muscle injuries.
Many professional athletes including pro golfers like Tiger Woods, NBA superstars like Steph Curry and numerous Major League Baseball pitchers are using regenerative injections because of the track record of promoting speedy healing and recovery. Along with being an increasingly accepted alternative to surgery, some orthopedic surgeons are using PRP injections specifically to speed up post-surgery recovery.
In Honduras, the results we have seen with patients who have returned for treatment, sometimes walking for miles to get to the clinics, have at times been extraordinary. Each clinic averages 70 patients a day for treatment, so in all some 1,200 to 1,500 Hondurans directly benefit from the mission trip.
After the Prolotherapy team left, another group of doctors organized by the Foundation arrived to set up varicose vein treatment clinics. In the United States, we think of varicose vein treatment as purely a cosmetic issue, but in some areas of the world, the condition caused by weakened valves and veins in the leg(s) can be very dangerous. They can cause ulcerations and, if they don’t’ heal, lead to infections and potentially amputation of the limb.
The work the Foundation’s varicose vein clinics do in Honduras – treating another 1,200 to 1,500 patients annually – has made a huge difference in the lives of the people there. Doctors bring expensive ultrasound equipment into the field there to set up a very sophisticated, modern clinic. Along with varicose vein treatment, patients may receive compression hoses to help promote healthy blood flow. Some 10,000 compression hoses are distributed annually.
I’m proud to be a board member of this organization. I look forward to continuing to support them and their mission in the years to come.
Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical treatments to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed on the WTA 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.