Acupuncturists Without Borders -  Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort
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LETTER FROM HERB KANDEL
From Herb Kandel, L. Ac., O.M.D. Santa Maria, California

I was eager for Red Cross deployment to the gulf, but when I learned that only Physicians, P.A.s, Nurses, and Mental Health Workers, not Acupuncturists would be utilizing their professional skills, I decided to do more research about how best to be of service. I learned my local Red Cross in Santa Maria was busy with increased training load and the volunteer staff was fatigued. The local volunteer coordinator told me his center was not nearly as impacted as the Santa Barbara Red Cross where, you "get wind burn as people are flying by you left and right in the hallway."

I called Santa Barbara Red Cross to inquire about treating their staff. The first calls were dead ends. It took several calls over two days to find the right contact. The first contacts were new volunteers who were learning the basics, no help. Next, I got staff who were too busy to understand what I was offering. Finally, I got a director who immediately recognized the possibilities and welcomed my offer. I drove down the next day and treated her and her superior, which is an interesting aside. While needles were in his ears, I massaged his upper back. During his treatment, he was so wound up from weeks of overwork that he continued his breakneck pace. He sipped his coffee and smoked, writing, talking nonstop. Ironically, he was writing logistical and scheduling plans on the back of an envelope for how to provide this treatment to his other staff members. Finally, he slowed down and briefly surrendered just before being called back into active duty by a cadre of volunteers with questions.

When I retuned two days later (as planned on the back of the envelope) the word had spread among staff. The downstairs Ham Radio room was now the designated treatment area and exhausted staff members showed up one by one for treatment. By chance, one of my patients was the very first returning volunteer deployee from the gulf who had arrived only hours earlier. She was deeply fatigued from three weeks of fifteen hour work days where, "there were so many lined up that people became a constant blur of desperate needs". She was sleep deprived, yet hyper and spoke almost callously of remarkable situations and hardships. She was a veteran returning from a war. I am confident the treatment helped some with her re- entry process.

Though treating a hand full of Red Cross staff and volunteers was a very small in the big scheme, I drove home with a feeling that, at least I done something, and I felt a genuine remedy from the sense of collective despair.

There is a large community of acupuncturists in Santa Barbara, so my current role is getting the locals to plug in shifts to treat Red Cross staff and returning deployees.

The challenge in getting this started was: finding the key inside contact, gently asserting the service among staff, and taking charge of scheduling to avoid adding a logistical burden to Red Cross staff.

Our medicine lends itself to working like water between the cracks. Good luck to each of you finding your role in helping with this crisis, and finding the personal action that is your own remedy.

Thanks to Diana Fried and Laura Cooley for the hard work and to all of you offering service. This is the genesis of a great organization.

Herb Kandel, L. Ac., O.M.D. Santa Maria, California

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