Offering primary health care & acupuncture to under-served communities

Acupuncture in Nepal

Acupuncturist, Kimberley Shepherd, went to nepal to hep victims of the 2015 earthquakes.

Passionate about international aid and disillusioned with our current healthcare system, I embarked on a mission to Nepal following the devastating earthquakes to help isolated communities rebuild their lives.

Seeing the devastation to the homes was unbelievable – in their place were make-shift camps of 100’s of families seeking refuge from the instability and chaos that was left in the earthquakes wake. I knew that this was my passion and purpose, to help those people who have little to nothing in the way of “care” or medical resource.

What once was a place of positivity, spirituality and high, vibrant energy was now practically deserted as families fled from their homes in fear for their lives. But what I worked hard to establish was a free primary healthcare clinic that offered sanctuary for those effected, both physically and emotionally. Offering traditional acupuncture and working closely with local health authorities, myself and another fellow acupuncturist saw over 50 people each day who had sometimes travelled for over 4 hours to get there.

It wasn’t just victims from the quake that were offered support. The principle behind the clinic was to establish a sustainable, cost effective health care system for the people of Nepal. I raised over £2300 in 2015 which provided the basic medical supplies and cost of skilled interpretors for 7 weeks.

When treating over 25 people a day, I honed my skills of offering efficient, affordable care to help people overcome a variety of health conditions, including:

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), IBS, infertility, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, menopausal symptoms, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), allergies, eczema, cancer, TB, hyper-tension (high blood pressure), Parkinsons Disease, stroke rehabilitation, musculoskeletal disorders and injuries, osteoarthritis, ganglion cysts, insomnia, depression, anxiety, grief.<

Based on seeing patients typically 2/3 x per week, I was able to see dramatic improvements based on a system of integrated treatment modalities, incorporating acupuncture, basic medical procedures, traditional chinese herbal medicine (TCM), nutrition and massage.

Find out about my passion and drive for international aid

This was my driving force from day 1 of starting my acupuncture career. I never had a doubt in my mind that this is what I wanted to do immediately after I graduated, offering healthcare to underserved communities, helping those people who have little to nothing in the way of “care” or medical resource. This was my fire and driving energy, throughout all the turbulent and challenging times in my 3 year degree.

I researched different charities heavily but non of them really ticked my box. It was Nepal where I wanted to be due to it’s fusion of cultures, religions and spirituality. It was also a passion from a young age to work in acute healthcare, so when the earthquakes occured, I knew that is where I needed to be, helping communities rebuild their lives on a physical and emotional level.

The experience was life changing but not necessarily in the way I expected. I was challenged daily simply based on the job role as some people were even carried in to clinic. We were having to tell people that they had cancer and educate their families on what this actually was to battling with the health authorities to treat children dying from TB. This made you have to think quickly on your feet and find solutions fast. It also made me realise how much we take for granted, in regards to our own education and understanding of our own bodies.

It also challenged my own ideals. Not only did people not want traditional healthcare as we know it in the west, they embraced traditional healing systems such as Shamanism and favoured these over our modern medicine. In fact, they were so reliant and believed so greatly in these ancient healing traditions, they they often opted out of surgery for critical health problems to visit with their local Shaman. It was important then to work with these ideals rather than fight them based on what we thought was best for them, which was often incredibly difficult, as seeing people suffering was so upsetting.

All around us were reminents of buildings and homes from what once was, pre-earthquakes. But the more we immersed ourselves in to their world, their culture and their religions, we recognised that the material things they were surrounded by were in fact insignificant. They were so poor in many respects but so rich in others. They lived solely off the land, working hard as a community together. It was so heartwarming to witness on a day to day basis. And is something that I want to strive for now back in the UK. Living locally, seasonally and as part of a community.

There was one day when I was treating a lady in a chair who again had to be carried in to the clinic as she was in such extreme pain. I created a treatment plan to help her with her pain management and had just inserted the acupuncture needles when the whole clinic began to shake. The other practitioner, patients and interpreters quickly vacated the room, recognising this was an earthquake, leaving me and my patient unable to move in the clinic. It was a real test of judgement. To stay with her and wait it out, in a building that had already partially crumbled in the previous earthquakes, to leaving her and getting myself to safety. Luckily the building stayed in tact and we were both safe but it was at that point that I realised how fragile life really was. It would have taken a split second for the building to crumble around us but it was also a real test of character, and for this I feel inspired that in an acute, crisis situation, I know that instinctively I’d choose helping others over saving myself.

Woman (23) came to see me for fertility. She was having scanty periods that were heavy but irregular with spotting throughout her monthly cycle. After 3 acupuncture treatments using only 8 needles each time, her cycle became regular, her spotting ceased and she was no longer having painful, heavy bleeding. After another 4 weeks of treatment, seeing her 2x per week, she became pregnant.

Woman (21) with a chronic, heriditory skin condition presented with raised, white nodules all over her face and around her eyes. Her sister had just undergone surgery to get rid of these unknown lumps but she didn’t want to revert to such extremes. It took 3 acupuncture treatments with 10 needles each time to see a noticeable reduction in the nodules and had a huge impact on her self confidence. We still do this day don’t know what these were in western medicine but in Chinese medicine, it was due to underlying Blood Deficiency and Damp.

Woman (64) came in with knee pain. On inspection, it turned out that she had osteoarthritis which was exacerbated by the cold. But she was also presenting with a number of other, unexplained symptoms.

Over 2-3 treatments building up a rapport with this woman, it became clear that the onset of these symptoms were immediately following the first earthqauke. It took another 2 treatments for her to open up to me, in floods of tears, telling me she has lost everything, that she no longer has a home and is having to sleep on the floor or her sons room.

So moving from treating the physical symptoms, I shifted the treatment to treat her emotional imbalance. There was nothing I could do to help with her circumstances but Chinese Medicine excels at treating the root cause of physical manifestations which 90% of the time, are due to an emotional trauma. She began to walk in lighter, brighter and dancing around the room with other patients after each treatment. She began to integrate herself back in to the community that she had previously shut herself out from due to embarrassment that she no longer had a home.

The transformation to her spirit and energy was remarkable and so uplifting. I couldn’t ask for greater job satisfaction.

In Chinese Medicine, we treat what we call the Ben and the Biao – this is the root cause of the disease and the physical manifestation (Root and Branch). What we consider is the intricate complexities that factor in to your health from your pre-conception essence (Jing) which defines your hereditory constitution to the aetiology (external factors) such as lifestyle, diet etc.

We then also look at the journey and pathology of the disease, how it affects your internal environment over time. All these factors play a part in our over all picture of health and it is this that is considered in each treatment. It’s about working with that persons delicate balance of health at that particular time and adapting each treatment accordingly.

This is why Chinese Medicine is so powerful and is gaining such pace in the western world because it considers healing from the inside out which is a sustainable approach to healing and healthcare.

It is a dynamic approach that is gaining pace in the modern medicine. The two work intrisically and symbiotically together. Where western medicine is limited, Chinese medicine excels. For example, western medicine is great at treating acute medical situations where there is no other option that to control the Biao (manifestation) without the use of drugs.

However, Chinese Medicine supports the body in finding it’s homeostatic balance, treating the Ben (root) so that the body regains strength at its core.

All hospitals in China offer an integrated approach to medicine, having a whole floor dedicated to acupuncture, one to herbal medicine, one to cancer care etc. This is increasingly the case in America and is beginning to find its feet in the UK too, so it is my aim to bring this positive change to healthcare about in Sheffield.

In terms of chinese medicine, it was developed over 2000 years ago, and you can imagine that back then there was some difficulty in defining certain terminology and then having this translated in to modern day English. This is its only limitation and is why in western medicine there is skepticism around it because we use words that cannot be understood or directly translated.

However, Dr Daniel Keown has unveiled these myths and mysteries surrounding these ancient concepts by drawing direct parallels between eastern medicine and western medicine. He has found that it is all interlinked and in fact, the chinese knew what they were talking about in regards to physiology and anatomy centuries before it even occurred to us here in the west. Listen to him explain more about this subject on his YouTube channel.

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