Acupuncturists help ease post-Katrina stress

Ancient art of healing helps calm stress of life after the storm
from Katrina Information Network
Accupuncture relief
A New Orleans resident is given accupuncture treatment at the Common Ground clinic in the city's  Ninth Ward. Photo Courtesy of Katrina Information Network

The idea that pins and needles could help people may be a revelation for many, but Acupuncturists Without Borders has used the ancient healing art to soothe the stress, aches, pains, tired minds and muscles of residents, relief workers and National Guardsmen struggling under the weight of surviving and rebuilding a city and region still feeling the effects of  Hurricanes Katrina and  Rita.

Acupuncturists Without Borders, founded after Katrina hit New Orleans, has been working in New Orleans since October 2005. The name is based on the more familiar group of social service doctors who provide medical needs in areas of crisis.   Rotating teams of volunteer acupuncturists from across the country come to offer their free services  community style. They work at health clinics, food distribution centers, Red Cross shelters, mobile units, churches, and the tent cities and hotels housing relief workers.

Acupuncturists Without Borders volunteers travel in teams throughout the city and nearby towns. “We see people of every color, different cultures, and enjoy doing our small part to help make the city whole,” said Diana Fried, the group's executive director. 

'Put a pin in it'

“New Orleans remains a very difficult place to live and work. "People are under tremendous pressure to keep things together and we are doing what we can to help, Fried says.  The practitioners with her nonprofit organization are experienced, licensed, and follow recognized treatment guidelines. "We also bring a different understanding to what ‘put a pin in it' means,” Fried added.

Treatments last from 30-60 minutes with fully clothed patients sitting in chairs. The protocol AWB uses involves needles on the ears and other accessible body points. Done in groups, community-style acupuncture can help break the isolation often felt after traumatic events. Even those who resist traditional treatment for Acute Stress Disorder are often willing to receive acupuncture. “The treatments support rebuilding strength and resiliency that is essential for the recovery process. Acupuncture treatments have a calming effect and help those struggling with anger, hostility and frustration,” Fried says.

Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the state's governor  issued an executive order to allow out-of-state doctors and other licensed medical professionals to provide emergency services to patients.  Questions remain about  the future of Acupuncturists Without Borders and other out-of-state medical professionals.

“There is so much devastation, so much to clean up, so much homelessness,” said Geralynn “Gigi” Felicetta, an acupuncturist from San Diego, who performs her work in the Ninth Ward. At the corner of Claiborne and Pauline, Felicetta could observe food lines, ice coolers provided in the absence of  refrigeration, makeshift shelters, sleeping bags, and rubbish, along with abandoned and condemned buildings. These sights have made a distinct impression on her. “It is like a war zone in America,” she said. "but there is so much spirit, the spirit cannot be broken.”

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