Chiropractor Lends a Healing Hand in Haiti

[originally published in KCN, April 2010]

On January 12, 2010, the world reached out to the people of Haiti following their catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that reduced the entire capital city of Port-au-Prince to  rubble and ruin.  Unfortunately much of the relief aid was slow to arrive due to damaged transportation facilities and chaos.  But that didn’t stop chiropractor Rennie Statler of Danbury, CT.  Within nine days of the devastating event, he, along with a handful of colleagues, was on a jet plane heading south — leaving his comfortable office and familiar surroundings to hand-deliver supplies of food, water, and of course, chiropractic care to the hurting Haitian country.

Rennie Statler, D.C.

Recently on my SpinalColumnRadio.com podcast, I had a chance to interview this extraordinary chiropractor and hear first hand about his experience.  Statler is not new to diaster relief efforts by any means.  He spent eight and half months in the trenches at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks treating relief workers.  So by many standards, he was experienced.  But nothing can prepare someone for the immense amount of devastation that Statler and his colleagues encountered. “The devastation was as far as you could see…. Everywhere you looked there was rubble,” he told me.

Spray painted numbers on building fronts recorded the head count of those that had been trapped and literally buried alive.  Knowing that people were still inside, unable to be rescued or retrieved, “made your your hair stand up,” Statler recounted.  “The smell [of the decomposing bodies] was overpowering.”

Unlike the constant drone of heavy machinery clearing rubble at his 9/11 experience, the sounds at Port-au-Prince were replaced with the clinking of hammers hitting concrete.  Sounds of people talking, commotion happening, and crying could be heard all around.

Though many might not immediately see the connection between chiropractic and disaster relief, the Haitians might argue otherwise.

Dr. Statler delivers an adjustment to a Haitian in one of the “tent cities” — just one block away from the ruined capital building.

The team would drive around Port-au-Prince looking for the makeshift tent cities that the Haitians had erected with sticks and blankets and then would find nearby clearings to set up a temporary “office.”  As the disaster-stricken people would come out to investigate, the chiropractors would give them food and water.  With trust established, a brave Haitian would lie down on the adjusting table.  A doctor would quickly evaluate him and then adjust his spine.  “He would look at us, smile, shake our hands… and then turn around and say something to the crowd [in Creole].  And then we’d have a line up of everybody in that tent city, and we’d be adjusting for four to five hours straight,” Statler shared.

Not only were they treating injuries, he wrote in a Dynamic Chiropractic article, “…but also the individual as a whole.  This was truly an example of mind, body, and spirit being enhanced through chiropractic care.”

Though they had a language barrier, the physical outpouring of gratitude was enough to let the team know that they were making an impact.  “The look on their faces said it all.  We didn’t need words to communicate,” Statler said.

The irony in this whole situation was that despite the devastation, tragedy, hunger, and ruin, the Haitian people were surprisingly very friendly.  “They were ‘all smiles’ everywhere we went… The Haitian people were so friendly and open-armed to our good will.”

And while it’s true that a group of eight chiropractors is not going to save the country of Haiti in five days, Statler reminded me that it all starts with one person.   “Niagara Falls started with one rain drop.  And look at its force now.”

It is his hope that their efforts will be a catalyst to inspire others to help see Haiti through this disaster.  “We need to keep [their situation] fresh in our minds,” Statler said.  “When you do that, [we as] Americans, will keep our hearts open.”

Lamar’s entire interview with Rennie Statler can be heard at SpinalColumnRadio.com.

_____________

Source used for this article:
2010 Haiti Earthquake.  Wikipedia.com. (viewed 04/14/10).
Lamar.  Lending a healing hand in haiti.  SpinalColumnRadio.com.  episode 011. April 30, 2010.
Statler.  Healing hands in haiti:  chiropractic relief one adjustment at a time.  DynamicChiropractic.com 28(8).  April 9, 2010.
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