Shaman enriched the experience in Peru

The shaman's guidance illuminated the immense potential in harnessing nature's offerings for therapeutic purposes.

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Published: Wednesday, 20 Dec 2023 Author: Madalyn Spohler

Madalyn with fellow students hiking in PeruPrior to embarking on this medical program, my exposure to wound care had been limited. While I observed wound care procedures in the emergency room, I had not witnessed the specific technique shown by Dr. Sanchez.

During this program, I had the privilege of learning firsthand from Dr. Sanchez as he meticulously described his approach to wound care, which involved a comprehensive process of callus removal from the wound's interior to its exterior. His method offered a fresh starting point for the wound to initiate the healing journey, a concept he elaborated upon during the week.

On August 1st, while collaborating with Dr. Sanchez, we encountered a gentleman with diabetic foot complications. The patient presented with two ulcers on his left plantar surface. The larger of the ulcers measured approximately 3 cm in width and 2 cm in depth, further worsened by the absence of sensation in his left foot. Remarkably, he was missing four metatarsals, excluding the big toe. The asymmetrical pressure distribution caused by the absence of toes had significantly impaired his mobility, making the ulcers worse.

Dr. Sanchez initiated careful removal of callused tissue from the inner layers to the outer layers of the wound. This process was subsequently duplicated within the callus itself. He then placed an antiseptic mesh followed by an additional layer of Ag mesh to cover the wound site. The wound was skillfully dressed, and the patient was advised to return for a follow-up appointment in a few days to monitor progress.

Dr. Sanchez's enlightening lecture served as a reminder of the positive impact being made through our efforts, encompassing advancements in community education, increased lifespan, and enhanced healthcare accessibility. Later in the week, we had the privilege of witnessing the transformative outcomes of Dr. Sanchez’s work when a couple of patients returned after a year, demonstrating remarkable improvements in their diabetic ulcers. This experience emulated the significance of our program.

Not only was there traditional medication that you learn about in Western medicine, but there was also alternative medicine. In a number of communities that we treated, a substance known as Gentian violet was used very frequently. This vividly purple material was present on numerous palms and feet. Functioning as a versatile treatment, Gentian violet served as an antifungal, antiparasitic, and anthelminthic agent. When I looked this up online, the first website explained its potential to cause cancer.

We had a very enlightening encounter a few nights ago with a shaman that added a layer of depth to our understanding of medicine that can be both OMM, pharmaceutical or plants. The shaman shared insights into the therapeutic tool belts utilized by the surrounding communities. A number of plants and barks were shown and even got to test some samples. Each harboring unique remedies for conditions ranging from arthritis to wound healing and persistent itching. A particularly intriguing plant was the existence of a plant named "whetho," which is a potential treatment for respiratory ailments. This illumination into the realm of natural sources as a basis for medical interventions was an eye-opening experience. Incorporating the wisdom of the shaman into our expanding medical knowledge marked a truly enriching experience. The shaman's guidance illuminated the immense potential in harnessing nature's offerings for therapeutic purposes. This exposure to Indigenous medicinal practices resonated as a reminder that the roots of healthcare expand through the forests of our very Earth and that amidst modern advancements, there is much to be learned from ancient healing traditions.

Name: Madalyn Spohler
Status: Graduate
Major: Osteopathic Medicine
Hometown: Petersburg, Michigan
Program: Global Health: Peru - Clinical Immersion