In 2012, I joined ‘Hands on India’, a chiropractic student initiative.

The objectives of this volunteer initiative were:

  1. To provide free chiropractic and medical support to the people of Siliguri, North-West Bengal, India.
  2. To raise funds, which we managed to raise over $50,000! The monetary support was distributed among the communities, several schools, and orphanages. Furthermore, the funds contributed towards equipment, medical supplies, interpreters, and 4 jeeps to get us to remote locations. All the Chiropractors paid for their own travel and personal expenses.

However, I got more than I expected. I gained:

  1. An experience that you cannot get anywhere else.
  2. An improved definition of family, life, and gratitude.
  3. How to communicate without words to individuals from another country. Despite the language barrier, each country is able to communicate with body language e.g. a wave to greet and smile.
  4. Valuable chiropractic skills.

The experience was priceless! Every day was a new day to learn. The language and cultural barrier were a few things that I had to get used to blackouts whilst having a cold shower, holes-in-the-ground toilets, however, luckily we had interpreters to allow us to communicate with the patients.

I witnessed a range of neurological disorders, injuries, and medical problems, which we are fortunate to not have much of these conditions/disorders in Australia.

I had a 74-year-old man (picture to the left) that walked over 10 km to get to where we were treating.

He was frail and stiff. I asked if he was ok and he replied (via the translator) that he was feeling faint. The next question I asked, “did you eat and drink today?” He simply replied “no”. I gave him a bottle of my water and continued my history taking. He was a farmer who couldn’t lift both his arms past 30 degrees abduction. Can you believe that! He was sowing crops with very limited shoulder range of motion.

This farmer required the full function of his shoulders in order to get paid in order to eat. The treatment consisted of mobilising his shoulders, elbows, and wrist; and stretching his pectoralis muscles. His neck and back were so stiff,  which an adjustment provided some relief. Within that one treatment, he was able to lift his arms to 90 degrees!

He couldn’t speak a word of English, but he grabbed both of my hands, held them tight and gazed into my eyes, which seemed like hours. I felt instance warmness and gratitude that seemed like he was speaking to me so loud and clear.

He came back the next day and the next day and the next day! I continued the mobilisation, stretching, and adjustments, which further improved his shoulder range of motion. This patient I will remember forever. Every time I  treat a patient with shoulder issues in Australia, I see him in them. That I one of the many reasons why I am a chiropractor.