May 2012

Amazon Chiropractor: A Christian Mission Trip

A Chiropractor in the Amazon? Yep, this was another of my many adventures. These voluntary chiropractic mission trips are several highlights of my career. Here is my story.

“Obrigado” (thank you), they all say in Portuguese as they shake my hand after their adjustment.  “Genada” (you’re welcome), I reply.  Some of the hundreds of patients I treated this week have traveled quite far to see the “Americano Quiropraktor” (American Chiropractor).  I was the only chiropractor in all of northern Brazil; specifically the state of Amazonas, an area larger than the state of Alaska.  That reality really struck me when I started asking some of these patients how far they traveled.  I was surprised when some told me through my translator, Marilia, that they came 3 hours by boat;  stunned when some said they traveled 8 hours; and then I was in disbelief when two told me they came 3 days, sleeping in hammocks as their ferry boat chugged up the miles wide Amazon River!  I had to ask them again, 2 or 3 times “You really specifically traveled 3 days by boat to get a chiropractic adjustment?”  To them, this travel is common.

My wife Susan contemplating the sunrize over the Amazon.

Life here revolves around the Amazon River; not the longest, but definitely the largest in terms of width and volume of water.  They say it carries 100 times more water than any other river.  The city I’m in, Manaus, is the largest city in the area and developed here because it is at the junction where the cool, clear Salimoes River, draining the melting snow from the Andes Mountains 1200 miles west, joins the warm black Negro River, draining the great Amazon rain forest.  A phenomenon occurs here called “the great meeting of the waters”, unique because a distinct division or line can be seen running down the middle of the Amazon River for miles, until these waters mix.  The entire river system is over 3000 miles long and 100 miles wide by the time it reaches the south Atlantic Ocean. Some say this is truly the middle of nowhere.

Dr Tom Potisk adjusting an Amazonian.

I’m here on a furlough relief mission for the Christian Chiropractors Association  The permanent DC and  his wife, and 5 children took a furlough,  traveling back to the US to visit relatives and friends,  and to rest.  I’m one of  5 volunteer chiropractors, each taking a week or two of coverage.

The demand for chiropractic services at this office is extraordinary; some patients must wait 3 weeks before an appointment is available  Most have easy access to the free national health care system, but many are dissatisfied with the poor quality, and lack of anything more than the drugs and surgery offered.  Some told me the doctors they consulted never touched them, barely made eye contact, just looked at the entrance form and handed them a bottle of pills.

Most of the patients I treated had similar problems as those in my own  Milwaukee, WI chiropractic  practice:  headaches, back and neck pain, shoulder, knee, wrist, or jaw problems. Overall they appeared thinner and more physically fit.  A few brought x-rays or MRI scans that they paid for out of their own pockets. Most stated they acquired their trouble from the repetitive motions of their activities, such as farming, or from driving on these few but  extremely rough and bumpy roads. A high percentage sleep in hammocks nightly and wear sandals frequently, contributing to their spinal structural troubles. When these misalignments cause nerve impulse interference we chiropractors call it subluxation.

Typical Amazonian family in for their chiropractic adjustment.

Some had more unique problems, such as arthritis, disc injuries, weakness, and low energy.  As I’ve noticed when I provided treatment in other countries on previous occasions, these patients seem to respond faster and more dramatically than patients back in the US.  I suspect three reasons for this:  their food is fresher and less processed than our own, they are more physically active than we are, and chiropractic treatment is more respected, lacking the foolish stigmas of being dangerous or ineffective as portrayed by medical adversaries and some media.

The most interesting case I saw was a 58 year old man named Domingo.  He was brought in a wheelchair by his wife.  His complaint was leg paralysis due to a snake bite 3 weeks ago!  The drugs he was given were not helping so he came to try chiropractic.  On his second treatment he was able to stand and take a few steps.  I’ve got before and after pictures for any skeptics!  This gentleman is one who traveled 3 days by boat.

Domingo before adjustment

Domingo 24 hours after adjustment!

When people live outside the city of Manaus, they call it living in the “interior”.  I told my translator that we call that living in the “boondocks”.  When I said “boondocks” both Domingo and his wife gave me an odd look.  The translator laughed and explained that in Portuguese “boondocks” means, “rear-end!”  Oops!  They all speak Portuguese here.  A few speak English.

Being 100 miles south of the equator, the weather is always warm.  I’m here in the dry, winter season, so it never rains, but you could cut the humidity with a knife, and the temperature is above 90 degrees daily.

I had a few hours for sightseeing, so I was able to visit the local outdoor market.  It’s a bustling place with many unique smells, sounds, and sights, like large Piranha fish for sale, purple potatoes, and many extraordinary fruits.  A boat trip upriver revealed how quickly it becomes remote and wild.  I saw natives living in small shacks perched on stilts at the river’s edge.  Alligators are common, along with pink dolphins, birds, 15 foot snakes, and, of course, mosquitoes.

Dr Tom Potisk wrestling an alligator. LOL!

Exotic fruits at the local produce market, and delicious!

The food was excellent with lots of beef, beans and rice .  The people were extremely friendly and hospitable.

It’s rewarding to be of help in this way. The Christian Chiropractors Association can be reached at 1-800-999-1970.  A special “thank you” to my South Milwaukee office staff, associates, patients and my family for allowing me time away for this adventure!

Practice on!

Dr Tom Potisk

PS Be sure and get my free reports for chiropractic practice success on the right side of this website.

PPS And be sure and take the Free DC Success Test – see how you measure up!

Categories: Christian doctors, Mission trip to Amazon


Comments Off on Amazon Chiropractor: A Christian Mission Trip


Subscribe to

Dr Tom Potisk

Google+ Chiropractic Marketing