Report: Osteopathic School to Open 2012

Osteopathy Without Borders (OWB) was founded in 2007 to bring the benefits of osteopathy, a form of low-cost, effective manual medicine, to Pakistan.

OWB organizes, with the support of the Collège D’Etudes Ostéopathiques (CEO) in Montreal, Canada, yearly humanitarian missions, bringing volunteers to work in a hospital setting in Lahore and a rural mountainous area.  Its main mission is the training of Pakistani osteopaths.

It is recognized by all who work in health-care in developing countries (WHO, MSF, …) that natural therapies should be part of the solution to provide proper health-care to their population, as the high-costs of allopathic care is not affordable for all. Unfortunately, this kind of training is not available to local students as cost is prohibitive. OWB was created to fund the initial training of osteopaths in Pakistan.  Once enough local osteopaths exists, local osteopathic schools can function independently.

The second phase of our plan, setting up a part-time osteopathic program in Lahore, is being planned for the Fall of 2012. We are very grateful to our generous and pioneering donors who have allowed us to get this far with our first phase.  Thanks to their support, 2 physiotherapists, Haider Ali and Usmara Zafar from Lahore, are now entering their 5th year of the 5-year program at the Swiss International College of Osteopathy (SICO).  They will become the directors of this future school in Lahore and will be assistant-teachers to the senior teachers that will be sent from the CEO in Montreal.  This plan will insure the highest quality of training, and that the full potential of osteopathy is offered to patients in Pakistan, making a difference in their health and the global cost of health-care in Pakistan.

As every year since 2007, we were able this past July to work for a week at Shaik Zayed Hospital (SZH) in Lahore, invited by Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal, orthopedic surgeon, who is an advocate for new ways to improve patient care.  Our team was small, with only Anoushka Lapchuk-Dube to accompany me, but she was the best of recruits, determined to help as many as she could.  She was also a wonderful teacher and coach to our 2 local students, who welcomed the integrative teaching she provided.

Anoushka helping with revision

Pediatrics department at Shaik Zayed

In the orthopedics ward, we concentrated on helping young men who injured in motorcycle accidents, often with infected wounds at their fracture sites.  Osteopathy, by restoring alignment and mobility to the entire body, allows their immune activity to reach the site of injury, and promotes better and fuller healing, also preventing later complications, the worst being amputation.

In the internal medicine ward, we were sad to see so many patients too sick for us to treat.  Because SZH is a tertiary hospital, it receives cases that other smaller or rural hospitals cannot handle. Too often, care has been insufficient or too poor, and patients get to a gravity of disease that makes palliative care the only treatment. That’s why osteopathy at a local level would be so helpful, for people to get care at the beginning of a problem, when they can be completely cured.  Because osteopathy is low-cost –just the fee of the osteopath– and because most of the time, people feel an immediate relief, acceptance and follow-up of treatment would be greater than it is now.

Doctors recognized us from our previous visits, and were interested in showing us patients who were not responding to treatment.  For instance, we saw a patient with cellulitis of his right leg, which was extremely swollen. He had been hospitalized for 6 weeks with no progress. Right after his osteopathic treatment, his physician was impressed to feel that the leg had become softer. He would have needed more treatments of course to make a real long term difference.

We also treated several patients with undiagnosed fevers.  For those and all patients, the difference of perspective from the osteopath was obvious.  Our history-taking looks to understand a process, finding often that the weakening of the physiology had started long before the present symptoms.  With our mobility tests, we can then identify and release the mechanical restrictions that interfere with proper function.

Patients suffering from chronic liver disease are always a good target of our treatment, as they usually respond rapidly with increased energy and less discomfort.  We saw a 14-year girl with hepatitis, whose swollen gallbladder returned to normal shape with the release of the different fascias and sphincters involved.

In the pediatric ward we could treat many kids with various infections.  A 1-year old with gastro-enteritis and a distended abdomen was taken to an ultra-sound test just as I was starting to treat him. Too bad they couldn’t wait, as the abdomen was normal at the end of his treatment I resumed an hour later.

Our trip to the remote valley of Nagar was challenging this year, as the flights were cancelled because of clouds and we had to go by car both ways: 34 hours on the way up, with one shower stop. The return was broken in 2 legs, so it was “only” 5 hours and then 21!!  Anoushka was good sport, we had a comfortable car where we could sleep and we made the best of it on the legendary Karakoram Highway, through massive stone landscapes.

Muhammad Ibrahim, our precious advocate and guide in Nagar Valley, had the good idea of gathering a group of our patients of last year, at USWA, the private school we had conducted screenings and treatments at. The feedback was excellent: half the kids were completely cured, the other half were all much improved. We continued our work in the different classes. The school had moved as the roofs of their buildings were destroyed by strong winds this Spring. We found them conducting classes on terraces of other schools for lack of space.

We connected with members of the academic support of USWA, who will help us extend our work.  It is also important to keep going back to the same villages, Nagar and Hoper, as with time the population understands better what osteopathy can do. Also, our successful treatments validate the information we gave them about the harm of flattening babies’ heads. A flat head is considered more beautiful, mostly for boys, but they have started doing it to girls too. They use a hard pillow, and also bandages around the head. This is a catastrophe for the function of the nerves coming out of the cranium at the back of the head, that can become irritated by the abnormal compression. It interferes with proper information conduction through those nerves.  A lot of the babies we treat are not healing from simple infections; the weakness of their immune system can be caused, at least in part, by the nerve compression. Some kids have no impairment from the head-flattening of course, but if there were a traumatic birth or a later injury, function can definitely be compromised.

We have created a poster we are spreading widely to help mothers understand the importance of keeping their babies’ head the way they were meant to be.

We presented our work to classes of teenage-girls in both villages: I called onto their responsibility as educated girls to stop this harmful tradition.

We treated an 11-year old boy who was suffering from urinary problem, a form of leakage. He had seen many doctors, had gone to a university hospital all the way to Karachi, with no improvement. I heard a month later that his condition was much improved and he can now control his sphincters to a great extent.

presentation to a class of high-school girls

feedback from our patients from last year

The goal of the mission is to treat the underprivileged population, but the goal of the Foundation is to bring osteopathy to Pakistan. So in addition to all the treatments, we did a lot of presentations to those who can support the creation of an osteopathic school in Pakistan.  We were happy to meet the executive team of Fatima Memorial System, a hospital, medical school, allied sciences schools, and outreach program with a wonderful caring dedicated spirit. It is an institution delivering allopathic care in a holistic manner that could be a good partner with our efforts.

We have started applying for state recognition of osteopathy. The secretary of Health of Punjab, Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan, and his team, have assured us of their support.

Our goal is to start in Lahore with a 5-year part-time osteopathic program in the Fall of 2012, when teachers will be sent from the CEO school in Montreal. The program will be open to physiotherapists and doctors.  Thanks to the fund-raising efforts of board-member Aleema Khan and the Imran Khan Foundation, Pakistani students will be able to pay local cost for Western teachers.

For the third phase, in about 10 years, the local osteopaths will become the teachers and supervisors of a full-time program entered after grade 12.

Thank you for your help and support in allowing OWB accomplish its mission.  Check our  web-site to follow our progress.  Your donations are gladly accepted, by check or via pay-pal on the web-site.

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