I’ve only just returned from a ‘Me and My Mirror’ combo-trip to both Lebanon and Ethiopia. And in an awful lot of ways it was my best trip ever.
I’m so happy. I’ve been bangin’ away at this for well-over 4 years now and have only now had a series of literally breathtaking breakthroughs.
First was Beirut and, though it was not the first time I have worked with/for/alongside the ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’; it was certainly the first time I have worked so complicitly with them and with their complete credulity and the estimable support of their entire Lebanese Delegation. I was brought in to present Mirror Therapy at 5 or 6 distinct yet interdependent lecture/seminar/workshops all connected to a congress the ICRC assembled called: ‘CLINICAL MANAGEMENT OF WEAPON WOUNDED PATIENTS’. It was convened in conjunction with the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the Lebanese University and, under their aegis, I was able to present to both Prosthetic and Orthotic (P&O) specialists and trauma surgeons from all over the extended region: Lebanon, Syria (both Damascus and Homs), Iran, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen and others besides. I was able to present the therapy to a roomful of young Physio Rehab Therapists from ‘Handicap International’, with whom the ICRC partners, by-times, worldwide. I held forth in front of 200 rehab therapy students and the Dean and faculty at ‘Beirut Arab University’ (my favorite presentation; the kids were Totally into it and had lots of questions and quite a few trick ones).
I was able to visit the ICRC’s ‘War Traumatology Training Center’ in Tripoli, Lebanon (there’s one in Lebanon too). They have 4 or 5 Rehab Therapists there who had, unbeknownst to me, already embraced mirror therapy well before my visit. One of the guys had been to an ICRC gathering in Cambodia and seen my work there and became inspired. They had their own mirrors and, within the simple treatment, developed their own new little protocols – advancements – things I had never even considered. It was so cool. I was so flattered and impressed and inspired all at once.
Gunshots, shrapnel, landmines, propane explosions, vehicle accidents, diabetes and other vascular stuff, 3 pack-a-day smokers. These rocking therapists were using the mirror on them all and getting results; some of the patients were teaching other newer patients when I walked in the room.
One of the best experiences in the history of my little outfit.
We treated some folks in a regional hospital in downtown Beirut and a bunch up in a clinic in the infamous Bekaa Valley up on the Syrian border.
A huge amount of sadness too: a 20 year-old Ethiopian run-away and abused domestic slave who refused to allow her necrotizing foot to be taken off; the guys who stepped on mines just trying to escape out of conflict and into Lebanon (where 1 in 4 people are, now, Syrian). And the kids, man, the infants. Club foot, polio, congenitally disfigured, cerebral palsy, umbilical strangling… the list goes sadly on. And so it goes. For lots of little ones there is, of course, nothing I can do, which hurts all the more.
So, sadness and tribulation galore; but I ended my visit (my 1st to the Middle East) on the highest note imaginable and my effect – and the effect of the mirrors! – was palpable enough that I have been invited back in mid-May to present the technique at ‘The First Global Conflict Medicine Congress’, which is sponsored by, among others, the ‘American University of Beirut’, probably the most prestigious and oldest university in the Middle East. So everything is on the up-and-up… finally.
I chose to take advantage of my presence in the region to revisit one of my favorite countries: Ethiopia. I spent a bunch of time in the capital and visited the Huge regional hospital in Addis: ‘The Black Lion’, which harbored plenty of sadness too. I visited the ‘Korean Hospital’ and 2 other private clinics.
Ethiopia is convulsed right now with a lot of civil unrest and the consequent police/military lockdown, the so-called ‘National Emergency’ that sometimes never goes away.
So, both hard and probably dangerous to get around. Social Media blocked, internet disrupted, power and water outages, popular media totally controlled, trails of blood leading to disappearing paddy-wagons, firing on crowds and no rubber bullets at all.
But I was able to look around a little bit and a newfound Ethiopian friend took me down to a southern region around the town of ‘Gesuba’. It was a fabulous experience in every regard, but, in terms of mirror therapy, a heart-warming one too. I treated one woman who had somehow heard about me (after a somewhat festive night with a number of local guys). The next morning she hobbled in on a crutch, suffering from brutal phantom pain after a recent BK amputation – the result of a cut that went septic. Then came a small stream of other supplicants; I felt like the Pied Piper, and it wasn’t the first time. Very gratifying stuff.
During my last days in Lebanon I was – out of the blue – contacted by the people at ‘National Geographic Explorer’; their film documentary department. And during my whole time in Ethiopia we were exploring the possibility of Nat Geo filming ‘Me and My Mirror’ at work in Lao, a place where I have worked before and a place that America unaccountably attempted to destroy with hundreds of thousands of criminal aerial bombing missions (see: The Secret War). The possibility is now a certainty, and within the next 2 or 3 weeks we will be flying to Lao to shoot.
So, as you can see, things are going real good, and these, truly, are the days.
I have a vast number of people to thank, and they know who they are. Chief among them though would certainly be Mr Didier Cooreman, Physical Rehabilitation Project Manager for the ICRC in Lebanon, and also the entire delegation there and, for that matter, the ICRC in general. Locally, in Vancouver that is, I received a big bump of support from numerous people: Rainer Muller from Parc Retirement Living and Lifetime Daily – an online magazine devoted to providing current health/nutrition/fitness and science to active people ‘of a certain age’, David Hollands and wife Carol Prantner, Michael Short from False Creek Fuels, Kevin Nash and George Bartel of CANTRAV, who flew me there! Without help from these compassionate and generous people this trip would never have happened. Bottomless thanks are also due to the inimitable Rosemary Yip, who has supported me – with and without and above and beyond the mirrors – in every conceivable sense.
Without the support of the above-mentioned – and many others besides – the mirrors would have died an agonizing death sometime this past autumn. Thank You from the Heart! J
I’m on to Plan “B” here, but it’s a good one.
In the first week of October I will be flying to Beirut in order to take Me and My Mirror on another road-trip.
I will be working, at first, under the aegis and with the invaluable assistance of the International Committee of The Red Cross. They have invited me to present mirror therapy methodology workshops to a congress of their physical rehab therapists and surgeons from all over the world. It’s a massive chance for massive outreach and a big spike in credibility, visibility and, I hope, sustainability – there’s that magic word.
My next task there is equally exciting. The Red Cross has offered me access and support to ride my mirrors into the enormous and swarming Syrian refugee camps along the famous Bekaa Valley.
Every fourth person in Lebanon now is a Syrian refugee. They pour in daily along the 360 kilometer-long border and pour is too from the street-fighting in Tripoli and other regional conflicts. And plenty of them are wounded and plenty of those are new arrivals to the world of amputee-ism.
Syria is the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today – and is so by a Middle Eastern Mile. There are over 9 million Syrians in need of both aid and protection. I’m stoked to do my tiny bit.
There are plenty of hospitals and clinics in Lebanon where I will have access and a chance to lay down some mirror therapy and a big whack of goodwill. In addition to all this largesse, the ICRC has also given me the opportunity to present at their ‘Weapons and Traumatology Course’ in Tripoli and to take the treatment to the city’s hospitals. Major.
From there I hope to push Me and My Mirror along the road to Gaza City in Palestine and continue work with both the ICRC and Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). And if funds hold out I don’t know why I wouldn’t push on into the ‘Horn of Africa’ and try my luck with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and the Sudans. At least those are my intentions, hell.
Another great partnership: a beautiful new bright orange ’24 D CARGO’ bike from the fine people at XTRACYCLE in Oakland. Stout and Steel and built for Real! With some small riding position mods for long hours in the saddle starting in January in Cambodia. I deliver! To the villagers, often in their very villages. This skookum bike has a meter-long rack on the back and a nice low center of gravity that will allow me to carry as many as 70-75 hand-made mirrors in one go. Now all I need is to get there and buy the acrylic for the mirrors ; and order to do that YOU NEED TO HELP. DONATE to this worthy effort and get a wonderful mission off the ground!!