by Lauri Grossman
I flew to Haiti with Homeopaths Without Borders twice. On both occasions I was advised to fill my backpack with what was critical: water, food for seven days, a change of underwear, and essential homeopathic remedies. Even with these restrictions, I packed countless vials of Aconite, Ignatia, and Natrum muriaticum. I wanted to have a generous supply of the remedies for shock, loss, and grief. However, the remedies that I used in Haiti had a much greater range than the ones we relied on after 9-11. This was Port au Prince after an earthquake, not NYC after the fallen towers.
Immediately after we opened our clinic at the French Hospital, men, women, and children from all over the city headed our way. They lined up seeking help for what they called "tension." They reported headaches and dizziness, sprained ankles and crushed toes, and every complaint in between. We treated an infinite number of people who had irritated eyes caused by the debris in the air and countless lethargic babies weakened by the inadequate food supply. We used Euphrasia for eyes and Carbo vegetabilis for the infants. We also used Sepia and Vaginitis combinations for many of the female complaints and Arnica montana and the Arnica gels for a good number of the musculoskeletal injuries. We relied on many of the most basic remedies like Calcarea carbonica and Sulphur and handed simple cell salt combination remedies to the children over and over again. There were countless other valuable medicines, including Aconite, Ignatia, or Natrum muriaticum, but we didn't use these three in the amount that I anticipated. Why was that so?
The Haitian people are strikingly gracious. They experience loss and they experience joy and they accept both as essential parts of life. When faced with the hardship of living on the streets, men and women still play music at night and children still run along lifting kites into the air. When they own few clothes, they still wash and iron the little they have to look their best as they walk through the streets every day. They celebrate when there is a birth and they accept the loss when death occurs. And when it is as difficult as it was after the earthquake, people come together for hours of prayer and song.
So when we came to offer care after the earthquake, they offered us a lesson in life. We distributed water, food, and homeopathy for trauma, injuries, and a long list of chronic and acute complaints. In return, the people of Haiti gave us a new perspective on dealing with loss and living fully. With few comforts, it is still possible for children to giggle and play. With homes made of discarded plastic, there can still be dancing in the streets. When loss occurs, joining together in prayer and devotion can lift spirits and make hearts light again. If one accepts that life brings loss along with joy, healing with some of the most basic homeopaths medicines happens speedily.
As homeopaths, we are reminded that every complaint has an individual presentation and that culture plays a huge role in ones perspective. Trauma and loss are not always accompanied by shock and prolonged mourning. Although Aconite, Ignatia, and Natrum muriaticum are critical remedies at such a time (and I am glad we had them on hand!) they might not be the only ones needed. Every one who was a part of the Homeopaths Without Borders team in Haiti saw people who seemed to have lost everything wake up in the street, gather bits of wood to build fires to cook breakfast, and begin their day with dignity and poise. Sulphur, Calcarea carbonica and the cell salt combinations were all that so many of them needed.
Lauri Grossman is Chair of the Dept of Humanism at the American Medical College of Homeopathy. She serves on the Advisory Board of Homeopaths Without Borders and has a private practice in Manhattan.