El Salvador is a small country in Central America surrounded by Guatemala, Honduras and the Pacific Ocean. It’s landscape is cluttered with with lakes, waterfalls and volcanoes both dormant and active that are covered with lush greenery. To say that El Salvador is a beautiful country would be an understatement. Despite El Salvador’s beauty the country has a recent history of civil war, gang violence and poverty giving the country a bad reputation and on government web sites there is a constant travel warning to U.S. citizens. So when the opportunity to travel there presented I jumped on it!
During my four years in chiropractic school I was involved in many clubs and organizations that allowed me to travel for seminars, conferences, symposiums and conventions. I went to Reno, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and El Salvador to name a few. The opportunity to travel to El Salvador came about in my third year of school when Doctor Shannon Darrow, founder of Spinal Missions, presented to our school the planned mission trip. We would be traveling to various parts of the country setting up our portable adjusting tables at schools, churches and city buildings giving the locals free chiropractic care. After the presentation there was a bit of a buzz going on throughout the school. I remember hearing students saying that they would never go to El Salvador and that whoever went was crazy and were going to get kidnapped by the gang MS13 (an El Salvadorian born gang that was and still is quite prevalent in Los Angeles where our school is located). There were few of us that were stoked to be joining this mission trip and anticipating the unknown adventure ahead. I having traveled quite a bit to parts of the world known to be unstable convinced a few people who were on the fence to come along. The group from Cleveland Chiropractic College of Los Angeles, my school, totaled about ten people. We had the most volunteers from any one school on the trip, which I was proud of.
It was the month of January when we arrived in El Salvador. The instant wave of heat and humidity I felt when exiting the plane instantly brought back memories of other places I have traveled with similar climates and I knew I was going to like this place. My best friend and classmate traveled together on separate flights than the rest of the group so we ended up meeting up with the group of volunteers from schools all over the U.S. at the orientation dinner. At dinner we all got to know each other and went over the itinerary. We were to separate into six different groups who would all be going to different locations and we would be leaving bright and early. It was already getting late and with the two hour time difference we all headed back to the hotel to rest up for the days to come.
I was shocked and felt a little overwhelmed as we drove up to our first location at a local church. There were at least 150 locals lined up at the doorswaiting for treatment and the line was growing. The five of us at this location set up our tables and signaled the first in line to come forward. Already feeling a bit overwhelmed by seeing the amount of people waiting to see us my first patient did not make me feel any better. I was delivered a woman who I would estimate around seventy years of age being carried by two men. She could not walk and looked very brittle for a lack of better words. I ended up adjusting her low back and hips and she walked away with some assistance. I adjusted nearly seventy five people that day ranging in age from two to eighty seven. I was very sore the next day but my confidence levels shot through the roof. The next three days were similar to the first as far a the amounts of people I was seeing and it became easier and more fluid from each person to the next. My spanish was getting much better as well.