Normally, acupuncturist Paige Hetherington treats patients in her West Ashley clinic inside a small house on S.C. Highway 61.
Earlier this year, though, Hetherington stepped far outside Charleston with a nonprofit group called Acupuncturists Without Borders. It’s similar to the world-renowned Doctors Without Borders except, well, these healers practice acupuncture.
On this trip, Hetherington and 14 other acupuncturists traveled to Nepal, where they treated 1,200 earthquake victims.
“I heard about (Acupuncturists Without Borders) while I was in school, and I did their training and I just always wanted to go,” said Hetherington, who has practiced acupuncture for about 12 years. Her West Ashley practice is named Dakini Acupuncture.
“When I found out about the earthquakes in Nepal ... I just felt compelled.”
A series of earthquakes this spring killed nearly 9,000 people in that country.
For survivors, Hetherington said the after-effects of such tragedy can last decades.
“They need acupuncture because of the post-traumatic stress that can occur after these events,” she said.
Food, water, clothing and shelter are important, she acknowledged, but Eastern medicine also provides resources that can help the victims.
“There are instances where those supplies can be sent and people can be too traumatized to actually eat the food and drink the water that’s been supplied,” she said.
The acupuncture re-sets their nervous system, she explained, and “gives them hope and peace so they can function.”
Hetherington spent more than $3,000 to travel with the group. She said the organization isn’t very well funded and acupuncturists have to pay their own way.
Tax records from 2013 show Acupuncturists Without Borders, which is based in New Mexico, raised about $467,000 that year.
The group has previously set up mobile acupuncture clinics for trauma victims following disasters in New Orleans, Haiti, Hawaii, Mexico and Mongolia.
“It’s really holistic,” Hetherington said.
And it doesn’t hurt, she insisted. The needles they use are very small.
“Most people feel very little discomfort,” she said. “They usually feel very relaxed, peaceful, grounded, calm.”
For more information about Acupuncturists Without Borders, go to acuwithoutborders.org.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.