An Oasis (guest post by Michael Kalebich- FSPA Community Acupuncture)

“An Oasis” by Michael Kalebich, Punk at FSPA Community Acupuncture in La Crosse, WI.

My first POCAFest was when it really hit home to me how wonderful POCA and the people around POCA was.

I was a 2.5ish year acku-skool student, the 2015 Rhode Island POCAFest was coming up, and I knew beyond any doubt that I wanted to practice community acupuncture when I graduated. So, everything lined up to finally make it out to a POCAFest. I'd been volunteering for POCA on the Membership Circle for a few months by then, but I still didn't really know what to expect meeting people in-person. Any previous experience I'd had  going to “conferences” was primarily more academic events. However, all of the interactions I'd had with people were all very positive in Circle-meetings, so I wasn't too nervous.

However, I also happened to be TERRIBLY ill at the same time as this POCAFest. I'd been dealing with really nasty inflammation in my legs, difficulty walking without a limp, difficulty sleeping, 6-8/10 pain, very ugly all around. I'd been feeling better a few days leading up to POCAfest, but a good portion of my problem was related to a chronic immune disease I have. Either right before or during my trip out to Rhode-Island things got pretty bad, and by the time those of us who flew got from the airport to where POCAFest itself was being held, I had a at least a somewhat pronounced limp.

I remember having to duck out of one of the initial meetings early because of how much pain I was in. And, having to do so while also having barely started my weekend pretty much felt like the hard-opposite of “encouraging”.

As I was limping back to a quieter area where I could lay down, someone that I had seen around POCA who likely noticed my gait mentioned that we both seemed to be going the same way, and asked if I wanted a treatment. Not being in a position to turn that down, I limped while they walked back to a meeting hall where the keynote was going to be held that also had some zero-gravity chairs set up for treatments.

Thankfully, they were both kind AND a capable needler, and both my legs and morale started to improve. Ten minutes later, someone else who I had seen around POCA came through, and my needler introduced us both, “You're almost done with acupuncture school, huh?” this second person said. After we chatted very briefly, I think it wasn't even a few minutes before this second person was talking up a new “Acu-school almost-grad” they just met to a couple of people who owned a clinic in a state adjacent to mine who I'd overheard earlier may have been hiring. That felt nice, and made the pain feel a bit better. The folks who may have been hiring said they weren't sure at that specific moment, but still, that felt nice(just before the keynote when we all introduced ourselves, this same advocate loudly announced to everyone how “Hire-able” I was. That definitely made things feel better, too).

Just before the keynote for the 2015 Rhode-Island POCAFest got started, having had a chance by then to follow up a bit with some other folks I'd done volunteer work with, it all just hit me how truly “genuine” everyone was. Coming from acupuncture school, this was all such a massive breath of fresh air. It all started to really sink in that, yes, everyone here MEANT WHAT THEY HAD SAID. Who knew that actually existed in the acupuncture field!

Even before I started my whole process of getting to acupuncture school and becoming a punk, I had been a patient in the American Medical System who happened to have certain conditions which would flag me as “difficult” to people who might read my chart. Being “Community Centered” and practicing “Socially Conscious” medicine has been a trendy focus in medicine, but the experience of many patients who need more specialized care is often still one of dealing with barriers to get to the care they need. It happened to me, and it happened a lot worse to people that I knew and cared about.

It's difficult to find organizations of people who really are just focused on providing resources directly to people, who go out of their way to learn about the barriers to care patients encounter so they as providers can find ways around them. Not for profit, not for professional renown, but because they ACTUALLY CARE.

As that assuring realization washed over me that I had, in-fact, found some of those people, all at once I became EXCITED! to be there, and that hasn't really gone away since. I felt warm and invited in a way that, having only experienced the acupuncture field from the perspective of trying to slog through acupuncture-skool, I kind of couldn't really imagine was *really* out there.

It's been one HELL of a party ever since!”

Author: teatree

lover of bikes, gardens, loaf shaped animals, kids, contra dancing, books, and weird smells. poking people and helping them feel better is amazing.

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