Responding to Traumatic Events During the Pandemic
I remember the shock and disbelief of hearing the news rolling in on Sunday, November 21st about a
driver plowing through the crowds at the Waukesha County Christmas parade. This was the 59th annual Waukesha parade, and it’s theme this year was “Comfort and Joy.” Live cell phone footage from bystanders was being broadcast that showed panic and frenzy. As the night went on we heard of families that were separated, hospitals with over 60 injured, and six lives lost.
This came just two days after the news broke of Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal on all five felonies, including homicide. If you haven’t followed this story, Kyle Rittenhouse is the 17 year old boy who August of 2020 attended a protest against police brutality donning a semi-automatic rifle, and shot three participants, killing two and injuring one. Outside of the Kenosha Courthouse, footage was broadcast internationally showing the scene between the crowds both in support of Kyle and those in support of a guilty verdict. It was tense, with photos and videos of people shouting in each other’s faces. More protests and violence were expected, but didn’t come to light.
This was not a great news week for Wisconsin. It felt sad, and heavy, and fraught with tension. I recall scrolling through my news feed every few minutes for updates, and I know I wasn’t alone. “Now what? Has anything else horrible happened? Do we know more that can possibly make sense of any of this?” And that secondary feeling of, “What can we do to help? How can we come together to help heal this hurt during the pandemic?!” We knew we wanted to get involved in a more hands on way to help our community – but how could we do that safely in winter in Wisconsin?!
We put out a call on social media to host free ear acupuncture clinics wherever we were needed. We have 5 la fuma recliners (thanks to Jim at Urbana CA for donating them to our clinic) as well as a host of personal la fumas and camping chairs, and a mini briefcase packed and ready for off-site events. We heard from a group of local art therapists who have a mutual aid response team, and organize group art therapy events in the wake of traumatic events. We joined a planning committee zoom call that sounded promising, but our effort fell through when their venue felt leery about acupuncture as a liability on their premises. Our staff felt leery about being able to enforce masking policies. I’m hopeful to collaborate with this group in the future however, as I can see an event including art therapy and 5NP working well together.
We had a request from the school my kids attend and were able to host an onsite ear clinic at the school for teachers and staff after school one day. Since my kids go to the school I am familiar with their COVID guidelines. I gave out 9 ear treatments in 3 hours.
We knew we could do more though. Our clinic, Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, is located 20 miles east of downtown Waukesha, and around 40 miles north of the Kenosha Courthouse. So maybe we didn’t need to go to these exact communities, but we could host something locally and have folks come to us. A major perk of this is that we have pandemic guidelines in place that we can comfortably enforce, ensuring our volunteers and our patients stay safe. We landed on four-two hour long free ear clinics after our normal Saturday clinic shifts. All staff who helped organize, check patients in, and needle volunteered their time. Donations were collected for United Waukesha Community Fund for those who felt inclined to pay. We gave out around 25 ear acupuncture treatments – roughly half of these were new to our clinic, and raised $70 for United Waukesha Community Fund.
It felt great to be able to offer a safe space and some peace and relaxation in this time of grief and unresolved tension, not to mention at a time when organizing a group of people indoors is tricky. Want to be involved with acupuncture as Mutual Aid in your area? Here are some tips!
● Reach out to your local mutual aid groups before an event if possible so you can establish a
relationship and see if you can join forces
● Organize some volunteers to help run a 5NP clinic – maybe you have staff that would be
interested, patients, or other local acupuncturists who would be interested in lending a hand.
● Use your social media to promote the event, and let other businesses and groups know they can
cross promote it on theirs
● Send out press releases to local newspapers and am/fm radio stations to promote your event, but
be mindful of press coverage at your event. Someone there to recover from trauma may not
appreciate a camera filming the process, or a reporter asking them questions about said trauma.
● Pack one, or more, mobile acupuncture kit(s) ahead of time so it can be ready to go on a
moment’s notice. Don’t forget the hand sanitizer and extra masks!
Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, Inc.