Camp Fire Medical Outreach: Nurturing a Garden of Good Health in Butte County

Northwest  |  July 26, 2019
Photo by Judy Liao.

Author: Huan Xun Chan
Translation: Huan Xun Chan, Qingjun Wei
Editor: Adriana DeBenedetto, Dilber Shatursun
Photo Credit: Judy Liao

Ever since the Camp Fire began on November 8, 2018, in Butte County, CA, Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Regional Office has been devoted to providing its compassionate recovery efforts for families who suffered from the blaze. As part of their long-term aid, on July 20th and 21st of 2019, TIMA staff and volunteers arrived in Butte County to host their first medical outreach event in Magalia and Concow. More than one hundred people signed up.

Tzu Chi is the first group to host medical outreach in the area, including dental services and acupuncture treatment. Knowing the damaging effects one faces after experiencing a disaster, psychotherapists also joined the team to provide their expertise.

Seeing Tzu Chi volunteers return to visit, residents were moved. Tzu Chi had always been with them.

Residents were moved to see that Tzu Chi volunteers had come to visit them again. Indeed, their Tzu Chi family was truly here for them!

New Tzu Chi volunteers from the Bay Area, Central Valley Area, and Chico, were part of the team working alongside Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) staff. On Saturday, they arrived at Magalia Pines Baptist Church.

Tzu Chi’s emergency disaster relief, as well as its long-term recovery efforts, was acknowledged by the Disaster Recovery Center of California. Therefore, Tzu Chi volunteers were able to stay overnight at the Cal OES Base Camp. On the second day of the medical outreach, the Da Ai Mobile Clinic traveled to Concow to provide their services at the Old School House.

Resident Mark Boaze attends the TIMA medical outreach and poses with his new Bamboo Banks alongside Minjhing Hsieh. Photo by Judy Liao.

In the early morning, Mark Boaze was the first patient sitting in the Great Hall of Magalia Pines Baptist Church. On Saturday, he left Lincoln at 6 AM and drove for about two hours, hoping that he could get the free dental help he needed from Tzu Chi’s medical outreach.

After the treatment was completed, Mark was able to recover from the toothache he’d endured for several months. “Now, I just,  I feel blessed,” Boaze said.

One week prior, Boaze had received a message about the medical outreach. During registration, he was told to sign up for the waiting list because all time slots were fully booked. 

“OK,” he’d said hopefully, “I’ll bring the bamboo bank to Magalia [and] wait for a no show!” 

He also asked if he could request two new Bamboo Banks for his family. “I want to give back for helping me!” Boaze said.

Rachel Begbie said it was a strange feeling to be in the mobile dental clinic.

This was the first time I was actually getting work done instead of helping someone else.

Begbie, a dental assistant.

“I had to just sit still, which is hard for me.” Tragically, she lost her job when the Camp Fire burned her office down. 

“I just got my resume together, it’s just something I’ve never thought I would have to do,” said Rachel, who had worked in the same dental clinic for thirty years. Rachel filled out the paperwork to volunteer on the spot so she could help at future medical outreach events. “I want to help you guys when I can,” she said.

Joanna Schlansky (right) speaking to Dr. Sharon Salz. Photo by Judy Liao.

After her acupuncture treatment, Joanna Schlansky talked to a psychotherapist, Sharon Salz, in a little nook of the Great Hall.

Joanna lost her father just a few months before the Camp Fire. “I have a wall up from losing him, the Camp Fire just added more to it,” she said.

She helped me see the bigger picture... I’m dealing with the two big traumas still...

Joanna Schlansky, Camp Fire Survivor

Dr. Salz is a member of the Spiritual, Emotional & Wellness team of Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Group. She took on the medical outreach as a chance to help Camp Fire survivors. 

“I am very grateful for the chance to work at Tzu Chi’s medical outreach. To me, it’s very meaningful to help survivors recover and get back on track,” said Salz.

Dr. Moggia Charles sees a patient in the Da Ai Dental Mobile Unit. Photo by Judy Liao.

On the first day of the medical outreach, a dentist, Dr. Moggia Charles, started with a complicated case. After solving it, patients were already lining up. He and other doctors worked non-stop. Charles had worked as a dentist for 40 years. After retirement, he had participated in many free clinics. Four years ago, he joined TIMA. But, he suddenly fell a bit ill; he was dehydrated. Volunteers asked him to take a break and have some water, then offered him a relaxing massage.

Two months ago, Tzu Chi hosted the Buddha Bathing Ceremony at the Old School House there, and formed a relationship with the Yankee Hill Historical Society ever since. Coming back, volunteers saw many familiar faces. 

At the same time, Tzu Chi volunteer C.H. Liu has been working on special recovery cases in Concow. At this medical outreach, she brought some food for the residents whom she has been taking care of. She heard that Stephanie Rowe, a local resident, was interested in Chinese medicine. So she invited her to visit the Mobile Clinic. Rowe, though never tried acupuncture before, she was happy to try it and also surprised by how well it went.

Volunteers help and welcome patients at the medical outreach. Photo by Judy Liao.

Tzu Chi volunteers offered more than free medical care. Tzu Chi Northwest CEO Mingjhing Hsieh noticed that one patient was living under terrible conditions, so he invited the patient to sit down in order to learn more. 

After treatment, patient Larry Wilson shook hands with Acupuncturist Mike Liaw. Mike praised Wilson for having strong hands. Wilson looked at his hands and had a proud smile on his face. “I’m gonna try it every day to know if it’s real.” He opened and closed his fist a few more times. Less than 30 minutes ago, he couldn’t make a fist with his right hand. “Now I can completely open my palm. And I can turn my wrist. I think I have…well I don’t know how much grip, but I feel that everything is back to normal,” he revealed.

But, alas, seventeen years ago, Larry Wilson was bitten by a dog and sustained nerve damage in his right hand. He visited many doctors with little relief in sight. Admittedly, he told us he had very little expectations coming to the TIMA medical outreach. He thought acupuncture could probably release some pain. Within 30 minutes, he it was much more than he’d bargained for. His wife Corine Wilson was very happy for him. She said that his husband’s two hands now had the same temperature because one was always colder than the other. 

After the two-day medical outreach, volunteers were exhausted. But seeing smiles on Camp Fire survivors’ faces, everyone felt happy and fulfilled. One resident, who went to Magalia’s medical outreach the first day, visited Concow the second day with flowers to thank Tzu Chi volunteers. It’s love and gratitude that drives Tzu Chi volunteers to serve the community, no matter what.

Empower our dedicated volunteers to do more for communities in need.

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