On Oct 17 Dr. Medha Durge arrived in Liberia along with homeopaths Ortrud Lindemann, from Germany and Richard Hiltner from the U.S. She was there to assess the situation and if possible explore the use of homeopathy for the Ebola epidemic. She chats with us about her experience there. She has been practicing classical homeopathy for the last 22yrs, after having trained under the renowned Drs. ML Dhawale, Kasad, Anil Bhatia and Apte. Dr. Durge worked for many years with the Institute of Clinical Research and is currently a member of LMHI, RCCM (UK), CHAIN, and the Maharashtra Council of Homeopathy.
AS: What made you decide to go to Liberia where the Ebola epidemic was occurring?
MD: Ebola had been in news right from March 2014. I had been active in following it up and also reading all the health updates about it. I kept thinking that solutions would be worked out as the MSF/ WHO were working closely on it.
However, by July nothing significant had happened and I began to think of homeopathy as a solution, as people were dying. So I started to leverage the social media and find solutions to it online by discussions etc. Until then I had not thought of going there since it was far-fetched, expensive and not logistically possible as an individual homeopath. Of course when LMHI took it up and decided to do something about Ebola, I wanted to go. In fact nothing could have stopped me.
AS: When did you arrive and what did you find? What were the conditions? Was there a hospital? Did they have necessary items like IV fluids etc.?
MD: I arrived on 17th Oct, 2014 in the late evening. The MSF and WHO and many other international bodies had been working for some time there. So there was a fair amount of system in place. There was a training course of five days for all healthcare workers, docs included, who were going to be working for Ebola patients. The hospitals were in place and also IV fluids etc, though they were not enough, especially when Ebola was at its peak. Some boards and public awareness processes were going on, but doctors and trained nurses were few and many more were required. In Ebola there is often what is called projectile vomiting. Even if a healthcare worker stands away the vomitus of a patient can still land on his body. Hence it’s important for healthcare workers to be careful and always protected.
AS: Where did you live while you were there? What were your living conditions like?
MD: We were put up in a nice hotel a little outside the city of Monrovia, probably for our health safety, as Monrovia was full of Ebola. I found it fine but my colleagues were upset as there was no running water, power supply was uncertain and there was a tense atmosphere due to Ebola.
AS: Did you have safety equipment such as gowns and face masks? Was there any training in safety methods?
MD: We were given a crash course designed by WHO for two days. It was necessary I felt, since it helped us take better care of ourselves. All safety gear were provided including PPE (personal protection equipment). There were plenty of gloves, gowns etc
AS: Did you have cooperation from the government or from non- governmental agencies like the WHO? Did any agency help or hinder your work?
MD: Initially their ministers did not know much about homeopathy. However they cooperated and were keen on it. They were just glad that doctors had come to help them. The WHO had come up with a memorandom stating that they supported homeopathy and had not underpinned homeopathy in their protocol. However, they had laid down strict protocols about everything related to Ebola patients, treatment, dead bodies etc. and these prevented us from going to Ebola Treatment Units (ETU). This caused an embarrassment to the ministers. Nevertheless, access to hospitals was given and so we could treat some cases here and there, and of course lots of other general cases. We could do enough for me to say that homeopathy was a good option to explore.
AS: What kind of symptoms did you observe?
MD: Apart from all the symtoms that you read online, the ones which struck me were: projectile vomiting and symptoms of disorientation, which were like what we observe in cerebral oedema or meningitis. Also there was chronic malaria and typhoid, low Hb(3-4-5) and malnutrition in a large number of cases. This made me even more certain that homeopathy would work better.
AS: Did you have an opportunity to take any cases and do treatment?
MD: Yes, I did get to treat a few people. One case was also post-Ebola, with severe headache and disorientation that responded to Gels 200 in 3 doses.
AS: Did you find any remedies that looked promising in individual patients?
MD: I would say Gelsemium, Crot. and Tuberculinum would work well.
AS: Did you get to treat patients for conditions other than Ebola? What kind of reaction did those people have to being treated with homeopathy?
MD: Since we were attached to a hospital I treated all regular cases-like asthma , bronchitis, epistaxis, haematemesis, chronic malaria , hypertension, enlarged glands.They responded well and in fact much better than I have seen and in a few doses only. To them it seemed like magic! They were impressed enough to want homeopathy for their people and I suppose LMHI has received invitation from other African countries as well to introduce homeopathy.
Clinically there were a few constraints, since where we worked they did not have sonography machines or scans to evaluate the cases. It is a must to understand the pathology and diagnosis when you treat people with homeopathy. Hence I always saw to it that they were within the scope of homeopathy and diagnosis was fairly clear. The people wanted to take homeopathy and now I get follow up emails as well.
AS: How long did you stay? Why did you decide to leave? Did any organization sponsor the trip or cover expenses?
MD: Our trip was planned for 3 weeks and we stayed for 3weeks. The trip was sponsored by LMHI a global homeopathic organization.
AS: What would be needed, or what would have to change for homeopathy to have more impact in the epidemic? Would there have to be policy changes? Anything else?
MD: Homoeopathy needs to be an important partner in the healthcare system during epidemics. Why shouldn’t MSF or REDCROSS or any other NGOs use homoeopathy? After all, these are all humanitarian organizations which need to keep human life as the top priority. Homoeopaths also need to come forward during these times and consider themselves accountable. We should not be afraid to try or fail. The response of the homoeopathic community should be prompt and all protocols designed by the WHO or other international NGOs should include homeopathy. Initial use of homeopathy during an epidemic will bring down the costs. The most important thing is the mindset of the homoeopaths, since we need them in crises. This would therefore be a BIG policy change. Hence it is better if we think of homeopathy in the earlier stages, as later it gets complicated due to conflicts, business interests and politics. Considering this, the main thing about Liberia was that the WHO did know about us, and we did land during crises times and created a splash. Next time we can plan it better.
AS: What do you feel was accomplished by the homeopathy team’s visit?
MD: We helpled confirm that homeopathy is a partner in world healthcare and epidemics, which is serious message. Probably for the first time it seems to have been accepted, partially at least, that homeopathy may have a role to play here in Liberia and other African countries, and it can benefit tremendously. This may help lead to important policy changes in epidemic protocols by NGOs like the Redcross, MSF etc, allowing homeopathy to be even more successful.
Thank you Dr. Durge for sharing with us today. You’ve demonstrated your passion and dedication in going to the front lines of this situation.
Visit Dr. Durge at her website: www.homeopathy4all.com