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‘Chi’ and the Art of Healing

By Staff | Jun 22, 2010

University of Georgia student Jesse MacKenzie, an extern at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation Of Wildlife, displays the shell of a gopher tortoise during her presentation on Chinese medicine in veterinary care.

When it comes to treating injured birds, reptiles and animals of all shapes and sizes, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation Of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel is considered one of the leading facilities in the United States.

But when the professional veterinarians, externs and volunteers at CROW are receiving treating and — hopefully — releasing the myriad of critters which come through the facility each year, they aren’t simply treated with "standard" medicines and practices.

At CROW, their team employs the "Chi" approach.

In very basic terms, "Chi" is the vital force — believed in Taoism and other Chinese thought — inherent in all things. The unimpeded circulation of "Chi" and a balance of its negative and positive forms in the body are held to be essential to good health in traditional Chinese medicine.

Dr. PJ Deitschel, staff veterinarian at CROW, studied at the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine, Inc., located in Reddick, Fla. The mission of the Chi Institute is to train licensed veterinarians to become cutting edge animal health care providers, capable of practicing veterinary acupuncture as well as Chinese herbal medicine.

A lifelike model of a gopher tortoise shows areas where acupuncture needles are used to treat a variety of ailments.

"It is a complicated system of medicines, but it has a very valid and useful healing modality," she said, noting that she has been practicing "Chi" basics for more than a quarter century. "You have to think outside the box — open your mind, because there’s a whole other world out there."

Last Thursday, University of Georgia student Jesse MacKenzie led a 45-minute lecture at CROW’s Healing Winds Visitor Education Center on the Eastern medicines and treatments employed at the clinic.

MacKenzie, who is about to complete her six-week externship at CROW, explained the process in which wildlife is handled at the facility, from being admitted to diagnosis, treatment, physical therapy and release.

"Each individual that comes here is special, whether it’s an eagle or a caterpillar," said MacKenzie. "Each animal has the right to live and get the best care possible."

More than 4,000 patients are brought to CROW annually, representing over 160 different species of wildlife. Approximately 90 percent of all patients treated at the facility, which was established in 1968, have been injured due to interaction with humans.

A skeletal model of a great horned owl and an accompanying chart of acupressure points found within the bird's wings.

During her lecture, the first in a series of special presentations to be held at CROW, MacKenzie talked about how the staff and volunteers employ the use of acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese herbs — used for hundreds of years in the Far East — in treating injured wildlife.

"One time, Dr. PJ was talking to me about acupressure points in gopher tortoises," she recalled. "She pushed her finger on this one spot, and all of a sudden the tortoise started to move. It was incredible."

An important part of the CROW mission is to increase public awareness of the perils to which wildlife is subjected in the face of continued land development and human population growth and activity. MacKenzie’s presentation is a part of that mission.

The Georgia native, who will become a sophomore this fall, informed an audience of about 30 that she became interested in helping animals at a young age. After graduating from high school, she discovered CROW via the Internet and inquired about working at the Sanibel-based facility.

"This experience has been so amazing. I’ve learned so much during my time here," she said. "I honestly don’t want to leave because it’s been the greatest experience of my life."

Fielding questions from the crowd, Dr. PJ Deitschel, left, and Jesse MacKenzie share a laugh.

Upcoming presentations at the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center, located at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road, include:

• Thursday, June 24 at 11 a.m. — "Five Element Theory in Chinese Medicine" presented by Dr. PJ Deitschel and student Christine Raubaut.

• Thursday, July 1 at 11 a.m. — "Turtles & Tortoises" presented by Dr. PJ Deitschel and student Kaylee Quinn.

• Thursday, July 8 at 11 a.m. — "Wildlife Baby Care" presented by Dr. PJ Deitschel and student Chloe Apelgren.

For more information, visit CROW’s website at www.crowclinic.org or call 472-3644.