At Yerba Buena Dr. Sánchez practices medicine without the benefit of many tools that doctors in North America take for granted. No facilities exist for counting white blood cells for instance. An old X-ray machine has been installed but it doesn't work, since the voltage here is too low and irregular to provide consistently good plates. Moreover, many of the patients come here expecting black magic to be neutralized, not to benefit from Western medicine. When one afternoon I ask Dr. Sánchez to expound on how his philosophy on medicine has evolved through the years, I have no idea what kind of response to expect. I translate his repies:
"In medical school usually they try to instill self-confidence into the students. Well, this is correct. However, sometimes this desirable self- confidence develops into a kind of arrogance. And that's not good, especially when the doctor must deal with other human beings. The patient can interpret the doctor's prideful manner as scorn for the sick person. Then the patient withdraws from the doctor, isn't as open about what's bothering him or her as is necessary for a good diagnosis, and the patient loses confidence in the doctor. On the other hand, if the doctor approaches the patient as a kind of friend, as someone who doesn't try to act as if he knows it all, then the doctor can plant in the patient's mind ideas and knowledge that will help the patient deal with his or her own problem, and thus help the healing process along."
"Moreover, in medical schools they tend to teach that their healing techniques represent the one-and-only, the authentic, manner of treatment. Well, part of this approach is correct. For instance, they teach the application of the scientific approach when one is confronted with a difficult problem, and this is how it must be. But when the doctor goes afield, many situations are encountered to which university training doesn't apply. What the doctor must do is to listen to the patient carefully and then, according to the principles of what was learned in the university, design the treatment around the resources that happen to be at hand. Injections, tablets, pills -- these are fine. But the doctor mustn't forget to also look to nature. Nature has its own remedies. The doctor must learn to apply these resources correctly; we must learn to prescribe medicinal plants, for instance, with the same precision we use when prescribing aspirin or tetramyacine."
Having seen that many of Yerba Buena's patients think in terms of their illness having been caused by black magic, I ask how the Doctor handles this.
"I'm sure that this problem of being possessed by demons exists -- I'm talking about the influence of the Devil. In other instances, it can be a psychiatric problem. When we run into problems with evil spirits here, we can try helping the patient by spiritual means. For example, with prayers, by reading to them the word of God -- especially the Book of Psalms -- and sing hymns... We've seen this treatment resolve such problems satisfactorily in most cases. One sure indication that a patient might be possessed by demons, and not suffering psychiatric problems, is if he or she reacts to our spiritual messages rebelliously. Also, possessed people usually have their senses clouded. It's as if they were only half conscious. Furthermore, most such patients manifest unnaturally increased physical strength. Sometimes three or four strong men will not be able to restrain them..."
"Concerning my regular medical practice, I've been able to put into practice many aspects of natural medicine -- hydrotherapy, for instance. Often people for one reason or another stop taking the medicine that is prescribed for them. Then I suggest hydrotherapy, and usually I've seen positive results from this treatment. For example, I remember a patient of about twelve years of age who when she arrived here was having convulsions about every ten minutes. I asked one of the North American doctors here at the time permission to work with him with the patient. He agreed, and together we decided to give the patient anti-seizure medicine. After three days of standard drug treatment, the patient was worse. Then I asked permission to discontinue the medicine and begin treatment with hydrotherapy. Well, that same day the convulsions became less severe. The following day the patient only had five seizures. The third day only one, and the fourth day, none. The kind of hydrotherapy given was very simple. From her ankles to her neck we rubbed her with cold water, then immediately wrapped her securely in blankets. After this, almost immediately the patient would go to sleep for about half an hour. Then we'd give her another cold rub. We did this for about a week. Then we taught the parents how to do it. The patient went home, the parents continued the treatments for a time, and eventually the patient was cured completely."