LILBURN - They arrive on the backs of animals from hundreds of miles away and have diseases ranging from autism to epilepsy. In a land with minimal health care, the residents from Pune, India, look to chiropractors to heal them and will stand in long, snaking lines for their services.
In the span of 10 days more than 3,000 Indians will receive free chiropractic care from Lilburn doctor Dennis Rattiner, three other chiropractors from around the nation and 25 clinical students from Dallas and Marietta.
After crossing the Atlantic on Friday, Rattiner will serve Pune, a city with 3.5 million people, according to worldatlas.com, a second time. Having been on the same mission trip in 2000, he has an idea of what he will find.
"Last time we set up a tent and literally took care of thousands. The line to get adjusted was 12 hours long," Rattiner said.
A 11⁄2 half-year-old baby with a bloated stomach whose parents told Rattiner the child had "stopped growing" was the most memorable patient he had in that trip. The day following the baby's spinal adjustment, Rattiner said the parents returned to report the baby slept through the night for the first time without suffering from an epileptic fit and his stomach was markedly smaller.
"There is a nerve called the Vegas nerve and it passes through the stomach, intestines and other places," Rattiner said. "If there is interference and it can't communicate to the stomach, the body can't digest well and get nutrients out of food. I think we removed the interference and allowed the baby to start absorbing food."
Since residents of Pune have little access to Western medicine, Rattiner said he encountered patients suffering from a variety of ailments, such as torticollis, a condition where the neck muscles are so tight the head cannot turn.
As a chiropractor, Rattiner said he puts the body in the correct alignment so the mind and body can communicate more efficiently.
"It's about getting the body to work properly," he said.
Rattiner first became involved in the project through Dr. Louis Leonadri, a chiropractor in Atlanta. Leonadri went to the town to study a form of local meditation called "agnihotra." To give back to the community he set up a chiropractic table and offered free adjustments. Each day the lines grew longer and he called Rattiner and other chiropractors to assist him, Rattiner said.
Accompanying the doctors on this year's trip are 25 students from the Parker Chiropractic College in Dallas and Life University in Marietta.
Life University student Anna Maria Raimondo has been preparing for the experience all quarter.
"I wanted to get myself in the right place to be with so many poor, sick people and I have to get my mind set," she said.
Raimondo said she has heard stories of people getting up and walking out of wheelchairs from chiropractic mission trips and thinks this will be an amazing experience.
A far cry from Gwinnett, Rattiner said the students and doctors will stay in an "ashram" defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as "a religious retreat" or "spiritual abode."
"They're like apartments," Rattiner said. "Last time we went down there they built them for us from scratch and gave us American toilets. Everyone else has a hole in the ground."
In addition to serving the community's medical needs, the group will bring donated supplies for a school for underprivileged children, Rattiner said.
Anyone interested in donating can bring reading and coloring books, writing utensils and other supplies to Align the Spine at 670 Indian Trail Road until Wednesday.