Note: The Clinic Memoirs are based on real experiences from Occupy Medical clinic, a free, integrated health clinic that serves patients primarily, but not exclusively, in Lane County, Oregon since 2011. The names of the patients and a few personal details are changed to protect patient identity.

Gale hobbled over to the clinic with help from two children. Our volunteers rushed to meet her and offer her a chair. She winced and waved off the offer. She was suffering from sciatic pain. Sitting down hurt just as much as standing up. All she could manage was a tightly held tilt. My back hurt in sympathy just by looking at her.

We moved Gale to front of the line. She was a priority patient. Other patients stepped back readily to let her in. She clearly needed help.

After a quick but thorough examination, the doctor prescribed her anti-inflammatory medication. The idea of getting back in the car and filling this prescription seemed overwhelming to Gale. She was relieved to get help, but she didn’t think she had the strength to make another trip.

We had the good fortune of having a licensed massage therapist (LMT) visiting our clinic that afternoon. She worked on some of Gale’s muscles and helped her with some stretches to loosen the nerve bundles. As Gale was only able to stand at an angle, the LMT gently began to work with Gale where she was. The patient welcomed the help readily and yet did not want to move any more. They spoke quietly together as the LMT worked on the patient’s back with gentle motions. Within 10 minutes, Gale was able to move gingerly to the massage therapy table.

The massage therapist beckoned me over.

“I need some topicals. Do you have anything in your herb kit that I can use?” she asked.

I nodded and rushed to fetch my herb kit. This was early in the clinic’s inception. I was still building my stock of herbal medicine. I hoped I had something that would be of service. It turned out I had a small container of salve. I handed it to the LMT. She opened the lid and smelled the contents.

Lavender,” she said with a smile. “You are using lavender essential oil as a preservative? Good. That helps with the pain. The red color means there is Saint John’s wort in it, correct?”

“Just St. John’s wort, almond oil, beeswax and lavender essential oil,” I explained.

“Perfect,” she said. “I prefer using Saint John’s wort for sciatic pain like this.”

She applied the salve to Gale’s back and they continued their conversation softly as I backed out of the treatment area.

I sat down outside the treatment area and made a few notes on my inventory sheet as I waited for my chance to be of further service. I saw I had a bottle of Saint John’s wort tincture on the list. A little more searching turned up the hidden item. I set it aside for Gale to take home with her.

Saint John’s wort does a great job of healing injured nerves. This bottle was going to be a welcome addition to her take-home packet.

One of the patients who had given his place in line for Gale leaned towards me and whispered, “Is she going to be okay?”

I placed the tincture bottle on the table and smiled.

“Help is on the way.”