Volunteer Brings Hope Worldwide

October 4, 2013 Asia No Comments

by Ana Maria Trujillo | The New Mexican

Andrew Lustig didn’t look like a doctor when he started his two-week trip to Nepal in March. He said he looked more like a drug trafficker.

Instead of having his bags filled with mountain climbing gear, he had them filled with more than 200 homeopathic remedies, powders, tinctures, topical ointments, 7,000 pills; all for every type of sickness and ailment.

He also had with him vitamin and mineral supplements for wellness and immune boosting

“I looked like a drug dealer going through the X-ray (machine) because I had thousands of pills and powders without boxes or labels to save weight and space,” Lustig said.

Lustig didn’t take the trip to scale the tallest mountain in the world; he went to tackle another mountain — the people’s need for health care.

The trip to Nepal was Lustig’s third to offer free naturopathic and homeopathic care to people. Although he went with an organization called Helping Hands, his trip was self-funded.

As always, he felt welcome in the country he chose because every person he visited greeted him with a bow and offered him a helping of goat and vegetables.

“They live a fairly simple life and seem, in general, to be in good spirits,” Lustig said.

“If you’re American and you come with medicine, they love you,” Lustig said. “They believe that if you’re American and you have medicine, then you can cure them.”

Lustig spent two weeks in Nepal. Although he stayed in Katmandu, a driver took him the 45 minutes each way into a village called Dahrmastelli, on the outskirts of the city.

Dr.Lustig’s trips abroad serve as  “life currency” for him.

The farm village had no running water or electricity, but plenty of cows, chickens and goats, Lustig said.
“In a sense, I was a self-contained hospital,” Lustig said. “I came with my skills, my equipment and my medicine, working out of a suitcase.”

He treated men, women and children who had injuries and infections as a result of the unsanitary conditions, and the hard farm work they face daily.

“It’s interesting because the health issues that face people in Third World countries are often pretty similar,” Lustig said.

The people suffered headaches related to dehydration, animal and pest bites, skin rashes, bacterial infections and gastrointestinal problems related to the polluted water.

“They dump their waste in the water, human and otherwise,” Lustig said.

Because the men farm with hand-held tools, many suffered trauma to digits, arthritis and muscular injuries from the repetitive motions of cutting hay.

The drugs were donated by four companies: Heel Inc., Integrative Therapeutics Inc., Emerson Ecologics and Trace Minerals Research, for his third trip out of the country to do medical work.

Last year it was the Amazon jungle in Peru and next it is Africa, but he hasn’t yet set a date.

Lustig got into homeopathic medicine after a 20-year corporate career on the East Coast. He left his job as a CEO of a television production company and pursued a career as an emergency medical technician. While doing that, he discovered he wanted to work in an aspect of medicine that would allow him to develop a relationship with a patient that would lasts longer than the ride to the hospital.
“I wanted to have the ability to follow up and watch the progress of the patient,” Lustig said.

He lives a natural and organic life, so he pursued homeopathic and naturopathic medicine.

He has his own practice in Santa Fe.

He does office visits and house calls for his patients, and follows up with them to make sure they’re getting better.

When he treats people abroad, he said, it’s pretty much the same — only he visits them in their thatched roof hut, but doesn’t get to follow up with them.

His trips abroad offers Lustig a sense of purpose, and serves as  “life currency” for him, he said.

“I treat several hundred people every time I make these trips, and there is a great sense of satisfaction that I didn’t necessarily receive working in New York for 20 years,” Lustig said. “My currency now is the number of people I treat, not the money I earn…”

The “high” he gets from helping people abroad doesn’t last as long as it used to, he said.

“I feel I need to go more often.”

Although Lustig loves traveling abroad, he works in the United States as well. He volunteered as an EMT at Burning Man, an event in the middle of the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.