The Amish and Mennonite Community Taught Me Non-Judgement

picture of an amish family

Rebecca* was a 28-year-old Amish lady. She and her husband Leroy came to me because she was diagnosed as infertile. An x-ray dye test called an HSG showed that both of her fallopian tubes were blocked and her uterus appeared squeezed by adhesions (internal scarring) that formed earlier in life. Since these are the organs where life begins, they had to be clear and supple for conception to occur. Her doctor suggested surgery or in vitro fertilization (IVF) as her only two choices. However, Rebecca hoped to find something effective but more natural. Since our clinic had been showing success with a natural approach, she decided to come to me to try our hands-on therapy instead.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

My name is Sharon Hepburn, and I am a physical therapist with Clear Passage® Therapies. Our therapists work to decrease glue-like internal scars called adhesions that form naturally in the body. Adhesions can cause or accompany endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, small bowel obstructions, and chronic pain. We have treated dozens of Mennonite and Amish clients. These communities appreciate that our therapies are all-natural and totally hands-on, with no drugs or surgery. I reached out to a few of our former clients and asked them to write a short story about their experience for Keepers at Home, and they asked if I would compile some of their stories for you.

Rebecca

As I return to our clients’ stories, I confess that I was ignorant of Amish and Mennonite cultures before my first Amish lady walked through the door. I held unconscious beliefs of what their cultures were like. So, as you can imagine, when the Clear Passage home office called me and said an Amish lady with blocked fallopian tubes was coming in, I was surprised. Additionally, she and her husband were being driven to the hotel and had to walk from the hotel to the clinic every day. I was a little nervous about how we would get along. I told you, I was quite ignorant!

When Rebecca and Leroy first arrived after walking a mile from their hotel, she was a little nervous; she didn’t know what to expect. “Hmmm,” I thought, “Just like ALL of my clients. She’s not so different. I got this!” 

They were going to spend 20 hours of therapy over the next few mornings and afternoons with me, so it was my job to make them comfortable . . . and I knew information makes people comfortable.

“As you know,” I started, “Clear Passage Physical Therapy is five days of therapy focused on decreasing adhesions or internal scarring so that you can hopefully become pregnant.” I paused, giving her time to think it through. She nodded her head in comprehension. I was glad to see it! “Our evaluations are 2 hours long,” I continued, “And your evaluation is this morning. After that, this afternoon and the rest of the week, we’ll treat you for one or two hours in our therapy sessions. You will have an occasional 10-minute break.” Rebecca and Leroy nodded their heads in understanding. “Pressure during treatment is sometimes deep, and you may experience some abdominal or skin tenderness, especially midweek. Still, treatment is never unbearably painful. Just let me know how you are doing along the way, and I will adjust my pressure accordingly.” I asked if she had any questions.

She shook her head, no.

“Let’s get started,” I finished, “Please, put on this gown and keep it open in the front.”. At that, Rebecca shyly looked at Leroy, then at me and hesitantly asked, “I bought a jersey skirt and a cotton top; could I use those instead? You would still be able to get to my abdomen and low back.”

“Not an issue!” I exclaimed, “But remember, there will probably be a section where I suggest we work internally on you.” Rebecca assured me she would be comfortable with internal work and thanked me for understanding her preference to wear the jersey skirt and cotton top.

Over the next week, Rebecca and Leroy came to treatment twice a day, and I began to learn more about the Amish community they came from. Rebecca shared that she liked to go on float trips. I learned how Rebecca and Leroy were actually from different communities and met at a wedding. Rebecca and Leroy’s faces lit up when they spoke about their family and community. They explained the basic differences between Amish and Mennonite cultures. They were both very open about their bodies and their urge to have children naturally. It was a very comfortable and fun week. As the week went on, she told me about her painful story of trying to get pregnant and finally receiving a diagnosis of blocked fallopian tubes. I felt bonded to them when they left, and I asked them to send me news of the follow-up dye test.

Anna

Anna was another client that uncovered some of my unconscious beliefs. Anna’s diagnosis was endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition where the inner lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus, where it can attach to abdominal organs such as the intestines, rectum, and colon. Since she was a teenager, Anna had endometriosis and had undergone two surgeries before she ever got pregnant. She’d had three children naturally, but over the last 10 years, her pain had become excruciating and unbearable.

At one point, she flew to California to consult an endometriosis specialist. That doctor painstakingly performed three surgeries over the course of a year to remove every piece of endometriosis he could find. He then recommended our therapy to decrease all the endometriosis, and his surgery caused adhesions. 

In many cases, Clear Passage Therapies treat the pain and dysfunction of endometriosis without the surgery; in her case, Anna had surgery before hearing of Clear Passage. Even though she still had some post-surgical pain and discomfort, she told me she was pleased with the surgery results so far because she was at least functional. Anna came to therapy because she still had difficulties with bowel movements, her stomach always hurt, and she had low back pain. I’m glad we met.

She was a 58-year-old Mennonite woman who came to the clinic after three endometriosis surgeries. I was “loaded for bear,” thinking that I’ve already treated an Amish lady; I kind of know it all by now. Boy, was I mistaken!

I was all ready to have Anna wear what she wanted and offered to pick her up from the local hotel since our clinic moved and was now three miles from her hotel. Then, I learned that Anna drove herself into the city and was driving herself to and from therapy! She also didn’t mind wearing the hospital gown.

“What?” I thought, “Mennonites don’t drive.” I couldn’t wait to ask and learn more!

After the evaluation, we were into our first hour of actual therapy and Anna and I started talking. “Where’s your husband?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s at home watching the kids. It’s in the middle of the busy construction season, so he’s working every day.” Then she “schooled me” about all the differences between horse and buggy versus driving between Amish and Mennonite communities. I was grateful to have someone so gentle and kind, open her heart, share her passion, and communicate her culture and love with me.

Soon enough, we started talking about our families and sharing stories about our children. I was happy to see that our shared joys, sorrows, triumphs and tribulations surpassed any perceived cultural differences I had in my mind. Our conversation ranged from children to the similarities with our husbands to how the Lord works through us and within our lives.

We were just two women jabbering throughout the 20-hour treatment. She seemed very happy she found us at Clear Passage. 

Elmer

Elmer was the first Mennonite male I treated, and his wife, Sarah, accompanied him to every treatment. Elmer was almost 70 years old. He had retired from the mill but was still farming on family property. He had been experiencing small bowel obstructions, a painful and life-threatening condition in which adhesions squeeze the intestines shut so food can no longer pass through your system. He had been hospitalized numerous times for this condition. 

Elmer said, “having that NG (nasogastric) tube shoved down my throat was about the worst thing that has ever happened in my life! I won’t go back to the hospital and have that tube pushed back down my throat ever again.” 

He had two abdominal surgeries, which contributed to his small bowel obstructions. He had his appendix taken out when he was in his 20s. During the appendectomy, his appendix burst, and he turned septic as the infection spread throughout his body. His doctors opened him up surgically and debrided his abdomen. They then administered antibiotics to eliminate the last of his infection. When he was in his fifties, his gallbladder was taken out laparoscopically. As time went on, the internal scars from these surgeries formed inside his abdominal cavity, squeezing and kinking the intestines. These adhesions caused his small bowel to obstruct.

Like Elmer’s case, repeat obstructions after surgery are all too common. Medical journals had recently reported that Clear Passage therapy decreased repeat bowel obstructions 15 times better than anything medicine could offer. He wanted to avoid the NG tube, more hospitalizations and surgeries. Naturally, it made sense to his doctor as well, so Elmer came to see me.

Treating Elmer was kind of like treating my dad. He was short on words, very observant, excessively kind to his wife, followed directions well, and never complained. His wife Sarah came to every treatment and paid attention to everything that was said so she could remind Elmer when he got home. Of course, Sarah and I hit it off right off the bat! Elmer completed his treatment with us well! 

Esther

The final person I want to tell you about is Esther, a middle-aged Amish woman who had a driver bring her into the city. I picked her up every morning on my way into work. She was staying at the local Residence Inn. She packed her lunch daily and ate lunch at the clinic. Her husband didn’t come with her because he watched their five children and worked. Esther had a hysterectomy two years earlier and had been experiencing abdominal pain and intercourse pain ever since then. It is not unusual that scar tissue forms after surgery. At times, this can make intercourse almost unbearable.

I have to tell you that I was not ready for the openness and honesty of Esther. Because she was Amish, I thought she might be prudish and be resistant to internal treatment. I was wrong again! She was very forthright about what she was experiencing and what exactly caused the pain. She was open to whatever treatment would help. Once again, I found myself being amazed by the similarities of life between us –- two women from what I thought were completely different cultures. 

Who is Esther, you ask? Well, she’s a busy woman. She was on the PTA of her youngest son’s school. She’s on a women’s counseling committee at church, her oldest daughter was getting married in 6 months, and her middle child had Angelman syndrome. She also knew the love of the Lord, took one day at a time, was very pragmatic about life and was a simple, joyful presence. I also related to her well, and we bonded totally!

By and by, I learned that people are people and that we all have our differences, likes, and dislikes. I probably held more unconscious beliefs and ideas of the Amish and Mennonite way of life than they did of me. We all have great faith in our Creator and call on Him during treatment for guidance. I am so blessed to have so many “different” people in my life!

My New Friends’ Outcomes

Are you curious about what happened to these wonderful people? 

Rebecca had a follow-up HSG which showed both of her fallopian tubes had opened! As I write this article, she has now had TWO natural full-term pregnancies. 

Anna still has slight abdominal discomfort, especially if her body is inflamed but has reported massive improvements with therapy. She can now walk 2 miles without discomfort and ride in a car for long distances. She can now travel with her family, do daily chores, and take care of children without the constant abdominal pain – none of which was possible before therapy. 

Elmer has not had another obstruction. With the home program and activities I gave him, he feels confident that he will likely never have to undergo another NG tube or bowel obstruction. 

Esther was totally amazed that her abdominal pain completely went away; she had absolutely no discomfort with intercourse after therapy.

For myself, I feel profound gratitude to Rebecca, Anna, Elmer, and Esther because they unwittingly showed me the unconscious beliefs I had before I met them. I appreciate that they lovingly and joyously taught me about themselves and their community. They have paved the way for all of the future Amish and Mennonite clients I may ever treat –- or meet. I thank each of them from the bottom of my heart!

 

*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect our clients’ Personal Health Information (PHI).

 


Sharon K Hepburn is a physical therapist for Clear Passage Therapies, a group that focuses on decreasing the internal scarring called adhesions naturally. The safety and effectiveness of the therapy are supported by several peer-reviewed citations and studies published in medical journals available via the National Library of Medicine. Available in the U.S.A. and in England, treatment is generally performed over five days, with two hours of hands-on therapy each morning and afternoon. No drugs or surgery are used. Applicants complete a Medical History Form which Clear Passage reviews at no charge to determine appropriateness and likely success rates. For more information, call 352-336-1433, email info@clearpassage.com or visit www.ClearPassage.com.

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