Local Humanitarian Treating Phantom Limb Pain Overseas

Vancouver-based humanitarian amputee to travel through Southeast Asia treating locals suffering from Phantom Limb Pain with Mirror Therapy.

Vancouver, Canada, October 31, 2013 --(PR.com)-- This December, Vancouverite Stephen Sumner will embark on a one-man mission through Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka to educate and treat local amputees suffering from Phantom Limb Pain with Mirror Therapy.

This journey will represent Sumner’s third trip overseas (the details of which are chronicled on his blog, Meandmymirror.org) to teach amputees in impoverished and conflict areas in the developing world about Mirror Therapy:

“I'll depart on December 15th, heading first to the heavily mined areas in the Northeast and Northwest of Cambodia to assess the impact of my previous visits and to give workshops and hand out mirrors. Then -- a first for me -- to Laos, where there are tragic numbers of amputees (and new ones created every month) due largely to cluster munitions left over from the Vietnam War. The final leg of this trip will find me in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, where I’ll ride throughout the North delivering free mirrors and treatment to a region still raw with damage from a 30-year civil war. Three months, three battle-torn regions, and the confident hope of eliminating the suffering of hundreds and hundreds of amputees.”

A hit-and-run accident in 2004 left Sumner an above-the-knee amputee suffering from Phantom Limb Pain. (This phenomenon, not to be confused with Phantom Limb (which is simply the sensation that an amputated limb is still attached to the body) causes patients to suffer from excruciating and debilitating pain in the missing limb.) Sumner’s Phantom Limb Pain was so severe that he became suicidal. He was, however, able to cure himself through Mirror Therapy, a treatment developed in 1995 by South Indian neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

The therapy is surprisingly simple: The patient holds a mirror up to his intact limb and looks at it. Says Sumner, “By focusing on the reflection of a sound limb in place of the one that was lost, the patient effectively 're-wires' or 're-maps' his brain and begins to calm the disturbed nerve signals which are the cause of his (Phantom Limb Pain) agony.”

Sumner followed the schedule suggested in the literature he read during his own treatment and was -- miraculously -- free from pain. He provides the same prescription for self-therapy in his workshops: “Five weeks. Two sessions per day, 10 minutes per session.” The result? The brain has been re-wired, and the pain is gone. (Of course, as with all treatments, Sumner can’t promise that Mirror Therapy will be so immediately successful for all amputees. However, the success rate of amputees who’ve participated in Sumner’s workshops is staggering (near 100%)).

“Thus,” he says, “one of the most common household items can be used to relieve one of the most painful and complex neurologic syndromes. (Mirror Therapy) is now considered 'front line' treatment and the only reliably effective treatment for the relief of Phantom Limb Pain. It is also inexpensive, easy, non-invasive, and -- obviously -- free of the addiction issues so often associated with mainstream pain management.”

Sumner’s joy at finding relief from Phantom Limb Pain, combined with his frustration at the fact that such a simple and predictably successful treatment should still be unknown in most parts of the developing world, was the basis for his Me and My Mirror mission.

“I am so grateful I feel it’s my duty -- my great and priceless pleasure -- to bring this perfect little secret to poor and bombed-out people who have little hope of discovering it otherwise,” he says. More, “the most important part of this mission to me is that I’m enabling these people to take their well-being into their own hands,” - something that’s not, in the past, seemed important to other aid organizations.

As far as missions go, Sumner’s trips are so successful for a reason: “As a one-man-act with no command chain and no administrative obstacles, and by allying myself with other related NGOs and in-country partners and utilizing their expertise and infrastructure, I am able to move quickly, cheaply and lightly.”

The mirrors -- given for free to anyone suffering from Phantom Limb Pain who’s willing to give the treatment a try -- are hand-made using locally-sourced materials in the communities Sumner visits, and delivered by him (along with the educational seminars) on bicycle.

This trip, like the others, will be funded primarily by Sumner, with generous support from his family, friends, and a few local businesses. This time, a documentary crew from the Southeast Asia Globe will join Sumner in Laos to film his work.

If you would like to support Sumner’s trip, donations can be made via a secure PayPal link on his blog: http://meandmymirror.org/Donate
Me & My Mirror
Stephen Sumner
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