Our Stories

We have had many volunteers helping Santé help people. The experience has a significant impact on all of us as can be seen by the comments from our participants. To share your story, please include your name, university/where you are from, and your story on the Contact Us form. We will then share it below.






From our May-June 2012 student volunteers:


"There are so many memorable experiences while in the clinic (and out of clinic as well).. If I have to mention a few memorable moments then it was when I was treating some patients with fibromyalgia and some patients with physical disabilities, I didn't feel like I was be able to help them much because they were in so much pain but they all came back the next day with big smiles and told me they feel better. That is something I will always remember as a reminder of these powerful hands."


"A mother, and two sisters came to me the first week to receive care and followed me to the second clinic location the second week. The look in their eyes and pure kind spirits lifted me up. They gave me a wonderful gift at the end and I will remember them forever. I left there knowing  what I do can change people's lives. I knew I was there for a reason and that's why God led me there."


"I felt like every day people were appreciative of the care they received and the volunteers were helpful and excited to have us there. I will never forget the little girl I was treating the second week who was scared of me working with her, but gave me a present at the end of the week because she was so grateful for the treatment! I have so many stories and positive memories from the time I spent in Costa Rica that it would be impossible to share them all! I want to come back when I can afford the trip again. Thanks to everyone involved. I feel much more prepared and confident in my ability to practice upon graduation thanks to this experience."

"One man that I treated was unable to close his hand more than a few millimeters. His wife said that he had not been able to do any work or be much help around the house. After 4 treatments adjusting him, using the Graston instruments and working with one of the massage therapists, the man was almost able to close his hand fully and had gained most of his strength back. It was amazing to see how quickly chiropractic care can work. I came back knowing that my hands really are powerful tools and can effectively help people!"


"I will be able to apply my clinical thought process to my future practice."



As I reflect on my experience serving in La Clinica de la Mariposa in Costa Rica, I am overwhelmed with so many incredible thoughts and stories. I signed up for the trip not expecting much more than 3 weeks serving as a chiropractic student in a foreign country. However, each day brought so many exciting patients and stories that I came home a different person than when I left. I had heard many stories from previous La Clinica participants and how other interns had made a difference in their patient’s lives. I, myself, wanted just one of those “ah-ha” moments that I would take with me into practice. Surprisingly, I got those “ah-ha” moments nearly every day and will forever remember the look on patient’s faces when they’d return to the clinic in less or no pain at all. 

Although each and every patient was memorable in itself, my very first “ah-ha” moment came the second day I was in clinic. My first day, I had a 38 year old man present with severe, radiating leg pain that prevented him from working for the past 2 years. Since he was unable to work, he was without social security (his access to healthcare in Costa Rica) and unable to support his wife and 6 children. As a result, he had to give his children away to 6 different families, which was far more of a hardship to him than his leg pain. He asked if I wanted to see pictures of his children and proceeded to take a 2-3” thick wallet out of his back pocket full of pictures of his kids. My first thought was how sad this man’s story was and then I switched into intern mode and realized that a fair bit of his pain was likely coming from sitting on this thick wallet in his back pocket everyday. I recommended that he wear it in his front pant or shirt pocket, adjusted him, and asked that he return the following day. As planned, he was there bright and early the next morning, but this time as he sat on my table, he was visibly bothered by something and had tears in his eyes. Through my interpreter, I asked how he was feeling and he began to cry. He said, “thank you for giving me my life back. Immediately I was out of pain and went to ask for my job yesterday. After 2 years of not working, my employer welcomed me and gave me my job back. And, now because I am working, this afternoon, I am going to go and get my 6 kids. They are coming home! God bless you for the gift you have given me.” 

Obviously this and all of the other “ah-ha” moments have impacted me, not only as an intern, but so much more as a person. I have grown intellectually, spiritually, and professionally and credit La Clinica, CFCA, and Dr. Davis for giving me this life changing opportunity to learn and experience helping less fortunate patients in another country. On a professional level, this experience allowed me to provide care for a variety of patients and conditions that I would not normally encounter. As wonderful as my education at Northwestern is, I learned more about people, conditions, and treatments in 3 weeks in Costa Rica than I’ve ever learned from a text book or from class. The experience was very humbling, yet incredibly rewarding to be able to serve such hard working, deserving people in a beautiful country. I may have given 3 weeks of my time and energy, but I received a lifetime of memories in return. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had and it will likely remain high atop my list.

Kris Buege 
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


This trip not only gave me the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful countries in the world it totally opened my eyes to a totally different world as before this trip I had never visited a third world country. It was very sad at times to see some of the poverty, the houses people lived in and the way of life for many of the Costa Rican people, but also amazing to see how so many were happy and always had a smile on their face. Some of the people have absolutely nothing but are constantly happy, contented and approach life with such a positive attitude. I guess this was one of the main things that have changed me since the trip, whenever I have a bad day now or things aren’t quite going right I just think about the people of Costa Rica and how happy they were. 

The trip also gave me the opportunity to see lots of patients with lots of different conditions; this was invaluable experience which will stand me in stead for the rest of my career. I also realised that there are many ways to treat a patient. I will never forget Steven the sponsored child of Dr Davis, as an ex soccer player when I heard his story it really hit me hard. Steven was mad on soccer but tragically had his leg amputated after his father ran him over a few years previous. Steven had become very depressed in the months leading up to our trip. When I met him in Heredia all we did was play soccer each lunch time and by the end of the week he was such a different boy, to when we first met him. This was by far more powerful than any treatment could have been.

Of course this whole trip would not be possible without many people. I would first of all like to thank Dr Davis for giving me this one in a lifetime opportunity to participate in such a worthwhile and great trip. Shauna and I especially appreciate it more as we were the first two students outside the US to attend without ever meeting Dr Davis, we hope we repaid the trust you put in us. The whole of the CFCA team, what wonderful people you are, Sonia for making us all feel at home, Marco ‘el jefe’, the coach driver and of coarse my good friend Emanuel who made my life so much easier with his translation skills. I would also like to thank Dr Gray, Joe, Barb, Tatiana and especially Shaunie, Jen, Bryn, Jake and Adam who made the whole trip so enjoyable for me. 

Once again thank you so very much Dr. Davis, what you do is amazing! 

Stuart Cooper
Chiropractic Student Intern
Anglo-European College of Chiropractic 
Bournemouth, UK

The experience that I had in Costa Rica has changed me in many ways, both personally and professionally. I felt as though I learned more in my three weeks there then I have learned in almost 5 years of Chiropractic College. The lessons that I learnt and the experiences I had are not things that could have been taught to me within four walls of a teaching institute. 

Although the majority of the patients that we treated did not fully understand what chiropractic was, they put their trust and their faith in us every time they came in for a visit. This trust and faith is more rewarding then any monetary gift could ever be. These wonderful people are grateful in so many ways for what we offer them, that you cannot experience this form of gratitude without it changing you for the better.

I would like to thank Dr. Davis for giving me the opportunity to have such a life changing experience. I would also like to thank the members of the CFCA for making what we do possible, thank you to all of the supervising doctors for their advice and words of wisdom, thank you to Dee and George for all their help, thank you to Emanuel for constantly reminding me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and thank you to Sonia for welcoming us into her home as if we were family. And finally, thank you to the North Western students (Bryn, Jenny, Jake and Adam) who made Stuart and I feel as if we had known them forever. Their kindness and chiropractic ability make me proud to be part of such a wonderful profession.

Shauna Dunbar
Chiropractic Student Intern
Anglo-European College of Chiropractic 
Bournemouth, UK

How can you sum up a cultural, chiropractic and humanitarian experience in a short concise paragraph? La Clinica de la Mariposa was an incredibly moving and touching experience. The chiropractic experience is priceless to a new and upcoming doctor. To actually know that it is you in charge of this person's health sitting in front of you right now is empowering. Even with surmounting the language barrier! The patients in the clinic are incredibly thankful and giving and they themselves have so little. It was a lesson in humanity to see how these communities actually act as communities and take care of each other. The guidance from the supervising DC's is great- they let you do what you need to do and only step in to help when you need it. I really feel like I can't express how great the trip was and all that I learned from it. If this is something you are thinking of doing, I say DO IT!! An incredible opportunity to learn about chiropractic and about yourself.

Heather McLeod
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


My experience with La Clinica de la Mariposa was one of the best experiences in my life. I became a chiropractor to be part of a community and help the people in my community. The three weeks I spent serving the communities in Costa Rica confirms that I am doing the right thing. I saw amazing changes in my patient’s conditions with just a few treatments. This reconfirmed to me the amazing power of chiropractic care. More importantly I further developed my personal skills for dealing with patients. I found a way of developing a connection with all my patients and gained their trust. I came to understand what an honor it is to be allowed to put your hands on another person and treat them. Human touch has amazing power but building trust with the patient is the most important. We were six students and in addition to the time spent in clinic we traveled around the country and went on many excursions in such a beautiful country. This was my first time serving with the clinic but hopefully not the last.


Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


The experience in Costa Rica is one that I will remember for a lifetime. Even though the language barrier made it harder to communicate and educate the patients, we accomplished many great things in Costa Rica. The trip made me realize that what we hold in our hands is very powerful when used for the glory of God. Many times I wasn't sure that what I was doing would make a difference, but pretty much every time the patient came back better than the day before. It was great to spend time with the Costa Rican people. Thanks, Dr. Davis, for this wonderful opportunity to hone my skills and develop into a doctor that can help change lives. Thank you and God bless!

Tim Gunderson, Chiropractic Student Intern
Amanda Gunderson, Spanish Interpreter
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


Serving in La Clinica de la Mariposa has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. We saw patients with "typical" physical chiropractic problems as well as people with congenital disorders. We also saw patients with mental and emotional stress or abuse that complicated their pain. Some patients had poor nutrition and limited access to clean water or good food that was affecting their health. I learned how to communicate the essentials of chiropractic to someone who had no idea what it is. I learned to do whatever I could with the time that I had with patients and then to let go when it was time to leave. I learned that even when a patient doesn't respond how you anticipate to care, you can help leave them with a sense of hope that healing is possible. I was reminded how important touch can be to someone else, whether it is a kiss on the cheek, a hug, and adjustment, or a massage. The patients were so grateful that someone came to see them and actually listened to them. We received unexpected thank you letters and gifts from our patients and many hugs of appreciation. There was an equal balance between blessings and challenges, which is an ideal place to grow and change. When I had a challenging case, I could lean on the others for support. When I was humbled, someone was there to lift me up. When there was overwhelming sadness and suffering, there was also overwhelming love and gratitude. We couldn't have helped so many people without the caring and generosity of Dr. Davis, the CFCA staff, the interpreters, and the other volunteers (thanks everyone!). I plan on volunteering on at least a yearly basis with La Clinica. I encourage other students and doctors to volunteer for this life-changing mission.

Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN



Costa Rica is a country full of richness and natural beauty. The culture is made unique because of the warmth of the citizens. It is amazing with such beauty and warmth that people also live in strict poverty with poor access to clean water and food. It was sad to observe the contrast of the riches of the earth and the people living in such confined spaces. The last 3 weeks have given me an opportunity to serve in the best of ways - through volunteering. Although, it did not feel like we were the ones that were helping out others at the clinic, but rather we were being served the best professional opportunity. Not only were we treated wonderfully by CFCA, but also by the patients. The patients came in most not knowing what chiropractic was about. They trusted us with their bodies and their health and hardly questioned our intentions. Most of the patients did not understand what we were doing, but each day came back because we asked them to make another appointment. After 2 visits we started to see amazing progress in the patient's well-being. A lot were out of pain by the 3rd visit. The hardest part of the clinic was leaving the communities each week. Each patient became an integral part of the clinic. It was hard to know how long their improvements would last. The beautiful part of La Clinica de Mariposa is that each year they try to return to each community. This is wonderful to know that the patients will have an opportunity to receive chiropractic care again. Also, in Costa Rica there is a medical doctor on staff with CFCA. He is the one who does patient follow-ups after the clinic has left the community. He is a great resource and is a reliable person for the patient follow-ups. The CFCA workers were absolutely amazing. Each community welcomed us in such a loving fashion that it felt like we were all family working together to help each other. This has been one of the best experiences I have had while in chiropractic school. I would recommend anyone to go down to Costa Rica to volunteer their time with the wonderful patients! Thank you Dr. Davis!!


Jamie Lenz
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN

I just want to write a note to say hi and reflect on our time in Costa Rica. My wife and I had a great time during our last week there...we went up to Tabacon and Arenal and then to Manuel Antonio. I also wanted to say thanks again for the opportunity to serve in La Clinica. I'm sure I won't fully realize the impact of the experience until later, but I felt that the experience helped me grow as a clinician and helped foster the servant's heart that I think we need as doctors. I was impressed with the fact that we were looked upon and treated as doctors already which goes a long way to developing confidence as a student. I felt that it was an adventure fitting into a new culture, communicating in a different language and seeing a beautiful country, so again, I am thankful for the opportunity. I hope you are doing well and look forward to seeing you again!

Joel Fugelberg 
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


I felt that everything was very well planned. I had a very positive experience. The first week I felt as though I connected in a special way with the people of Los Chiles. The second week was more about connecting with the workers and bonding with the students. I was very impressed with the spirit of the group and the love that they demonstrated toward the people. No one complained or argued about anything that I was aware of. You have done a wonderful work with La Clinica and I pray that the Lord will meet your needs as you look to the future for truly it is His work.

Mary Greening
Practicing massage therapist


The La Clinica de la Mariposa trip was truly a valuable experience for me on so many different levels. As a chiropractor, this experience allowed me to meet and provide care for a variety of patients and conditions that I would not normally encounter. The majority of people we treated are truly in need both physically and financially. Many people suffer from ailments that are almost unheard of in the US, yet they don’t receive even the most basic care. Many of these patients come from homes that consist of one room with no plumbing or electricity. In addition to that, they typically share this modest shelter with their large families usually consisting of 5-10 members.

It was very humbling and personally rewarding to be able to serve these gracious and deserving people. Never have I received such gratitude, hospitality and generosity as I have from the people of Costa Rica. Even though we gave much to these patients, I feel I have gained even more just by being a part of this clinic, community, and the individual patients lives.

Not only was this experience valuable as a Chiropractor, to me it was valuable as an individual. I feel I have grown as a person and have truly changed for the better. I will no longer take for granted all the simple luxuries in my life. I now realize most of my problems and concerns pale in comparison to hardships many of these patients have faced. As a result of this experience I have decided to strive to be more like the patients I have cared for. Even with the many troubles in their lives, they still manage to live life to the fullest with a positive attitude as well as love and compassion in their hearts. They are truly amazing individuals to which I am honored to call my new friends.


Eric Brandt
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN

La Clinica de la Mariposa is an excellent program, and Costa Rica is a very interesting country. In San Jose its capital, and surrounding areas one can see just about everything he/she can expect from any big city. Poor people crossing streets while the wealthy population drive their expensive vehicles in an almost synchronized way; everyone trying to beat each other to make it to their appointment "on Time." It is a place typical of Central and South America's socio-political structure. A lot of have and have-nots. Those who have, usually enjoy a beautiful life with expensive houses, cars, and a lot of money to gain access to luxurious malls and restaurants. Those who are not lucky enough to hold a big fat wallet, try to find happiness in their own unique way; a couple of beers and, with a few colones, one or two shots of a cheap hard liquor while enjoying a soccer match. By the way, soccer like most places in Central and South America, is the most important recreational activity among Costa Rican citizens. From little children to the most elderly, soccer is a national passion and is taken as seriously as celebrating mass a a local Catholic Church on Sunday mornings.

At the La Clinica de la Mariposa, we serve the underprivileged population. Their health situations vary, but one thing they have in common is that they all seek some kind of assistance. Most often they want medical care tips and interventions or a quick fix to their health problems; however, we catch ourselves engaged in a conversation in which the topic is financial stress. I believe that the core of their health problems is a result of their financial difficulties. These patients don't have access to decent medical care, and if they do, the care usually is in a second or third class service. It is not uncommon to wait for six months to get an X-ray taken or an eye check-up completed. Throughout the three weeks that I spent in Costa Rica helping the underprivileged, I had patients as young as four and as old as ninety two years of age. Every case varied tremendously, just to name a few, there were patients with spina bifida, mid age arthritis, very healthy over ninety years old, malnutrition, diabetes, HME, (hereditary multiple exostosis), and much more. It was an amazing experience for me.

During the three weeks I grew professionally, emotionally and intellectually. One could not distinctly separate his/her professional duties from the emotions attached to each case. Sometimes it is just too much misery and suffering at once; but as we see their suffering and struggle, there is always a smiling face in each and every one of them when they encounter you. It's just like a child meeting "Santa Claus" with a bag of gifts. For myself, each and every moment I met with an individual, there was a satisfaction and the responsibility to ensure that each "child" of mine would get their gift from my "bag of goodies." I just couldn't let them down!

Mateus Ferraz-Souza
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


As I look back on my experience at La Clinica de la Mariposa during October I am overwhelmed with all my thoughts. One of my most resounding thoughts is that the people of Costa Rica are such wonderful people. They were so hospitable to us and extremely appreciative for any help they received. In their appreciation they brought us little presents that they had probably saved up to buy us. 

This clinical experience was unlike any I have had while interning and will probably not have as a doctor in the United States. I had an opportunity to see all kinds of conditions from Cerebral Palsy to a broken distal fibula. It was actually surprising when patient came in with a common tension headache or moderate shoulder and neck tension. As a group we were expecting to see new and interesting clinical situations to be coming into the clinic everyday. 

I will never forget this amazing three weeks of clinic in Costa Rica. In the future I am hoping to make this a regular trip to treat the people of Costa Rica.

Kenzie Satter
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


La Clinica de la Mariposa has offered me a chance to touch lives and be touched.  The patients provide a constant reason for our return. Their eyes and skin often show a history of hard lives, but their hearts are compassionate and strong.  They continue to be a source of laughter and tears.  Human suffering has woven itself through so many here.  They have so little yet bear gifts of all kinds.  Each patient has a way of nestling into your soul, some I would love to nestle into my suitcase and bring home.  It is almost unbearable to see families without food or a safe place to live.  Some of their living conditions, although I have seen it with my own eyes, appear to me only as a nightmare or surreal thought I would like to erase from existence.  These experiences are humbling and afford me the courage to continue on in this journey and serve. I will leave Costa Rica forever changed.

Tammy Sukup
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


I came to Costa Rica to give free chiropractic care to those who are financially less fortunate than many of us in the United States. I also wanted to see for myself that my Technique that I’ve chosen and my general chiropractic skills are perfected enough to remove subluxation and allow the body to heal itself. I found that chiropractic does work. Patients were moving better, functioning and feeling better after their adjustments.
 
What I didn’t expect was the respect, admiration, appreciation and overall deep gratefulness of patients, employees/volunteers of the CFCA. They were so excited that we were there to help their communities and showed it each and every day.
 
I also was deeply touched by a sweet young eight year old girl who was dealt a hard hand starting at birth. She has “osteogenesis imperfecta.”  She may be unable to walk ever and is in constant pain due to her “pseudofractures,” but still wears the biggest smile and gets excited at the little things in life. Hopefully Dr. Davis and the CFCA have found her a wheelchair that will make her life a little easier and lift her spirit even more.
 
I’ve learned a lot this month, both personally and professionally and I recommend this experience to everyone.

Katie Cowles
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


"My experience with La Clinica de la Mariposa was a life changing one.  Every individual I met has given me a new outlook on life.  It was a time of personal growth, of stepping outside my comfort zone, and giving to those beyond the borders of my home. 

I have gained lifelong friends with the CFCA staff and continue to keep in touch, but nothing can beat the smiles on the patient's faces.  I remember one patient who grabbed my face and called me her little angel.  Why?  Simply because I listened.  In all actuality, she was a challenging patient to treat due to her frail and deteriorated health.  She was abused daily by her son-in-law who was on drugs. But, all she needed was a soft voice, a listening ear, and a caring hand."


Amy M. Schreiner
Chiropractic Student Intern
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Bloomington, MN


"My long-time friend, Dr. Tom Davis, invited me to join their team.   He had sent me a report on what previous teams had done.  It sounded challenging and exciting.  Not sure of how I could help, I joined them for 10 days.  They did the chiropractic thing; I prayed.  In a country where most of the locals are Catholic, I think my presence added something.  I have had quite a bit of experience in “healing prayer”.  So, I prayed from a distance as the team worked on their patients; and I was available for one-on-one prayer with anyone who asked.  It was good to be immersed in “the locals” … during the clinic sessions, on the streets, in their churches, in their shops, and on the buses.  It was interesting to be immersed in this team of volunteers: Costa Rican & American.   It was humbling to see their humility; heartbreaking to see their pain; and exciting to share the joy of their physical & spiritual relief.  Sometime I must return to Costa Rica to see the tourist things!

And, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t mind returning to be part of another team."

Fr. Peter F. Gorges
Diocese of Juneau (AK) 
retired


"The clinical experience for Northwestern students is invaluable.  It is the one site in our system that guarantees student exposure to a diverse patient population with a variety of conditions.  In one short month students have the opportunity to work with people of all ages, infants to the elderly, and to address many different conditions, In addition to typical acute neuromusculoskeletal conditions, students have the opportunity to work with patients who have long-standing, chronic multi-system problems.

Lynne C. Hvidsten, D.C., C.C.S.T.


"I had a great trip.  It was wonderful to share chiropractic with people who have little opportunity to experience it.  For those people it can seem like a miracle."

Victor Youcha
Private practice, MN

"We are CFCA volunteers who work with Clinica de la Mariposa when it is here [in Costa Rica], and they store their stuff with us.  We love working with Tom and the students, and to be able to see the looks on the faces of people who come in with pain.  When they leave, there is a smile.  Sometimes they are even dancing out the door!  That, to us, makes the whole project worthwhile.

Dee and George Vaughan
Volunteers and residents in Costa Rica