By Matthew Shoemaker (Shoey)
After waking up at 6:00 and enjoying a well-stocked continental breakfast at our hotel, our group was on our way to the outskirts of Brasília to Dr. Valentim’s spiritual clinic. Dr. Valentim, himself an uneducated man and not a formal medical doctor, is said to “incorporate” the spirits of several deceased doctors to help those who come to him. Among the entities in his “phalange” – a term describing his toolbelt of spirits that occupy his body – are Dr. Aguiar Freitas, the main cancer doctor of the clinic, and Dr. Adalf, the director of the institution. During these incorporation sessions, Valentim is in a full trance. Upon finishing, he has no recollection of what happened, and changes from the jovial nature of his entities back to the humble, reserved man he normally is.
We were eventually able to watch Dr. Valentim as he worked, healing the locals that go to his compound three times a week. He works with his forceps; he snips near certain areas of the person’s body, not directly touching them save for the rare jabs and slaps he gives to a select few. By doing this, he directs spirits to the areas that his patrons need healing. Eventually, we were each healed by Valentim.
At least coming from the perspective of a pre-med student, the whole situation was extremely interesting but slightly bonkers. Here we saw a group of local Brazilians so turned off by the current healthcare system that they flock to an old, illiterate man who claims to channel the spirits around him to strategically snip his scissors around their bodies. Listening to Freddy, a talkative man who was healed by Valentim several years ago, the frustration with the current model of western medicine is clear – he said repeatedly that he felt like a “guinea pig”, and was constantly commanded to go from test to test and procedure to procedure. Valentim gave him hope, keeping his humanity in mind during treatment.
In a system that frequently overlooks personal development and feeling, patients become their diseases. In cases like Freddy’s, where his disease is so rare and life-threatening that doctors offer free medical care just to study him, medical professionals ignore the man and focus their entire efforts on the affliction. And that’s not necessarily their fault – most of these doctors are probably overworked and have developed this personal shield out of necessity. Still, it’s no wonder why people find themselves at Valentim’s clinic. In here, they’re family. Their treatment includes more than just their bodies, and they leave finding themselves immeasurably more at ease.
Long story short: the first day of our trip was amazing and we ended it with slices of banana, chocolate syrup, ice cream pizza which made it even more amazing.