Medical Equipment Loan Ministry: Free for the Asking

Imagine . . .

Filling prescriptions for expensive medical gear to satisfy short- or long-term needs;

Or . . . donating items you no longer need;

And a church that brings the two together by lending free medical equipment to anyone who asks.

It’s a library minus overdue fees.

I learned of this Medical Equipment Ministry at Pluckemin Presbryterian Church in Bedminster, New Jersey in time to drop off my own, barely-used equipment before returning to Wyoming.

“. . . where equipment is loaned out at no cost,
for as long as it is needed, and returned when
you are done.”

So when I weaned off a wheelchair and the temporary ramps that got me safely from outside to in, they had someplace to go.

The walker was next.

Then the knee scooter.

My drop offs joined storage rooms of medical equipment housed in the 170-year-old church and its out buildings.

The all-terrain scooter
I had fun on
for several weeks

And borrowing is easy and shame free.

That’s because the ministry’s nuanced message gives people encouragement, support, respect, and dignity during times of great need.

In 2018, volunteers at Pluckemin returned 10,000 phone calls from donors and loanees.

But not a single monetary donation was requested, and letters of medical necessity aren’t — well, necessary.

So I’m adding two items to the imagination list.

First, that medical-equipment assistance be available to anyone anywhere.

And ministries and non-profits that collect such equipment blossom in every town and city nationwide.

. . .

To Consider

Medical Equipment Loan Closets in Wyoming

Do a google search for “free medical equipment [fill in state or region],” or “borrow medical equipment [fill in state or region]”.

Read about the help in Sheridan, WY, Carla Trier Brings Heaps of Love to Sheridan, Wyoming by Way of the Foster Parent Exchange.

Find out about other types free help when medical needs arise in, Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care Sees Far Beyond Medical Needs.

.  .  .

Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Take 2: Jackson Hole’s Brain Chemistry Labs Where Prevention for Alzheimer’s May Be Within Reach

Dr. Paul Cox, Executive Director of Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson, Wyoming.*


No pharmaceutical company is even close to the advances at Brain Chemistry Labs  when it comes to a prevention for neurodegenerative diseases ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

And a big part of this is their unconventional approach.

As a non-profit medical research company situated in the small town of Jackson, Wyoming, they can react swiftly to findings.

Writer Rick Tetzeli’s Fortune Magazine January 18, 2018 cover story is an in-depth look at how these pervasive problems are being studied.

While filled with background and scientific clarity, the heart of the piece aligns with the Lab’s core.

It’s about an inexpensive and innocuous amino acid, L-Serine, that may be capable of reducing suffering for those living with neurodegenerative diseases.

And as research continues, it may prove to be the key to preventing the onset for millions more.

Drs. Paul Cox, Executive Director of Brain Chemistry Labs, and Sandra Banack, Senior Scientist, are interviewed in a 10-minute video that accompanies the article.

Their optimism is contagious.

Excerpts from the film

“Our sole mission is to change patient outcomes, and we want the change to be in the lifetime of current patients.”

Paul Cox, Executive Director, Brain Chemistry Labs

“I think Brain Chemistry Labs can change the world. If we’re right — . . . and there’s still a lot of work to do — we can prevent neurodegenerative diseases.”

Sandra Banack, Senior Scientist, Brain Chemistry Labs

“. . . when we couple modern science with indigenous knowledge that goes back hundreds, and in some cases thousands of years, it’s a powerful way to discover new drugs.”

Paul Cox, Ph.D.

[Wyoming Social Justice in Action first reported on Brain Chemistry Labs in September 2018.]

Take action!

Read the initial post about Brain Chemistry Labs.

Go to Brain Chemistry Lab’s website for more information about their mission.

ReadFortune Magazine’s cover story, “Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: How a Small Lab in Wyoming is Changing the Face of Medicine.”

Watch Fortune Magazine’s 10-minute video on the work at Brain Chemistry Labs.


*“Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: How a Small Lab in Wyoming is Changing the face of Medicine,” source for photo of Paul Cox.

.  .  .

Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

American Pain Scale Needs Radical Revamping

Instead of Asking About Worst Pain, How About Recalling Comfort?

Just before 6 am the lights came on and in walked a young nurse wheeling a brightly-lit computer.

And without looking my way, she asked, “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the worse pain you’ve ever experienced, how do you feel?”

The second day she came in, I stopped her.

“Oh no,” I said.  We’re not starting the day this way again . . .”

The physiology of emotions

Fort Collins, Colorado counselor and hypnotist, Ed Rupert, says asking someone to revisit pain is asking her to re-experience it.

It’s re-traumatizing.

That’s because the brain cannot distinguish between present and remembered sensations.

You need only re-experience the feeling of appreciation or awe or love to know the truth in that statement.

Seminal research from the HeartMath Institute shows that evoking strong emotions impacts our physiology.

Below is the heart-rate variability of the same person being asked to recall feelings of frustration and then appreciation.

Frustration Versus Appreciation HRV Coherence

While the first graph brings to mind chaos, harmony and ease could be ascribed to the second.

And given a choice, most of us would choose to spend time in the latter, and with the tools of HeartMath it’s possible to do.

Redefining pain and comfort

With Ed’s guidance I prepared for recent surgery by describing to him the most comfortable I’ve ever felt.

I return to floating on my back.

In the safest comfort I’ve known, I am a child. My arms and legs are splayed, and I’m surrounded and supported by a cool, Maine lake. It’s also there as an adult when I’m buoyed by the salty water of the Aegean.

And simply recounting this to Ed transports me to well being.

Surgery came and went with surprisingly little discomfort.

And here’s what I now know for sure.

A transformation is needed in the language, culture and way we train people to perceive pain and how we put to good use life-affirming emotions such as comfort and ease.

Take action!

Join a HeartMath class to learn more about the ways our emotions impact our health. Write me at:

Contact Ed Rupert at Changes in Attitude Hypnosis.

Read about immigrant elder care in the U.S.

.  .  .

Ellen is a native of northern Maine. She is a HeartMath® trainer and coach and can be reached at

Immigrants Care for Older Americans, Including Me

See the source image

I’m in a rehab hospital where immigrant eldercare dominates.

The “rehab” part is code for “nursing home,” and since I just had my right ankle replaced with a shiny new one, I quality for short-term assistance.

From here in New York City to the small cities across America, immigrants increasingly watch over the oldest and most frail among us.

  • My patient-care assistant tonight is Comfort. She’s from Ghana.
  • My nurse is from Ukraine. “Well,” she said, “It’s called Ukraine now, but it’s been lots of things.”
  • The young Chinese-American doctor assigned to my floor said she chose to specialize in geriatrics. “I grew up in a multi-generational household and have known for a long time where I wanted to be.”
  • Yesterday’s physical therapist is from Argentina, and the other one I’ve seen swings back and forth between English and her native Spanish as she greets people on the rehab floor.
  • A smart OT I work with, has an almost undetectable accent, but one that reminds me that everyone I’m meeting has a story that includes why they uprooted and moved.

The care I’m receiving is good and feels genuinely easy for these women to offer.

And that, alone, makes it easier to receive.

Immigrant eldercare rapidly increasing

A February 2018 New York Times article says that one in four nursing home workers is foreign born, and between 2005 and 2015, the number of immigrants who work for themselves in state-funded, elder home care programs doubled to more than a million.

In New York, California, New Jersey and Florida, more than 40% of direct-care workers are immigrants.

And who knows how many immigrants are hired privately to care for the elderly.

Her accent reminds me that everyone I’m meeting has a story that include why they uprooted and moved.

I feel safe

Earlier today my patient-care assistant, Wilma, entered the room smiling as she finished a conversation with a fellow worker.

When I asked about the language they were speaking she said, “We’re both from Haiti, and that was Creole.”

“Now,” she said, turning her attention fully to me, “Let’s get you to the bathroom. You’re doing so well.”

And isn’t that encouragement the elixir everyone needs for healing?

Right now I hear laughing in the halls – the life-is-good sort that sounds like a choice to look through the viewfinder of optimism.

Surrounded by immigrants I feel safe, comfortable, and a bother to no one.

I wonder how they feel.

Take Action!

Read Paula Span’s New York Times article, “If immigrants are pushed out, who will care for the elderly?”

See Carolyn Rosenblatt’s Forbes article, “Aging parents, immigrants and the caregiving cliff.”

Read Ted Hessen’s Politico article, “Why baby boomers need immigrants.”

Check out this post about immigrants in Maine.

.   .   .

Ellen is a mother, wife, trainer, RCST, writer and reader. She now adds to that list — new ankle explorer. You can reach her at:

“Remember that justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

“Pain should not be wasted”— Deep Gratitude to Three Parents Who Have Not Wasted Their Pain

Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard.

Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein said, “Pain should not be wasted.”

And I am deeply grateful to three parents who live that wisdom.

Karen Ball began the Sturge-Weber Foundation when her daughter, Kaelin, was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome accompanied by a significant facial port wine stain.

Because this Foundation was there when my son, Byron, was born with the same syndrome, we were not alone.

Karen continues to blaze trail after medical trail in service to others.

The Shepards of Casper, Wyoming

And then there are the Shepards.

Their son, Matthew, was murdered 20 years ago this month.

It was a hate crime for being gay.

Judy channeled her anger and pain and created good:  The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

And for two decades, she and her gentle husband, Dennis, have traveled the country and the world erasing hate, promoting tolerance, and heralding human rights for all.

“This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.” – Judy Shepard

We spent this week-end in their presence.

On October 26, 2018 at 10 a.m., a public celebration of Matthew’s life will precede his interment at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

His remains are still not safe in Wyoming.

And that is unimaginable.

The Shepards model both public anguish and resilience as they counter the injustice of Matthew’s death.

And though their service to humanity cannot be measured, award after award attempts to quantify the shift their work is creating.

As Judy said during the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice in Laramie last spring, “This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.”

And for me, a mother still fighting for me children — sometimes out of fear, occasionally from anger, and mostly out of love — I spill tears every time I’m close to the energy that swirls like tornados around Judy and Dennis.

Because beyond the LGBTQ community, the work they do emphasizes justice for all human life on the planet.

“Pain should not be wasted.”

And for Judy and Dennis and Karen it hasn’t been.

•  •  •

An excerpt from Dennis Shepard’s trial statement:

“You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone . . . First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope. Then, he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one more time — one more cool, wonderful autumn day in Wyoming . . . And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind — the ever-present Wyoming wind — for the last time. He had one more friend with him. He had God.

“I feel better knowing he wasn’t alone.”

Take Action!

•  Learn more at the Sturge-Weber Foundation

•  Help Erase Hate at the Matthew Shepard Foundation

•  Read about growing up in a moderately-tolerant town

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and has been practicing Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy since 2013.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West


Spaces Filled with Possibilities Characterize Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Sessions

Stephanie Abramson, RCST,  visiting Wyoming.

When I enter Stephanie Abramson’s treatment room time shifts as I tuck in for a restorative session of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST).

When I receive BCST I experience safe and compassionate touch as well as a sense of being seen completely and accepted entirely.

It is fundamentally about being open to the stillness within us where all possibility resides.

This junction of liminal space is where growth, renewal and a return to the innate essence of our being can unfold.

Typical Session – Is There One?

During the first session, a client often completes an intake form, and a few minutes of conversation may follow.

“How are you feeling today?

“And where in your body do you experience health?

When I receive BCST I experience safe and compassionate touch as well as a sense of being seen completely and accepted entirely.

With my son son, Byron.

Before getting on the massage table fully clothed, the client may also be asked if there is an intention for the session.

And she may respond:

“I want to feel better.”

“I’d like to be more connected to my body.”

Or, “I really need rest.”

Being On the Table

When I’m the one on the table I often experience a sense of dropping deeply to a secure place where I am aware of but not focused on the therapist I’m with.

And while there, I often see images — numbers, furniture, people I don’t know.

These visions, though curious and entertaining, are only sometimes informative.

Some people sense heat or cold, see colors or have flashes of light.

Yet others may feel sensations in their bodies — tingling or movements that seem to come from nowhere.

And it’s just as likely the experience will be described simply as “restful.”

In this aliveness, anything is possible.

Since there is absolutely no “should” in BCST, whatever reaction one has is exactly right for the moment.

Sessions Can’t Be Structured

Sessions have no agenda; We don’t say, “Let’s work on your lower back today.”

While this is typical of massage and other modalities, that’s not how BCST works.

The therapist’s role is to witness the unfolding of the session rather than trying to steer the ship.

We pause in the stillness until the client’s intelligence gives us direction.

Byron often finds relief from the pain of scoliosis with BCST.

Then intuition guides the session.

The therapist’s and client’s nervous systems come into sync as they balance and ground together.

And quite often that time of alignment is noted by a pronounced out breath – something like a sigh.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen the first or even first few times a client and practitioner are together as degrees of trust vary from person to person.

Other times quietude may present itself simply in anticipation of the session.

While there are lists of conditions for which BCST may be helpful, I don’t make promises.

My pledge is to be fully present as the client’s essence reveals what it wants me to see.

In Stephanie’s presence, I trust that the guidance she receives is just what I need, whether I share an awareness of it or not.

So I sink deeply and enjoy feeling fully alive.

And in that aliveness, anything is possible.

_  _  _

Take Action in Celebration of International Craniosacral Week October 15-21, 2018!

• Write Ellen for a free Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy appointment on Thursday, October 18, 2018: This is in celebration of International Craniosacral Week.

•  Make an appointment with Stephanie Abramson when traveling to Washington, DC.  ‭(240) 418-5459

•  Read From My Hands and Heart:  Achieving Health and Balance with Craniosacral Therapy, by Kate’ MacKinnon.

•  Find a registered therapist near you through the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA).

•  Read The Breath of Life: An Introduction to Craniosacral Biodynamics by Cherionna Menzam Sills.

•   Read the summary and conclusion to the research article, The use of CranioSacral therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Benefits from the viewpoints of parents, clients, and therapists, by Kratz, Kerr and Porter, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapist, vol21(1), 1/2017, pages 19-29.

•  Watch Helen Robbins’ annimated Introduction to Craniosacral.

•  Read the summary and conclusion  to the research article, A systematic review to evaluate the clinical benefits of craniosacral therapy,  by Jakel and Hauenschild, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol20(6), 12/12, pages 456-465.

•  Watch the the British Craniosacral Therapy Association’s video,  What is Craniosacral Therapy?

•  See how Biodynamic Craniosacral is a model of Peace as Learned and Teachable Skills.

•  Consider how nonviolence toward women impacts one’s life in Alan Turgeon, Thank You For Your Decency.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and has been practicing Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy since 2013.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care Sees Far Beyond Medical Needs

Abigail Strube, WFCC Executive Director, with her mom, Cathy.

Last year Abigail Strube’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

And that’s when they both came to know volunteers from the Angels Care Cancer Program, a Casper-based organization that’s part of the Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care (WFCC).

In fact, it was an Angel who suggested Abigail apply for her current job.

“WFCC is all about reducing the burden of cancer,” Abigail said.

And that translates to helping patients and families with non-medical needs that accompany treatment.

Help Beyond Medical Care

“We sometimes pay utility bills.

“We’ve even made mortgage payments,” Abigail said.

“We give gas cards, and this past summer a patient who needed to travel for a much-needed surgery had unsafe tires, so we just bought new ones for her.”

A large portion of WFCC’s budget goes to paying hotel bills.

Because of vast distances between Wyoming towns, people seeking cancer treatment must often travel hours for care.

It’s is all about reducing the burden of cancer.

WFCC Board of Directors includes (front row) Abigail Strube (ad hoc), Kara Frizell; (back row): Angie VanHouten, Michele Nash, Dr. Robert Tobin, and Sam Carrick (ad hoc)

More than 12 years ago staff at Rocky Mountain Oncology in the mid-state city of Casper saw patients struggling at home with non-medical needs.

So they considered how best to help.

The result was a grass roots organization as an arm of the large Tennessee based eplus Cancer Care foundation.

Then in 2018 WFCC received its own 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

Until recently funding came 100% from community donations and grants from individuals.

And now as they extend their reach to more of Wyoming and are eligible for federal grants, efforts are underway to grow the current $50,000 budget.

It’s about supporting patients and families with the non-medical needs that accompany treatment.

In 2017 more than 206 people state wide were served, and this year 176 patients have already been helped.

And the only eligibility requirements are that applicants be Wyoming patients currently undergoing treatment.

Partnering with Hands-On Care

When WFCC merged with the Angels Cancer Care Program more ways to offer non-medical support were possible.

That’s because many of the volunteers have, themselves, gone through cancer treatment.

“They know how to help make the stress of chemo more bearable,” Abigail said.

“Volunteers may sit with patients going through treatment, assemble cancer care kits, and drive patients to appointments.

“They have even put together teams to do house cleaning,” she said.

“In Wyoming we are proud to take care of our own.

“We believe in the spirit of the west and supporting cancer patients in our communities who are in need,” she said.

As for her mom, Abigail reports, “She’s 10 months out of treatment and doing really well.”

Take Action!

•  Read more about Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care

•  Donate to WFCC. Every small donation has a big impact.

•  Review Preventing Alzheimer’s and Slowing ALS: The Focus of Jackson Hole Medical Non Profit.

• Read Climb Wyoming where efforts to end the cycle of single-mom poverty in Wyoming are effecting change.

•  Read about a daughter who helped her mom live fully to the end of her life.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West