Opiate-Free in 24 Hours
The first time I met Dr. Waismann was in the cafeteria of Barzilai Hospital, Ashkelon, Israel, in the summer of 2006 during my photo coverage of the second Lebanon war. We had a short conversation about severely injured soldiers that have been given morphine to ease their pain and, unfortunately, had become drug addicts. Dr. Waismann told me that he has devoted his life to developing a cure for drugs addicts and now he is helping many patients from all over the world.
After the war ended, I contacted Dr. Waismann and asked him if I could see him again to learn more about his unique treatment. He was very happy to hear that I was interested in his work and he made some room in his busy schedule to meet me.
A few days later I arrived at his office and over a cup of black coffee Dr. Waismann explained his special treatment, The Accelerated Neuroregulation (ANR), step by step: Every patient is accompanied from the airport or his home in Israel straight to the clinic where the patient is assessed and medicated by the doctor. This allows the patient a comfortable and calm pre-hospitalization stage. The next morning the patient is hospitalized in the ANR unit at Barzilai Hospital where he undergoes laboratory screening and clinical examination. Then, the patient is medicated to allow a comfortable induction into the sedation stage. At noon, in the gradual sedation stage, the patient is brought into the deep sleep stage for a period of three to four hours. During this period, opioid receptors are blocked and the withdrawal syndrome occurs. The patient is kept asleep while monitored and assisted throughout the procedure. In the evening the patient wakes up from the sedation and the staff allows him to sleep normally through the night. Early the following morning they begin the post-ANR Naltrexone treatment--a daily regimen of Naltrexone is followed thereafter. The patient is encouraged to eat and drink so he can slowly return to general physical activities. Typically, he will be discharged back to the hotel by noon. I was astonished to hear that the whole treatment takes only 24 hours and that in the end of it, the patient leaves the clinic cleansed from drugs. If he is strong enough to stay away from drugs he will be free of them for the rest of his life.
Because I was interested in the idea, I asked Dr. Waismann if I could come to document this unique treatment from a closer point of view. Dr. Waismann told me that new patients had just arrived and invited me to come to his clinic the next day to see him and his team using this special treatment but with one condition: none of his patients should be recognizable in my images to keep and respect their privacy.
The next day I drove to the ANR clinic in Barzilai Hospital. At the gate the security man who saw "TV" on my car windows asked for my press card. After a short interrogation about the purpose of my visit he let me in and I parked my car. As I walked through the hospital corridors I could smell the distinctive "hospital smell" of drugs and sickness. When I passed patients and medical employees with my camera equipment they gave me suspicious looks. I finally arrived to the ANR clinic and found Dr. Waismann and his crew busily treating their patients.
I put my camera gear in the corner of the room and after assessing the light conditions of the clinic I decided to shoot the session without using any flash because it would give a harsh effect to the images and I wanted to project softness and mysteriousness. Instead, I set up the camera ISO speed to 640 and I pulled out three fixed, good-old Nikon lenses from the camera cases. The first one was a 28mm-f2.8, the second one a 50mm-f1.4 and the last one was the 100mm-f1.8. From my professional photography experience I found that these are my most valuable lenses when facing low-light conditions and when I need to express a strong sense of atmosphere and intimacy in my images. I placed the lenses on Dr. Waismann's desk and mounted the wide-angle lens to start documenting the clinic by taking general shots. As I got more familiar and more comfortable working with the medical team, I switched my lens to medium and long lenses and got closer to my subjects. I tried to capture the patient's moment of transformation from a heavy drug addict to a clean and free person.
I spent a few hours in the ANR clinic with Dr. Waismann and his crew; when they were about to start to wake their patients, he asked me to stop shooting because this is a very delicate, crucial medical moment for him and the patient. I stopped taking photos and as I started to pack my photography equipment I thought to myself that I was very satisfied with the photo session and images. I felt that I managed to capture the moment.
I left the clinic with a very warm handshake from Dr. Waismann and his medical team and on my way out I gave a last glimpse at the patients and thought to myself that they are very brave people to try to quit drugs by crossing half the world to lie in a hospital bed with their eyes shut while the withdrawal syndrome occurs.
In just a few moments they will be awakened by Dr. Waismann and will start a journey in a whole new fresh life, free from drugs!
© Rafael Ben-Ari
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