Humans of Nicaragua: Don Ebierto the Sobador


“Injuries obviously change the way you approach the game.” ~Brett Favre

I’ve watched the Olympics everyday, all day, with my leg raised and my knee iced and compressed. You see, I have my first sport related injury. That is, if you can call chasing my dog in flip-flops a sport.

I hyperextended my knee as I twisted my leg with my foot implanted in the sand. POP! And I fell to the ground in agony. Ron and Jose carried me back to the house and Lourdes ran to find Capitan (Cappy) who likes to run through the holes in the fence and visit the neighbor’s cows and dogs.

Meanwhile, I howled in pain when they plopped me on my couch and I couldn’t move my leg. Ron wrapped my knee, elevated it, and iced it immediately. But, what was the problem and how do I get to the mainland to get a MRI?

My first mistake was using Dr. Google to diagnose the knee problem. It could be a meniscus tear, or an ACL tear, or a sprained knee. The more I read, the more anxious I became. I couldn’t walk and the pain was excruciating.

“Ron, I have to go to the bathroom,” I shouted. He tried to support me and I attempted to hop, but every hop jarred my bad knee. Then it dawned on me! My wheelie office chair. Perfect!

The day after my knee injury, I called a sobador to come to my house to look at my knee. A Nicaraguan sobador is a healer who works on the material level and specializes in the treatment of sore muscles and sprains, and deep muscle massage. Sobadores are traditionally used by many Nicaraguans as a form of alternative medicine. They are a mix of traditional healers and chiropractors who blend their self-taught knowledge of the human body with faith and traditional herbal remedies.

Don Ebierto is a well-known sobador on Ometepe Island. He is respected for his knowledge of the human body and his ability to reset broken bones, massage sore muscles, and set dislocated joints. He doesn’t live very far away, so I called him and he came immediately.

I was apprehensive about calling a sobador mainly because I have little experience with natural healers. Most of my life I have relied on medical doctors, although fortunately the only medical emergency I ever had was an emergency appendectomy. I’ve never broken a bone or sprained or strained a joint. Amazing, right?

Don Ebierto

This photo is after the treatment. When Don Ebierto arrived, I explained how my knee injury happened, my symptoms, and the information I received from Dr, Google. He just looked at me and smiled. He ran his magic hands up and down my leg after applying salve, felt tenderly around my ankle, and probed every part of my kneecap with his fingers.

“I have to realign your kneecap,” he responded. He explained that I had a very weak ankle that probably contributed to a partial dislocation of my kneecap. OMG!! He directed Ron to hold my shoulders, my neighbor to hold my arm, and he positioned himself in front of me and pulled and twisted my leg back into the proper alignment.

I almost passed out! The pain was excruciating. I imagined myself as a Civil War soldier whose leg had to be amputated with a swig of whisky as the only pain relief. I guess it was a quick procedure, but I screamed bloody hell. I told Don Ebierto it was worse than natural childbirth. He laughed. Not me.

After it was realigned, I felt instant relief. He massaged my leg, wrapped my ankle and my knee and told me to rest and elevate it for two days and take ibuprofen for pain relief. Then, he would return to check my leg and prescribe exercises for me to gradually strengthen the muscles and ligaments and I could begin to put weight on my injured leg.

While I was panting in relief, he worked on Ron’s old hip injury.

Don Ebierto has many years of experience. He massaged and healed a hand tendon injury of a nurse expat friend of mine. He is the sobador for a local baseball team and tends to their arm injuries. He says he has received a gift of healing from God…and I believe him. Dr. Tabatha, a homeopathic doctor with a clinic on Ometepe Island, says he is very famous and the best sobador on the island. In fact, he is the padrino, godfather, of her Nicaraguan husband.

Meanwhile, I roll around on my wheelie office chair like a pro. It could be a new sport in the Olympics! I start using crutches tomorrow and have started light leg exercises to strengthen my ligaments and legs.

What have I learned from this experience?

1. I have learned to let go. So what if my house is dirty and my bed is unmade!
2. I learned that a good sobador is better than using Dr. Google to diagnose and treat joint injuries.
3. I learned that I cannot ever wear flip-flops again. They are dangerous and probably contributed to my weak ankle. I need strong ankle support.
4. I learned that there are many helpful friends and neighbors who sent meals, lent me crutches, and encouraged me to think positively and be kind and patient with myself.
5. I learned that I am a strong, determined woman. I have a goal to recover, but it needs to be gradual.
6. I learned “No pain, no gain.” It is important to begin to strengthen muscles and joint injuries almost immediately because if I wait too long and baby the injury, my healing process will take longer.
7. Most importantly, I learned that I have a loving, caring husband who pushes me gently to improve daily. What would I ever do without him?

I asked Don Ebierto how much we owed him for his treatments. He said, 150c, which is about 4 dollars. We gave him 200c gleefully. My goal is to be healed in 3-5 weeks. With the expert treatment from Don Ebierto, exercise, and supportive shoes, I have no doubt that I will be a stronger person. If not, then I will at least be able to walk with crutches and go to Vivian Pellas in Managua for a MRI.

My experience with a sobador was game changing! I won’t be chasing my dog anymore, either. That’s for sure.🙂

What are your experiences with a healer or a sobador? 

22 thoughts on “Humans of Nicaragua: Don Ebierto the Sobador

  1. We “westerners” are quick to dismiss traditional healers and I read your post with great interest as I’ve always wondered how people treated day-to-day injuries in remote areas. So glad you had a positive experience with your Sobador and it must be reassuring to know that you have another resource on the island if you need help. Take care, find new shoes (although I love my flip-flops I’ll have to heed your tale!) and heal fast. Anita

    • I know all about the resistance to use a natural healer. When I asked my neighbors who I could call or if I should go to the hospital, they all recommended Don Ebierto. He has treated hundreds of people on Ometepe Island and never charges much because most of his patients are very poor.
      The other day when he came to check on my knee, I asked him if Ron could give him a ride back to town. He walks everywhere. He said that he still had 4 more patients to visit in our area. He is a busy man and so gifted.
      I finally am able to wear my sturdy tennis shoes. My ankle was swollen and I couldn’t put my shoe on my injured leg before. But, now I am walking around with my crutches like a pro. It won’t be long until I can walk unassisted.
      Thanks, Anita for your warm thoughts.🙂

  2. i am so sorry, and i would have almost passed out too… goodness, you’ve really been tested.. the good thing is when you are back to optim health, you will be on a natural high – just to be well and strong again.

    if you ever tip into costa rica, there is an amazing ‘applied kinesiologist’ in samara.. he’s worked wonders on an injured shoulder of mine, and i also watched him work on friends. he is very gifted. i wish i were closer so he could give me a ‘reboot’….

    sending you empathy,
    lisa

  3. Okay, I admit you did have me laughing in parts of this. I’m sorry because I know it was very painful. Chasing a dog in flip flops isn’t a good idea. However, I don’t know what I would do without mine.

    I like homeopathic medicine. I’m glad you found a local healer to help. The price sure was right! I have to admit I’d be using Dr Google too because I can never stay away from that website.

    And yes, housework will be there when you’re ready so let things wait.

    I hope you heal up quickly.

  4. We are really happy you are on the mend and out of the excruciating pain associated with knees as we all age. Happy to read your post as always Deborah… throw out those flip flops ! ( Liza is going to have to do the same… problem is… they are just too easy to get on and “flip” off !
    Keep smiling my friend !
    (p.s. Koko is training her new family… and settling in fine with them – makes us both very happy, but still missing her ! Thanks for the kind words last week ! )

  5. He sounds like an amazing healer. Traditional medicine can do good things but it definitely isn’t the only way. I’m so glad you are being so well cared for. Here’s sending you healing thoughts and wishes that you will be healed quickly. Sorry about the flip flops though.

  6. Thai friend of mine talked about the people who do similar things to sports injuries in Asia, massage to realign tendons and ligaments. I’m normally very cynical about the alternative medicine folks (especially when they claim to cure diabetes, cancer, and AIDS), but this is something where prompt action to get things back in order does probably work better than waiting to see a orthopedic surgeon. Most cyclists used RICE — Rest, Ice, Compression, and Exercise — for knee problems. And good shoes are necessary for old ladies, especially old ladies on tile floors.

    • You are right, Rebecca. When I researched sobadores, I was skeptical when some of them claimed to cure diabetes and other diseases. Don Ebierto makes no such claims. He works strictly with muscles, ligaments, and tendons. That was very reassuring to me. Ron is a certified Red Cross Trainer and former swimming coach, so he knew immediately about RICE. Now, when my foot swelling goes down and I can go without an ankle brace, I will be able to put my tennis shoes on. Meanwhile, I wear my brace with a heavy sock. I am going to start swimming in the local pool when I can get around better with my crutches.

  7. I came to the same conclusion about flip-flops. Once had one fold under on itself and I ripped my big toe on the gravel path! And they’re potentially lethal for driving!

    • Ahh…thanks Lauren. I hate to sound like a wimp when I write post like this, but I know many people can relate to my experience and without access to a good hospital, I found an excellent healer. I wanted to share my experience with my new best friend, Don Ebierto. He is amazing. 😘

  8. Pobrecita!
    Glad you’re getting help. As I get older and have my own creaks and pains (but fortunately noting yet as bad as yours), alternative medicine seems more & more relevant and helpful. Best of luck!

    • Jon, Don Ebierto returned today to check on me. He astounds me with his knowledge. I asked him how he received his training and his father and grandfather were sobadores on Ometepe. He started when he was young by massaging fingers on people who would come to visit his dad.
      He said he would return next week, and massaged my leg and ankle and checked my range of motion. He kept saying, “suave, suave” because I would tense up anticipating pain. Yet, when I relaxed into his deep massage, I realized there was no pain.
      He said I should be back to “normal” in 20 days.
      Gotta love Don Ebierto. 💜

  9. I had a similar experience with a natural healer/chiropractor the first month we lived here. Our doctor did a great job and made me a believer. We are glad your injury is healing and that you have a good healer there on your island. (Isn’t getting older fascinating!?!)

    Have a great day!

  10. What an amazing experience !!!! You learned soo much!!
    It always amazes me what I learn thru pain ,,,
    I don’t learn as much when Im comfortable and cozy…I wish it happened like that ,,but ..ALAS..
    thats not how God works!!!

    And a healer ,,how wonderful ,,,what a gift ,to have him so near ,,,get his name out …thats fantastic ..

    praying for u and a speedy recovery ….and lessons learned thru pain ,,,

    Blessingssss s …
    Heidi

    • Heidi, I am not one to enjoy learning lessons through pain, but sometimes it takes a big bop on the knee to tell me to let go! I am learning…poco a poco.
      Thanks for the warm thoughts. I am truly feeling so much better and should be up and around in about 2-3 weeks.

  11. Oh, my goodness that sounds painful! How wonderful that you were able to get help from the local healer and that you were open enough to allow it. I think we tend to not believe in or appreciate the local remedies that are available. Hope you heal quickly and painfree. Peace and Love

    • Thanks, Barbara. Really, I had no choice. The closest MRI is in Managua and to get to Managua I would have to cross Lake Cocibolca on the ferry, then get a taxi for a 2 hour ride to Managua. There was no way to do that with the pain I was experiencing. That is one of the major problems living on an island.
      Plus, if one needs transport to the mainland after the ferries stop running for the night, the only way is to get the open air medical panga, and that is really horrible, especially in the rainy season.
      I am so grateful for Don Ebierto. He is the jewel of the island.

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