Monday morning in San Francisco, I gave my first really professional presentation, to an audience of about 200-250 for a work-related conference. Riding to the afternoon session, belted into the back seat of a taxi driven by a man in the 11th hour of his first day on the job, with a taxi company trainer on the passenger side, I heard the trainer yell, “Stop! Stop!” I looked up at an odd angle just as the taxi plowed into a van, an opportunity for head and neck injuries. The ambulance driver offered me two hospitals, which I was not competent to choose between, one of them apparently being a much better hospital in his eyes. After I passed out twice, he threatened me with the other.
I passed out again, but not because I was thrilled at his offers.
I passed out again, but not because I was thrilled at his offers. My neck was in a brace, and my head tied down, with my body strapped to a miserably hard board. I remembered researching for the November issue of the company newsletter on the health benefits of gratitude. I thanked him for the distraction of poking an IV needle in my hand that made me scream, but which completely obfuscated the pain in my neck. I thanked him profusely for everything I could think of. And I started to get better.
I got the privilege of witnessing many traumas during my 9+ hour stint staring at stains in the ceiling tiles, my head still strapped down, my gurney parked in the hallway along with dozens of others in the very crowded San Francisco General Hospital Emergency trauma unit. I practiced body mapping–finding all my organs and limbs in space and figuring out how I was connected to them, contracting and then releasing tension to locate my body parts. The doctor was only a few feet from the bars of my cage? prison? oh, that’s right, I was in a gurney and he was listening to a raging drunk with stab wounds change his story a few times. So was I.
My employer joined me at the hospital
My employer joined me at the hospital and stayed with me except when there was no more standing room in the hallway. She said the waiting room was like a homeless shelter. She was afraid to eat anything, and washed her hands a lot. Perhaps the heaps of sleeping or screaming folks and addicts were a little much for her.
They didn’t bother me. I did a lot of inner work, in between passing out and answering questions, and sometimes getting diagnostic tests. I credit my successful hospital exit to the attitude of gratitude, and compassion for my employer. Her suffering roused me out of my dazed state. I figured if I kept sitting up, they would get tired of yelling at me to lie down again and would let me go. That memorable hallway needed my space for more serious injuries.
The Silver Lining of Gratitude
I am basically fine, except for a return of seizures. I had been seizure free since 1994. But there are no accidents. My partial complex seizures are not treatable with Western medicines–it’s called medically intractable epilepsy. I have training in a behavioral approach to epilepsy¹ that reminds me I can take charge of my triggers and regain control over my seizures, and my life. There is a lot to be grateful for.
Addendum September 7, 2013
I was still pretty dazed when I wrote this in 2006. I had already flown home to Portland, Oregon. After 8 weeks of gentle treatment at the hands of an excellent osteopath, and a kind massage therapist, and retraining my brain with software from Posit Science, my seizures went into remission again, and my cognitive functioning returned. Those treatments taught me the power of informed touch, and I remember their gentleness and love when I treat people who come with whiplash injuries to my massage practice. I am grateful that I can now pay it forward.
1. Joel Reiter, M.D., and Donna Andrews, PhD Website: Andrews Reiter Epilepsy Research Program.
Update, 1/4/2017: Reiter and Andrews have a new edition of their workbook, Taking Control of Your Seizures: Workbook (Treatments that Work)