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Health & Wellness

Who Were You Before you Became a Hero

As a psychologist I have always tried to teach my patients about the relationship between our bodies and our minds. Menssana in corpora sana—a sound mind in a sound body  is the desired result.  My beliefs and my body have not always matched, and a variety of illnesses landed me in hospital this past summer for an operation, followed by a six hour per week sunami of physical therapy.   In the thick of the battle it is good to be in the presence of a particularly strong person – the one who will withstand the test. That person is a profound source of morale for most of us – a model whose actions help us to find the necessary strength to reach a difficult but desired goal. 
I don’t know how long the rather tall, slim, white haired man had been attending rehab when I arrived for my first meeting. The room is filled with many machines and devices,  and a knowledgable, skillful and engaging staff to push us forward, towards recovery. Nobody has come to rehab because they wanted to – all of us have suffered some illness or injury. Some look profoundly sad.  Others joke.  Some leave because the sadness overcomes the possibility of gain.  The moment I became aware of Joe’s presence I sensed a power in his manner that seemed to inspire in me something close to awe.  
Like any social group, rehab has its rules. One is that we focus on the work. We may joke with one another as we do, or converse about the weather, maybe politics – but not much about what brought us there.  So it was not easy for me to gain the courage to approach him.  For days I had been looking for the phrase that might open a door so that we could converse.  The right moment came.  I shook his hand – despite the severe stroke his grip was strong – and explained that although I am a writer, I am here as a patient,  not a “plant” there to do a story.  He nodded, and I asked him who he was before he became a hero. 
“No hero,” he replied. “
"I suspect I am not the only person here who is inspired by the intensity and the good cheer that seem always to be with you.”
 “Well, I’ll tell you who I was before. A guy with his head up his backside. Let’s not talk more here.” 
We exchanged numbers, and that evening we spoke. I asked him how he got his head  back on his shoulders. 
“My real life began with the stroke. I am an atheist who has found faith. All the medication I had been on was probably useless. The stroke enabled me to discovered Christian Science, and with it came to the discovery that through that faith, I would begin the path to recovery.”  
Watching his recovery, a slow and daily battle against a body that is being reborn, has been remarkable. It is as if he were again an infant, learning, with a remarkable joy, the things that his body will, little by little, do. It creates an amazing patience in him. He appears gratefully pleased at every inch of progress, and dauntless when he is struggling with a new skill.  
As I look around the room at myself, at my rehab buddies, at the daunting equipment that we struggle to master, the wonderful staff, ready to teach and encourage, I wonder if each of us is not searching for someone who helps us dig deeper into our selves, to find something in ourselves stronger than we knew we had.


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Today is: April 19, 2019 - 4:24pm
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