The Life Force Flower
I have spent my career as a physician specializing in physical medicine & rehabilitation-a physiatrist. I have worked with individuals with serious permanent medical problems like strokes and spinal cord injuries and others with minor hiccups on life’s path, like a torn ligament or sprain. I have learned that it is not the medical problem that defines the response to those challenges, but something much deeper, and beyond medical prognostication. It seems a minor problem would be the easiest challenge to overcome, and a major one the toughest, but that would not be my experience. It would also be easy to think that a supportive circle of friends and family make the process easier, but that is not always the case. A deep religious background may help, but sometimes fails entirely to help find the way through the valley. Of all the research about the survival process, little is predictable from the bedside.
A 21-year-old carnival worker falls off a Ferris wheel while racing a co-worker climbing to the top, drunk. He breaks his back, arriving in the emergency room paraplegic, intoxicated, tattooed from head to toe, with no family, no insurance, no money, and the markings of a life lived on the outside of society, including gun shot and knife scars. Yet he rallies to living life from a wheelchair, enters community college, joins a local wheelchair basketball team, and gets a job as a counselor. A high level corporate CEO tears his ACL, but the repair leaves him with knee pain and drags his golf game from a 6 handicap to a 20. He folds up his game, his career and his marriage. Where was his strength?
I believe that there is something deep within that controls the self in finding the strength to rally. This something does not seem to be predictable from any demographic factor, any medical lab value, MRI or blood test. I have seen external forces diminish it, but I am not sure that it can be fed from the outside. I believe that it is a life-force, a fire within that compels forward movement. It requires a willingness to abandon some of the past and look toward a future, and to accept that sudden changes in life plans are the consequence of being human. It demands an ability to participate in the control of that change, rather than passive acceptance. And at some level, this life-force must have patience, an understanding that not all schedules can be kept.
I believe completely in the amazing power of this life-force. I believe it may be the single most important factor in healing, the real wellspring of recovery, and the true fountain of survival and health.
I have seen this life-force flower from within the most unexpected places like a night-blooming cactus, amazing the health care team, and baffling the grim prognosticators. Of all the flowers in my patients rooms, this has been the most wonderful flower to watch grow.
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