Therapists in Rehab Hospital Inspire Hope

Unfortunately at different times in my life, I have been hospitalized in 4 different countries, but none of them could compare to my six week stay in Lavigny, Switzerland.

After nearly 2 months in the hospital, I am still trying to piece together what happened to me. I don’t remember any details about my fall, about the harrowing helicopter transport and emergency brain surgery or the first 2 hospitals where I laid in a bed too weak to stand, too confused to carry on a conversation to process everything I was facing.

Fortunately over time, I began to heal. But I am the first to admit I did not do it alone. I was transferred to the 3rd hospital, Lavigny, a neurological rehabilitation center specializing in treatment for epilepsy, stroke victims and brain injury. Set in the rolling hills between the Jura Mountains and Lake Geneva, the bucolic countryside with majestic views filled me with peace, but my therapists stoked the inner fire to thrive.

At Lavigny, I relearned self care, how to use muscles properly and how to regain my voice after intubation during surgery. Everyone was so encouraging and kind and young.

When I arrived at Lavigny, I felt as old as the mountains surrounding me. Tasks that I once completed effortlessly, seemed insurmountable. Maneuvering down the hall 30 feet to the dining rooms without toppling over felt as exhausting as completing a marathon.

The first thing the nurses and therapists did was get me out of bed. With words of support, they refused to let me mope around and feel sorry for myself. We became a team with a common goal— make me strong enough to function independently so I could go home.

Therapist in Rehab Hospital Inspire Hope

The village of Lavigny, with the hospital in foreground

At times I felt like giving up, but my team of therapists wouldn’t let me. With their never ending encouragement, I took one step forward and then another. Nadine taught me how take a shower safely, how to tie my shoes and how use eating utensils again.

Carla and Benoit helped me regain balance and walk without staggering side to side like a drunk. They trained me to lift my left arm again and to make a fist with my left hand. Manon helped me recover my voice, which squeaked as if I had just coached a European championship.
No one knew for sure how much of my abilities I could recover or how quickly, but no one ever let on they had any doubt that I would return to normal, so I never doubted either. That combined with the positive verbal encouragement from loved ones’ nightly phone calls surrounded me with positivity.

Lisa, my neuropsychologist, explained what trauma does to the brain and helped me regain its function even before I realized it wasn’t working. At first I wanted to lash out at all my therapists in frustration over my loss of abilities, ashamed of my dependency, my physical weakness, my mental handicaps. I complained to Gerald over the phone, “They treat me like a baby. They will keep me here forever.” It was as though I couldn’t admit my loss of skills, losses I was reminded of when I saw other patients slumped over in wheel chairs, hobbling behind walkers, unable to walk, to talk, to swallow. Contrary to my misperception, each action was a challenge to become more self-reliant, so I could live independently again.

Each day was the same rigorous routine, 5 intense 45 minutes of therapy — PT, OT, neuropsych, speech therapy —that left me feeling so exhausted between sessions that I fell asleep between each one.

When I was finally released from the hospital, I was convinced that my therapies and my team’s commitment and care, literally saved my life. I was filled with gratitude to Lavigny and its staff.

When I met with the psychiatrist in charge of my case after another month of therapy as an outpatient, he reminded me,”The therapists certainly helped you reach your goals, but what they all told me was that it was your will power and drive that made the biggest difference to come back from such a devastating accident.”

In retrospect I am not sure how I overcame such great odds alone in a hospital in Switzerland during a global pandemic. I wish I could impart that combined force – family, therapists and iron will to readers who may be facing insurmountable odds in their battles against cancer, illness, life altering accidents. The human spirit is so fragile, life challenges so insurmountable, our mortality so fleeting, but don’t give up. Never underestimate the power of love and the role you play in your recovery, in your capacity to heal .

I will always credit the therapists at Lavigny with giving me back my dignity. They celebrated every success – the day I could raise a glass to my lips, butter my own bread and walk to the dining hall without assistance- was worthy of a standing ovation. They acknowledged the courage it took each day to get out of bed and confront the shadow of my past and I will be forever grateful.

Pat leaving the hospital

Europe Under Siege Our New Normal?

After enduring winter’s fog obscuring our mountains, I rejoiced to see the sun rise over the Alps and Lake Geneva. Though daffodils dance with the promise of spring, people remain oppressed.

Our resplendent view clashes with the darkness in our hearts, as we face a relentless enemy. As if it blew in overnight, coronavirus swept across the land leaving silence in its wake. No birds chirp in the gardens, no planes fly overhead, no cars rumble in the distance.

We live in a bucolic village outside Geneva Switzerland at the crossroads of the globe only 2 minutes from France, an hours drive from Germany, 3 to Italy. But right now no one travels beyond the block.

How could we not see what was happening?

When the coronavirus invaded our neighbor Italy, we continued daily routines. We didn’t know anyone who was sick. Weren’t symptoms mild? Weren’t only the elderly and infirm at risk? We lied to ourselves “I am healthy, I am robust, I am not that old.”

Meanwhile coronavirus crept into our communities.

Ten days ago, President Macron rang alarm bells urging French people to stay home to protect our most vulnerable.

Champs-Elysées, Paris, March 20th 2020

The following day, Swiss authorities enforced the same protocol. One by one European countries followed suite closing borders, shutting schools, and urging employees to work from home.

Like vultures swooping down on prey, people ravaged grocery shelves stocking up for the siege and stormed pharmacy stock for hand sanitizers, gloves, masks, pain killers. Worse yet, medical staff faced shortages.

Even so, many others still ignored warnings and continued to party in crowds at parks, cafes, night clubs spreading disease with every encounter.

So governments mandated more restrictions. Overnight, France turned into police state. Officers fined citizens 135 euros ($150) for leaving their homes without a warrant.

For first time since WWII, Switzerland deployed troops to help transport supplies and patients from overflowing hospitals. In Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, no beds remained. ICU patients in Alsace region had to be airlifted to other parts of France.

Europe Under Siege Our New Normal

Warning signs in Swiss train station

Infections doubled daily, death rates climbed.

Did we do too little too late?

Citizens learned a new vocabulary – Covid-19, containment, mitigation, social distancing, flatten the curve.

And changed cultural customs. No hand shaking, cheek kissing, bear hugging. No funerals, no weddings, no family gatherings. Grandparents can no longer babysit children. Family members not living in the same house can’t meet up. With no entertainment, no social gatherings, no sporting events, we grumbled about the very restrictions that may safe keep our lives.

As free floating anxiety reigned across the land, our lives are stripped to bare necessities — food, water, air.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Italians cried, “Heed our warnings!”

Are we listening?

Who will be next?

Is this the new normal?

Instead of turning inward in self-pity, we need to look outward.

How can we support the overworked medical personnel?

What can we do to help the poor and homeless survive?

How can we reach out to struggling neighbors?

Who can we do to lift someone up today?

Show Solidarity Fighting Coronavirus

As if sucking air through a straw, I gasp, my trachea burns, my lungs compress and I can’t breathe.

But don’t worry about me, focus on your fellow man.

I am not sick now, but the way coronavirus reacts in the body seems eerily similar to the way my body reacts when exposed to environmental toxins.

If you have never suffered from a severe asthma attack or respiratory illness, it’s hard to understand what it feels like to struggle to breathe. I do!

Don’t underestimate COVID-19. Show solidarity even if you are not infected other people will be.

flatten the curve

The Conversation – Social distancing March 13, 2020

With its easy transmission, lack of a treatment and invisible asymptomatic carriers living among us, this disease becomes a formidable foe.

We are past containment. Our best hope: “flatten the curve” which means slowing the acceleration enough that national health care systems can cope without collapsing.

Most cold viruses, infect the nose and throat. COVID-19 spreads directly to the airways and lungs without warning setting off a war between the virus and immune system

“The virus hijacks the cell and reprograms it genetically to make more copies of virus,” said Dr. Otto Yang, a UCLA expert on infectious disease.

First it strikes the lungs and impairs breathing.

The body fights back causing more inflammation. This damages blood vessels, which can leak fluid into lung tissues, clogging the tiny air sacs. Pneumonia results limiting one’s ability to deliver oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide.

Next it attacks the kidneys, which can no longer remove waste from the body fast enough.
If the disease progresses, cell damage occurs throughout the body. Organs fail from the virus’ attack or because of septic shock.

No country has enough resources (intensive care units, isolation rooms, ventilators) and medical staff to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people getting sick at the same time.

That’s the crisis happening in Italy right now in a wealthy region with one of the best health systems in the world.

“In Milan, in Bergamo, in Padua they are having to choose between intubating a 40-year-old with two kids, a 40-year old who is fit and healthy with no co-morbidities, and a 60-year-old with high blood pressure, because they don’t have enough beds. In the hallway, there are another 15 people waiting who are hardly breathing and need oxygen.”

Our too little testing, too late policy failed. Misinformation and lack of testing accelerated the spread of the illness by delaying our reaction. We are ground zero. In France, in Switzerland, in the USA.

Social restrictions are enforced. Countries shut down. Everyone must comply in a united effort to slow the progression.

Stop pointing fingers and blaming others — the Chinese, the Italians, the French, the Democrats, the EU.
Don’t think that this doesn’t concern you.

You may not fall into the vulnerable elderly age bracket or high risk category, but someone you know does. Dialysis machines, insulin pumps, pace makers, and other medical equipment and modern drugs keep many of us ticking. If infected with COVID-19, thousands more will need access to artificial ventilation and the best medical technology available to beat this disease.

Heed the medical advice. Wash hands. Stay home. Stop complaining.

Overreacting? Don’t think so.

With every breath you take

Remember this caveat.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Human beings everywhere

Share the same air.

Without breath

There is no life.

As Coronavirus Sweeps Europe Public Heeds Medical Experts

coronavirus outbreakIn Switzerland when we first heard reports of the coronavirus in China, we only half listened, but when our neighbor Italy announced outbreaks, we were all ears.

The close proximity and community spread of a life threatening virus has Europeans on edge. Most citizens held their fears in check until the Italian outbreak, then within hours illness knocked on our doorstep. Our anxiety stepped up a notch.

coronavirus outbreak

figures valid as March 6, 2020

Surrounded by Italy, Austria, Germany, and France, hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders daily to work in Switzerland. At my former work place, the International School of Geneva, 140 different nations are represented, many of whom live across the French border. Exposure is inevitable.

Suddenly news flashed across Europe in different languages as nations grappled with how to best handle the crisis and contain outbreaks. For the first time ever, Switzerland immediately cancelled its world famous Geneva International Motor Show and forbid public events of more than 1000 spectators including popular soccer and hockey games. France limited gatherings to less than 5000. Both countries immediately shut down schools and shops where clusters of coronavirus broke out. Leaders of European countries reacted quickly, calmly and sensibly.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Trump’s initial reaction was to minimize its impact. At his campaign rally in South Carolina, he proclaimed that the coronavirus was the new “Democratic hoax”. By promoting “fake news,” he only added to public confusion and mistrust.

COVID 19 is so new, much remains unknown: incubation period is uncertain and asymptomatic patients become silent carriers. Countries close borders, quarantine citizens, and try to curb public panic.

Medical experts have trouble understanding and predicting outcomes. Even so, international researchers are moving forward so quickly that vaccine might be possible within 12 to 18 months instead of 10 to15 years.

With medical personnel overworked in every country and the public’s anxiety rising, we need to get the facts straight. Worldwide public health and safety should be paramount on any leader’s agenda especially a leader as powerful as the US President.

Fortunately the highly respected Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is now serving as a member of the White House coronavirus task force to provide facts and clarify misconceptions.

Global health experts like our friend, Dr. Jonathan Quick, former chair of Global Health Council and long term collaborator of theWorld Health Organization (WHO) have been solicited by news agencies around the world such as ABC .

In The Guardian, he offers valuable insights, proposes feasible solutions and provides hope for the future.

The End of EpidemicsHis book, The End of Epidemics published in 2018, predicted the present day scenario.

“Jonathan Quick offers a compelling plan to prevent worldwide infectious outbreaks. The End of Epidemics and is essential reading for those who might be affected by a future pandemic―that is, just about everyone.”―Sandeep Jauhar, bestselling author of Heart: A History

As the WHO scrambles to predict outcomes, produce tests and develop vaccines, we need to listen to the voices of those who know best.

For a world leader to put a personal spin on such a deadly and disruptive global crisis for political leverage is dangerous. Political differences must be put aside, scientific knowledge must be shared and transparency between countries must prevail to contain a world epidemic with such dire consequences.

Regardless if we live in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East or Australia it behooves us all to remember pandemics don’t discriminate.

It is in humanity’s best interest to adhere to the collective advice of the world’s best scientific minds.

no borders for coronavirus

Fighting Back After Chronic Illness Knock Out

chronic illness = shadows of dark cloudsApologies to my loyal readers, friends and family for being out of touch, off line, disconnected. Estranged from everyone, I shut down, closed off my heart and buried hope.

When you suffer from chronic illness, you exist in a parallel universe of pain. A pain that is magnified when so misunderstood by the medical community like in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, environmental illness, Lyme disease and other conditions that are hard to diagnose and even harder to treat.

Awaiting answers we muddle along until flare ups knock us out again and again.

The earth tilts under my feet. My eyes roll back in my head. Shooting pains fire off like missiles in my muscles. Ants crawl under my skin. My stomach cramps. My joints throb. My throat aches. My lungs burn. My vision blurs. My head pounds.

My brain, an overinflated balloon, presses against my skull, like it will burst.

An old athlete, I can cope with physical pain, but enduring the tricks of my mind becomes unbearable. I forget what I just said. Phone numbers, street addresses, friends’ names elude me.

As bad bugs hijack my brain, I stare ahead like a deer in headlights unable to process thoughts. My tongue twists on the phrases that spew out sometimes in French, sometimes English. I repeat myself like a silly parrot, jumbling sentences, confusing words.

Trapped in bed, the walls close in. I reach for my survival kit — a Kindle, laptop, notebook, cell phone, water bottle. I calm my racing heart by counting blessings — family to cherish, food on the table, roof overhead.

Like a human guinea pig, I sign on for another drug trial, relying on an equally desperate Facebook group of strangers, who battle the same misunderstood multi-system inflammatory disease.

chronic illness = snowy lane When I can muster enough energy to go out, friends will say, « You don’t look sick, » and assume I am cured. All the while the invisible body snatchers eat away at my cells turning my brain to spaghetti, my muscles to mush.

On my worst days I enter the twilight zone of semi-consciousness suspended between life and death.

Don’t let me give up.

Hang on. Another second. Another minute. Another hour. A day. A week. A month. A year. A decade. A lifetime.

Trapped in a body that doesn’t work right, I know I am not alone. Millions suffer from invisible diseases. Do not forsake us. We are doing the best we can. When we say we are too tired/sick/weak to go out, prepare dinner, entertain guests, we are not making up excuses. We aren’t malingers; we are champions battling invisible enemies.

  • Commiserate with us.
  • Listen.
  • Let us repeat the same broken record of despair. Then repeat the same pep talk you gave last time.
  • During flare ups, we lose perspective. Remind us of happier times when we were able to participate.
  • Make dinner. We won’t be hungry, but coax us to the table.
  • Send emails, text messages or make calls. Voices uplift.
  • Hold us while we cry.

Click here, listen and be inspired

We are a society of doers until we are sidelined by injury or illness. Then we feel worthless, like dead weight, like burdens.chronic illness: Rainbow of hope

Remind us always of how much we are loved. And how maybe, just maybe, we inspire you to endure tough times because you look at us and know how hard we are trying.

Real warriors keep fighting.

Day by day.

Minute by minute.

Word by word.

I am back writing and I missed you.

Floating My Way to Nirvana

New experiences slow aging, so for my birthday I tried to float my way to nirvana. As a gift, my Frenchman offered me a Flotation Therapy session. I left my comfort zone, overcame claustrophobia and closed myself in a flotation tank for a total mind and body experience.

Flotation therapy dates back to 1954 when Dr. John Lilly, a physician and psychoanalyst, studied altered states of consciousness, brainwaves and the effect of sensory deprivation. His research led to the development of a flotation device creating a weightlessness state, void of sensory stimulation, which can lead one to a state of mindfulness.

At the Surface Center in Lausanne Switzerland, entering the tank felt like stepping into a space ship. When I lay out in a bath of water heated to skin temperature of 94-95 degrees F and highly concentrated with (800 lbs.) Epsom salt to remove gravity, I felt as weightless as an astronaut in outer space.

Did you know about 90% of your brain’s activity focuses on calculating where gravity is and in which direction to enable you to move without falling over?

Without the necessity of maintaining posture, your mind frees from the physical world, creating a state of sensory relaxation.

Later Ohio State University research showed flotation improved creativity in jazz musicians. The therapy is currently used by elite athletes, like Stephen Curry, to enhance performance.

Hey, if it worked for basketball’s “Baby-Faced Assassin”, it could work for me.

So I floated and waited to reach nirvana.

Nothing happened.

Once I realized I could open the door, I overcame my anxiety of being entombed in a pod the size of a double-wide coffin. Starting from my crooked toes, I visualized each bone and body part being released from every injury and accident. Then, I repeated the process imagining killing off bacteria, viruses and germs plaguing my health.flotation center's relaxation room

Therapy accelerates lactic acid removal, lymphatic tissue flow and reduces the blood pressure, maximizing blood flow. In theory in this state, endorphins are released reducing pain but instead of euphoria, my spine still felt crooked. Even as I visualized symmetry, my posture still felt out of whack with my head twisted one way and my shoulder and hip the other way.

“Your head falls back weightlessly,” the instructor explained beforehand, “so prop your head with hands.”

In spite of my deep breathing and mindfulness, after 20 minutes, tightness in my neck and shoulder blades distracted me. Pressure built up in my head and sinuses.

I began to think, enough already.

For a brief period though, I was a hidden pearl floating in a clam-shaped cocoon on the Dead Sea.

When I stepped on land afterwards, a tsunami hit.

My head ached, my brain fogged, my limbs weighed tons and I remained comatose for the rest of the day.

But to be honest, I can reach paradise a whole lot faster floating on Summit Lake.

float on your favorite lake

For more information on where to float, go to http://www.where-to-float.com/