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Sunday, 12 June 2011 08:46

Curing vs Healing - Which Do You Choose?

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Stair InjuryBy Trisha Torrey, About.com Guide
Among my travels this week was the invitation to participate as a speaker for a program called "Conquering Catastrophe" put together by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Yes. Lawyers. A discussion about how to get on with your professional life as a lawyer if you suffer a catastrophic event.  
OK - get past the jokes about the ambulance chasers and malpractice lawyers. When someone suffers a traumatic event - a horrific car accident, or a fall, or a gunshot wound, or bad burns, or (as Neil Hendershot, the lawyer who put the program together did), breaking your neck as you are overtaken by a large wave at the beach after having surfed for the entire afternoon with your kids - you become a trauma patient without regard to who you are in your 'real' life... and... Your entire life changes. Your body changes, of course, and must adjust to its new reality. But as dramatically or perhaps even more so, your mind and your spirit change, too. For many of us, any sort of trauma to our physical bodies ultimately has a negative effect on every other aspect of our lives, possibly for the rest of our lives. Pain, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, takes a huge toll. We mourn the losses - the things we used to do, loved to do, that we can no longer do. We may feel as if we no longer have quality to our lives because we have lost so much of what we loved about our lives. But this program, presented to lawyers across Pennsylvania, was not about how hopeless life becomes after a traumatic event or injury. It was about re-establishing one's life (and law career) afterwards. It wasn't about sitting around at pity parties. It was about taking responsibility and the right steps to re-establishing a quality life, even if that life is now different. The emphasis was on that word "quality." Included were lessons for every patient, lawyer or not, who has suffered any sort of negative event - including us empowered patients, no matter why we are patients. Among the speakers were representatives from the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center- a place where each year 8000 people, who have suffered the most horrific of physically traumatic events, arrive by ambulance or helicopter for treatment. Upon each patient's arrival, (and probably not so different from what we see on TV) doctors and nurses and others quickly kick into their well-trained roles as clinicians to repair bodies, which is exactly what we would expect them to do, right? That is, they do all those things we expect them to do to save lives - to cure. "Curing" they define as fixing, repairing one's physical body. But it turns out that their center is actually quite different in its approach. Because once they have the curing part under control, they go a step further - they help their patients begin to heal. "Healing" they define as including the patient as a responsible party to getting better. It's the healing that makes the distinction between the helpless person I described above, and the person whose trauma induces growth and possibly even a better quality of life than they had before their trauma. According to Donna Audia, RN who focuses on pain management and integrative approaches for healing in trauma patients, their goals are to help patients use their traumatic experiences to:
  • develop a deeper appreciation of life
  • improve their personal relationships
  • develop a deep spirituality
  • clarify their priorities
  • increase confidence in their abilities
  • use alternative approaches to manage their chronic pain
  • use mindful approaches to prevent post traumatic stress
Some of you who read these points will roll your eyes and wonder what planet these folks live on. If you've suffered a horrific trauma, or have been diagnosed with something life altering, it may be impossible to see your life through this sort of lens. But believe me when I say that not only are these things possible, they happen every day. You know some of the people they have happened to... The mother whose child died at the hands of a drunk driver starts working toward legislation to prevent drunk drivers from being on the road. The patient who almost died from a hospital acquired infection starts a movement to prevent others from becoming infected. The person who is misdiagnosed begins a career helping others learn more about the healthcare system. There are others, less visible, too. The soldier, having lost both his legs, who loves to play basketball continues to play basketball from his wheelchair. The blinded patient climbs a mountain - or simply walks to the bus stop without assistance. The diabetes patient who loves, loves, loves cupcakes, works with a dietician to figure out how to fit them into her food choices. The mother who suffers from lupus figures out how to take her children to the beach (even though she must avoid sun exposure.) The choices we make beginning at the moment we suffer our catastrophe can take us in the direction of hopelessness, or can take us in the direction of an even better quality of life based on our new reality, our new circumstances. They represent the work someone else does TO us or FOR us - vs - the choices WE make to participate in determining our own outcomes. They are the difference between whether we only rely on someone else to help cure us, or whether we work toward being healed - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
This article was previously published in About.com
Photo © Susanna Fieramosca Naranjo - iStockphoto.com
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Read 2845 times Last modified on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 22:50

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