I often encourage my clients to combine complementary and alternative treatments with traditional medical methods. I recently had an opportunity to take my own advice, and was extremely pleased with the results.
The opportunity presented itself this Spring with an event that reminded me of just how unpredictable riding horses can be. I was practicing a dressage pattern test in the riding ring, and everything was going well. Feeling well-balanced and relaxed, I was moving into a left-hand turn on a well-trained horse. I was posting and turning my body to the left when I thought, how odd – the horse is looking to the right – and then I was in the air! I had the foresight to let go of the reins and free my boots from the stirrups, leaving just enough time to realize – oh…this is going to hurt – when I slammed into the dirt. The impact knocked the breath out of me and the pain was shocking.
My trainer instantly calmed the horse and called for assistance. The ambulance came a few minutes later. Restrained by a neck brace and strapped to a back board, I felt panicky on my way to the emergency room. The pain was intense. The EMTs were reassuring. I tried to calm myself but the automatic blood pressure monitor was registering 140/90. Not exactly calm.
At the hospital, the ER physician removed my neck brace and further reassured me that I had not broken my neck. I was wearing my helmet at the time of the riding accident, and it had done its job. The doctor ordered X-rays and left me on the gurney in the middle of the ER to attend his other patients. I was covered in dirt, wearing my riding clothes, my hair was a wreck and I was sporting a big smear of dirt on my face. I was also feeling very fearful. I recalled hearing something snap when I hit the dirt and the pain in my lower back was severe. Trying not to cry, I could feel my body shaking.
An intake administrator came to take my insurance information and asked if I had any religious persuasion. In that moment I responded, “uh – Reiki?!” It was what I felt I needed most right then. “I know about that,” he said, “in fact, there is someone here who just became a Reiki Master. Do you want me to get her?”
That’s how I happened to get a Reiki treatment in the ER! As the Reiki Master worked on me, I instantly began to feel warm. The pain subsided. I went into what I call the Reiki “glow” – when the body begins to distribute the energy wherever and however it is needed. I felt calmer.
People generally experience fear when they are brought to the ER. They are often in shock and don’t know how severe their conditions are. That fear affects their physiology in predictable ways. During the Reiki treatment, I became very aware of the feeling that everything was going to be alright. My fear was gone and I felt much more comfortable. A technician arrived to take my vitals and the Reiki practitioner left. My blood pressure was 116/78, a normal measurement. I was offered Motrin for the pain but I refused it because the pain had subsided significantly. I was sent for an X-ray and then for a CAT scan in order to pinpoint the injury.
While waiting for the results, I sat up on the gurney in the ER and moved around, stretching my legs and rotating my back. Again I was offered pain medication and again I refused. I could not walk – I really could not lift my left leg without causing some pain. There was indeed an injury, a hairline fracture at S1, the lower back.
I was released with a pair of crutches and told it would take about 6 weeks for the fracture to heal. Vicodan was prescribed – a pain medication – “just in case I got home and experienced a lot of pain.” The orders were 2 tablets every four hours. I only took 1/2 a tablet every six hours. I still have the bottle and it’s more than 1/2 full. Three days later, hobbling into my chiropractor’s office on two crutches, I received a very gentle adjustment. I left on one crutch. My medical doctor provided additional care as a follow-up. “Rest,“ she advised, and I did so. Normally I am the stoic type. But I cancelled my appointments for a week and did what I was told. One week later, I revisited my chiropractor. Hobbling in on one crutch, I literally walked out without any crutches. I wasn’t completely pain free when I walked, but I wasn’t immobilized with debilitating pain either. And there was no need for any pain medication.
Within three weeks I was moving around quite nicely – up and down stairs. I resumed my appointments, rested for 2 hours each afternoon and drank a lot of water. Eight weeks after the fall, I was literally back in the saddle.
It has now been three and a half months since I fractured my lower back in the fall. Today I went riding. A full hour in the hot sun and a practice dressage test.
I am grateful for a safe trip to the hospital, for the skill of my attending ER physician and the technology that confirmed it was just a hairline fracture. I am grateful for my primary care physician’s knowledge and skill in treating me. I am grateful for the skill and wisdom of my chiropractor and I am very grateful to the Reiki practitioner who helped my body tap into its natural healing ability.
I am convinced recovering from an injury or illness involves active participation on the part of the individual patient. We have a wealth of traditional and complementary methods available to help us achieve a safe and speedy recovery. Why not make use of the ones that work best for you?
By Janet Ware Doucette, LMHC, Fall 2003