Healing with nature
Don’t you ever get drained from all the sickness that surrounds you? A friend who is a regular volunteer and donor to our children’s hospital has asked this of me on countless occasions.
I remember telling her it surely does, and went on to explain that more than the physical aspect which is easily remedied with a few hours of restful sleep, it’s the constant pendulum of emotions, triggered by situations and human interactions, that plays a major part in the dehydration, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It would be so easy to choose to be indifferent and treat the profession as work that has to be done, but time has been kind to allow for realizations, as one never leaves unscathed if lives are involved. The constant exposure has not only provided opportunities to be better skilled but has been the channel from which I have learned to value people, appreciate what is taken for granted, come to terms with my human limitations, and more importantly, in recent years, has been the source of more meaningful human and divine conversations.
Having acknowledged the possibility and the reality, what does it take to refill?
“You talk about health, health, health, but have you ever thought of the wilderness as being a form of medicine?” This was a question that he had posted to the international scientific community. We were at the back of the hall and I was a little hazy about the message that he was trying to convey. In the next 30 minutes, Sicelo Mbatha, a wilderness expert, single-handedly managed to hold our attention without the assistance of a visual presentation. For anyone who has had the privilege to give a lecture, this is a major feat. He chose to speak of an experience previously and partly shared in last week’s column, which was on the medicinal effects that nature brings, and how the subsequent lessons learned from having a better appreciation of our connection to it, have enabled him to understand why life is the way it is.
For this participant at least, his talk was a painful reminder of how little modern medicine has advanced in providing real cure and healing in its truest sense. That certainly put us, the medical professionals in place, and was a lesson on the importance of humility. Fortunate to have been able to obtain the last copy of the book he had co-authored from a subspecialty bookstore before I left for South Africa, it became a much-needed and welcome companion on the long travel back home. His vivid description of his life which was less than privileged, his heritage, his people, his journey into the wilderness, and the challenges he faced, generated a wealth of feelings that weren’t easy to compress. A reverberating thought that stayed throughout the 24-hour flight was that his was a story and the perfect example of how little one needs to be happy or content. You just have to be more aware of the beauty and the wonder of your surroundings and be simply thankful.
Nature helps to heal and resuscitate only if you allow it. It should actually be an unwritten prescription for anyone suffering from any ailment, real or imagined. Pills, intravenous fluids, and medications undoubtedly provide their share in either giving relief to treat acute and chronic diseases on a biological or molecular level but as anyone knows, will always be remiss in healing a troubled soul or mind.
Through the years, it has been a conscious practice to draw the curtains aside whenever I make my rounds for patients fortunate to be admitted on that side of the building where there is still space for them to admire the trees, watch the sunrise, or catch the sunset, get a glimpse of the moon that is often overlooked, star gaze or even say a silly hello to the birds that never fail to visit even momentarily. Having known how it feels to lie in bed for days, helpless and dependent, and always dangerously close to feeling sorry for one’s self for having been thrown into such a situation, this simple act is my way of making them take notice of the free gifts that have been divinely and unselfishly provided for, and hopefully be that welcome distraction from the feelings of isolation that an illness may bring. Dealing with the pediatric population, I have no way to ascertain if this helps in any way. Granted that nothing compares to being out in the open air, free from the claustrophobic confines of a hospital room, having that steady view will helpfully accelerate the road to healing.
Stop and smell the flowers, walk into an open space, breathe, and learn to look up. It does wonders.