Two and a half years ago I (Mary) was involved in a car accident and sustained several life threatening injuries. It was this day that propelled my life into the most profound journey of self-inquiry and healing I have ever experienced. It was this day that deeply affirmed my purpose in empowering people with their wellness through the education on holistic health and spiritual practices.
I believe that Western medicine has its place, and in this instance boy did I need it! I needed the gifted orthopedic surgeons to bring my femur back into socket and fix my shattered foot. I needed the calm cool and collected ER docs to insert the chest tube that would re-inflate my lung. I believe that Western medicine is a gift, but like so many others, I experienced first-hand how partial our medical system is. While I received care from both fantastic and not so fantastic medical professionals during this experience I’m grateful for everyone who assisted in saving my life and putting my body back together. To be clear, my frustrations with our medical system do not lie with the professional individuals, but rather with the system as a whole and its lack of crucial components that keep us separated from truly healing. This experience showed me the grave importance of being educated and empowered with your own wellness.
After being hit head on in a high speed collision, I was flown via life flight to a trauma center from my very rural home in western Montana during the early stages of the pan-d3mic. Because of all the precautions in place at the time, I was not allowed any visitors in my room, so my support system was only available via cell phone, this isolation made it difficult for my family to for offer me support and for them understand the state of my condition and how I was progressing.
The initial days I spent in the hospital were a blur. I was heavily medicated on opiates that I kept vomiting up because my body’s sensitivity to pharmaceuticals. In the accident, I broke all of my ribs and punctured a lung, so taking deep breaths was imperative to preventing further illness/infection. If you have ever broken ribs you know how painful it can be to take deep breaths, thankfully my decade+ experience with pranayama and yoga came to my aid. I was committed to focusing on nothing but deep breathing all day for weeks to heal my ribs and prevent infection in my lungs. Despite this, I was told that I would need a thoracic epidural in order to prevent a severe infection from taking hold in my lungs. This procedure came with the risk of paralysis if performed improperly, because of that I refused the procedure. With my knowledge in Ayurveda, I knew that I could ward off infection in my lungs as long as I stayed dedicated to my pranayama practice. Some medical professionals doubted this for the prevention of infection and I was berated and coerced on a daily basis to receive the thoracic epidural. It escalated to the point that some of the staff were telling me that I would die if I did not receive the treatment. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were relaying the same thing to my family members when they would call asking for an update on my condition from the doctor. Despite this, I was able to incorporate the tools I had through my education in herbalism, meditation, yoga and Ayurveda along with the support of my wellness community, to stand in my power and continued to refuse the “treatment” in order to preserve my quality of life after my body healed.
I knew the importance of movement for healing and how to use pain as a barometer for what little movement my body could withstand at the time. I pleaded for days for my doctors to reduce the dose of my pain meds as I was using my breath to manage a lot of the pain in my torso and needed the ability to feel my body so that I could practice small movements in my legs and neck. I was talked down upon by some members of my medical team for suggesting this, as if I didn’t understand how to heal my own body, as if they were the gate keepers for my health and survival. Eventually because of the unwavering support and advocacy from my Occupational Therapist and my ability to “prove” I could withstand lower doses of opiates by preforming frequent small movements, they finally lowered my dose. This came with massive withdrawal symptoms; insomnia, unbearable muscle spasms, leg twitching, vomiting, cold sweats, and intense anger and emotional irritability. I went from begging for my pain medication dose to be lowered (knowing damn well how much these pills were hindering my recovery process), to being tempted to take just a half pill in order to curb the symptoms of withdrawal. It suddenly became very clear to me exactly how we have developed an opiate crisis in this country.
I lost 15lbs during my stay due to the combination of the poor nutritional quality of the food provided, lack of appetite and vomiting up what little food I did consume due to the side effects of the opiate meds. This weight loss went unnoticed by hospital staff (even as they continued to give me medication) until I mentioned something to a nurse during my stay. They sent a “nutritionist” to come talk to me about maybe having a milkshake or some jello. All I could think was how could they not address root of the issue? How could my body heal without proper nutrition? Is this what was keeping me in the hospital longer than I should have? Given what little nutrition I was receiving in food form I had my friends send herbal teas to supplement my nutrient in-take, encourage tissue healing, manage pain and inflammation, and support my liver as it processed the pain medication. These herbs were immediately intercepted by hospital staff and I was not allowed to use them because there is little to no research on how herbal plant allies interact with pharmaceuticals. With my knowledge of healing through yoga, herbs and nutrition my stay in the hospital was incredibly difficult. I began to feel as though I would never heal the longer I stayed there. I pressured my medical team every single day to release me from the hospital knowing my body would never heal without proper nutrition, access to herbal remedies, and with restricted movement.
This is only a fraction of the issues I experienced in our health care system in this isolated incident. I spent so much time wondering how people without education in health and wellness stand a chance of making it out of the hospital alive after sustaining serious injuries like I did? What quality of care are they receiving if they aren’t empowered with the education of their own bodies enough to decide whether or not a procedure (or lack thereof) is in their best interest? How are folks with chronic illness, who are dealing with this broken system day in and day out, effectively managing their illness without nurturing support from their health care team?
Through this experience it became very apparent the importance of addressing the holes in our medical system. The solution to these issues is the foundation that supports the mission behind Of The Earth. My horrific experience in the health care system is the motivation behind the education I offer folks, in the hope that I can help others who felt as helpless and unsupported as I did in those moments when I was making crucial health care decisions. I can only hope that sharing my experience will encourage others to seek education around their personal wellness, so they too can feel empowered in their health care decisions, or better yet be fully sovereign in their own healthcare. The offerings at Of The Earth not only guide others through the education that helped save my life and heal my severely injured body, but also offer clients a container of support. This container of support, this nurturing aspect of healing, is so desperately needed when the body is processing traumatic injury or chronic illness, and it is an aspect completely absent from our health care system. The importance of empowering people with the knowledge to maintain their own wellness, is incredibly hard to implement in practice without this unwavering support. It is through the combination of the two, that we enable those to live life in sovereignty instead of fear. With that I ask you, what steps are you taking to return the power of your health and wellness back to you?
**The content of this article is an account of Mary's personal experience, it is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Mary is not a medical doctor, and none of the statements found in this document or on the Of The Earth website should be misconstrued as medical advice as they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease. The Statements in this document have not been evaluated by the FDA.