How much power and influence do humans have when it comes to their healing? Is it luck, an individual’s own fierce determination and attitude, or what religion calls ‘God’s will’? The long-standing debate continues. Recently, however, three stories were presented to the media that shine more light on the discussion, reflecting great power within consciousness.
In February 2014, Blake Hyland was a 14 year old gymnast who fell into a five week coma after smashing his head against a concrete platform while practicing a gymnastic new move. Doctors told his parents the force of impact was similar to that sustained from a high-speed car crash. Blake was given a 50-50 chance of survival. Should he survive, doctors explained, the damage to his temporal and frontal lobes was such that he would never be the same. However five weeks later, Blake awoke from his coma. The family realized this when his mother bent down to give him a kiss from his hospital bed and she heard a faint puckering sound. Blake was attempting to kiss her back.
Within those five weeks, Blake had suffered several strokes as well as a subdural hematoma and he underwent surgery to remove part of his skull. But during the next fifteen months, Blake learned to speak again and to move around. Despite slight trouble with short-term memory and some difficulty in walking, his gains have grown to the point that he’s been given the go ahead to start the tenth grade in September. Recently, Blake told ABC News: “I know I can do anything.”(Slater, 2015)
Caytie Gascoigne was hit head-on by an SUV on her way to her after-school job. The 17 year old from Murfreesboro, Tennessee suffered traumatic brain injury as well as a broken back, neck, pelvis, legs and sternum. She spent three weeks in a medically-induced coma with small chances of survival and a total of three months in the hospital. However in May 2015 she was back in the news after making a full recovery. During her graduation ceremony, she was able to walk across Riverdale High School’s stage unassisted to receive her high school diploma. She also participated in her school’s play and was voted prom queen. Some have called her survival a miracle. However, her high school principal described Catyie as the hardest working kid he’d ever seen as Gascoigne progressed from wheelchair to walker to walking on her own without traces of a limp. Caytie told her school newspaper: “I just knew I had to be strong and come out of this situation saying I survived.” (The Smoke Signal, 2015)
Matt Davis entered a coma after experiencing a horrific motorcycle accident that left him on life support. The accident had caused severe brain injury, an open femur fracture, fracture to the neck of the femur, a fractured rib, lacerated liver, fractured collar bone, a fractured jaw and occipital skull fracture. Doctors told his wife there was only a ten percent chance that he’d ever wake up. But Danielle Josey Davis had married Matt a mere seven months earlier and she was not prepared to let go. She held nightly vigils by his bedside, refusing to take him off life support. Eventually he opened his eyes. She worked to get him into rehab, and when rehab ended she moved the two of them into her mother’s home while continuing to practice skills taught to her by rehab staff. She worked around the clock to care for him. Eventually he was able to successfully reach out and grab a toy motorcycle. Not long after that he was able to express the desire for a buffalo chicken wrap. It’s taken a while for Matt to regain his long-term memory. He doesn’t remember dating his wife or marrying her, thus needing to become acquainted with her all over again. But today he calls her “baby or “donut” and the two of them enjoy taking yoga classes together and playing scrabble.
A miracle is by definition something that occurs outside the natural realm. But presumably as science advances, what is currently considered a medical miracle will contain more scientific logic from the continuation of mind-body research. Today society has better understanding when it comes to connecting coping skills and stress to illness. We know that stress levels and an inability to cope increases the hormone cortisol which then promotes higher risk of infectious disease in people.
What about the mind’s influence when it comes to healing from physical trauma? All three of these stories point to the importance of the “whole person” perspective as positive emotions and singular focus born out of determination and will played a part in the after care; it certainly raises questions regarding the possibility of psychosocial factors when it comes to the act of healing from physical trauma. Furthering an understanding of the mind-body connection — how an individual’s personality, lifestyle and environment influences the healing process — will open doors within our healthcare system for better care.
Lupkin, Sydney Teen Gymnast Beats Odds, Awakens from Coma (2015) Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/teen-gymnast-beats-odds-awakens-coma/story?id=30876716
Lupkin, Sydney Teen Walks Across Graduation Stage After Coma (2015) Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/teen-walks-graduation-stage-coma/story?id=31045598
Lupkin, Sydney Wife Refuses to Give Up on Husband in Coma after Crash (2015) Retrieved from http://abc15.com/news/local-news/water-cooler/wife-refuses-to-give-up-on-husband-in-coma-after-crash-then-he-wakes-up
Interview with Caytie Gascoigne, Riverdale High (2015) Retrieved from http://riverdalewarriors.com/smokesignal/2015/04/06/interview-with-caytie-gascoigne
Slater, Shelley The Doctors were Wrong about Blake (2015) Retrieved from http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/health/2015/05/07