About 25 years ago, I was hospitalized with a rapidly failing liver. Here are four healing life lessons I learned days after doctors told me I would not live past the age of ten.
1. Isolation Can Equal Connection
In the first hospital I resided in, there was no children’s wing. I was in isolation for a few weeks with no television or toys. Besides the doctors, the only person allowed to see me was my mother. She visited after her 9-5 and was instructed to wear a hazmat-style suit just to visit me. Despite the major challenges presented, I learned to face the involuntary isolation and silence with introspection. I learned to channel my fears, anxieties, and desires into a communicated love to God. I found a deeper connection that was both challenging and special. This deeper connection aided me in surviving each hour as it passed slowly.
On the heels of isolation you can find solace—comfort, peace, restoration, and tranquility amongst other emotionally healing properties—when you shift from focusing on loneliness, and focus on the momentary and daily messages that not only your body is sending but also that the universe is expressing. Isolation can become the door to your higher self when you step into the light surrounding your circumstances rather than sinking into the darkness. You can transform any situation from helplessness to hopefulness.
2. A Gentle Touch Can Heal
After a few weeks in isolation, I was moved to a room where I shared a space with a young toddler. She was in a crib that was wrapped in a plastic bubble and I was instructed not to touch her. After two days of watching her cry at night and reach out for human contact, I cracked. “They have already said I’m not going to make it. If I die holding this baby, at least she felt she was loved and I can pass away with that peace but I hope God will be with me,” I thought. I nervously unzipped the bubble, lowered the crib bar, and extended my little arms to the little girl. All my fears—and her anxieties—melted away once we connected. I played with her and held her alongside her thankful mother for days afterward. Two weeks later, the little girl was going home happier and healthier filled with love.
The human touch is one of the most powerful tools individuals possess when beginning the process of healing. It can ease pain, lift depression, and if withdrawn, can prove fatal. When you move past fear and act on love, miracles can occur.
3. Serving Others Serves Self-Discovery
As I grew into my adolescent years and became an outpatient, there were a few times I found myself readmitted to hotel infirmary and finding the silver lining felt like a fruitless endeavor. Instead of passing the time watching television, I preferred to meet new patients and cheer others up. I spent time with younger kids and I enjoyed chatting it up with older patients listening to their stories and providing comfort.
Serving others in this capacity opened a revelatory and cyclical door of self discovery, empathy, compassion, and ultimately a new and higher connection within myself that in turn is only fueled by serving others.
4. “Meal” Can Become a Positive 4-Letter Word If You Have The Guts to Say, ‘I’m Not Eating That’.”
I believe healing begins from the inside out. What you put in your body affects its ability to function, communicate, and heal. I have perfected the art of saying, “I’m not eating that.” Hospital food, whether for patients or for house staff and visitors, is some of the worst food you can eat. It has always stunned me that the very institution set up to assist you with healing, is slowly killing itself and us. But your hospital meal doesn’t have to fall into this category. During a past ER trip, the food service wagon rolled around and plopped a tray on my stretcher. “I’m not eating this,” I said. “Do you have more vegetables? I will keep the apple.” The food service guy looked at me confused at first then smiled and responded, “I Got You.” He returned 45 minutes later with a veggie burger, a side of broccoli, and another apple.
I have lived past two slotted expiration dates. The doctors determined that if I lived beyond ten years of age, there was no way I would live past twenty. I’m 35 years of age. You can transform any situation from helplessness to hopefulness and healing when you shift your focus, physically and lovingly connect and serve others, keep your diet simple and healthy, and step into the light surrounding your circumstances rather than sinking into the darkness.
Angela L. Montanez