Like all of us, I have to deal with my imperfections. Seven years ago my body let me down. It was breakfast time when the first feeling of numbness went down my arm. “Funny bone?” I thought as proceeded to my desk and tried to forget it.
It was an hour later that I stood up and felt the same numbness racing down my leg. My self-analysis was immediately dumped and I made the only decision I could make — I needed to get to hospital and get there quickly. I eschewed calling an ambulance and stupidly jumped into my car and raced across inner-Melbourne suburbs to the Epworth hospital in Richmond.
When I told the staff my symptoms, I was escorted through emergency and signed an admittance form. I had come to the right place. A quick blood pressure check showed I was 211 over whatever.
The latter didn’t matter. For somebody used to systolic blood pressure hovering between 120 and 130, this reading was off the Richter scale.
The immediate and final diagnosis was that I had suffered the equivalent of a mini-stroke. However, I had suffered damage and may have to live with it. For whatever bodily reason, a small piece of plaque had raced around some part of my body and lodged into some part of the right side of my brain. (Who tells us that we have plaque breaking off in an ageing body?) Voila, left-side limbs numbed along with the the left lumbar region.
The alarm bells starting sounding. Was this the start of my body breaking down and along with it my mind? I was only 65. How had it happened to me? What about all my positive thinking; what about the exercise regime; what about my foundation, Life Again? I’m supposed to be the leader rather than the sufferer.
Moving forward, beyond the first week which was spent in hospital having every part of me scanned and ‘resting up’, I quickly started recovering and working towards whatever level of wellness I was going to reach. My surgeon was comforting — it wouldn’t get worse and it mightn’t get better. Somewhere in between. He was right.
It was a mentally taxing time as well as physically taxing. Both immediately but also subsequently. But when I realised this was part of my journey and that it would help me rationalise similar setbacks for others, I was able to put a positive and meaningful spin on the event. I recall that at the time I received a text message from a friend in Sri Lanka, Kushil Gunasekera. Kushil is a wonderful man who established the Foundation for Goodness in his home village of Seenigama. His home and its surrounds were devastated by the tsunami in 2004 and his foundation has been a shining light for the whole region. Google it — you’ll be astounded.
Kushil’s message read: “Gareth, we receive signals in life to change for the better! Obviously we cannot keep doing the same things as we advance in years and with time, if we are fortunate, new ways are shown to change our habits in improving the quality of life. Everything in life, as far as I am concerned, happens for the best, for better things to begin, and in that context we should be at our best for when things don’t go right as opposed to when everything is working and we become complacent. I have found that adversity is our best teacher whereas success teaches us to lose focus on our good values.”
You see why I value Kushil’s friendship. Lovely Eastern wisdom.
Twice in just these brief sentences he refers to change. I hadn’t realised at the time that change would become the key word in all of my life’s thoughts and prognostications.
I immediately put in place a sharper dietary regime (including eating fish for the first time — loved crustaceans but disliked the swimmers caught on lines.) l consciously revisited my lifestyle — rest, sleep, meditation, fun. We all tend to slip up and get complacent as life gets in the way. I have written a diary about actions I need to take when I am starting to become mentally, physically and emotionally lazy. I drag it out regularly. I sharpens me up.
Whether you are male or female, whatever your age, no matter where you live, life will throw out its challenges. Treat each challenge as part of your learning experience.
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