Christopher Reeve's Hope Lives On
Don’t you love when synchronicity hits? You’re thinking of someone and they call later that day. Maybe your husband comes home and announces he would like to go see a certain movie, one that you just bought tickets for. Those little moments in life when it seems like we have been sprinkled with fairy dust in order for something wonderful to happen.
Just this week I was thinking about my late friend, Christopher Reeve. His birthday is this Sunday, September 25. I was reminiscing about so many great times and the wisdom he and his late wife, Dana, shared with me on my morning walk. When I got home, I found an email from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation asking supporters, advocates, volunteers, researchers and ambassadors of the Reeve Foundation to shared stories of how the Reeve Foundation made a difference in their lives. It also just so happens to be Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. The stars were definitely aligning. I gave this question some thought and came up with two ways, one personal the other professionally, as a nurse.
On a personal note, I met the Reeve’s after I had moved in to a little cottage next door to their home in Bedford, NY. I didn’t know the home across the pond was theirs. At the time I was trying to recover from complicated grief after the loss of three significant family members the year before. We had just sold our family home, another secondary loss.
As I made my morning coffee each day, I looked out over the paddocks where the farm animals grazed and I would often see Chris’s big black van jet down the driveway, Dana often at the wheel. The fact that they got up each day and stayed active made me realize, alone at my pity party, that at least I can walk.
I began walking. Around the neighborhood at first, then eventually local trails, many of which Chris and Dana once rode horses on. It was their dog, Chamois, appropriately named for her soft creamy white fur, who introduced us. The curious Labrador stole one of my mittens while I was tying my ice skates as Dana and her son were skating on the frozen pond. A friendship that lasted for four years began that day and Chamois started joining me on my long walks. Chris and Dana shared a mutual understanding of loss, but we also shared a lot of laughs and support to live the best life we could despite what we missed. We enjoyed nature, gardening together and comparing what we noticed outside our windows.
As a nurse, Chris’s resolve and belief that a cure could be found for paralysis due to spinal cord injury was the ultimate example of where there is a will, there is a way. I had worked with people living with paralysis for thirteen years before I met Chris. I knew of the days when no one talked about hoping for a cure. Patients either accepted their situation and made the best of it or died of despair. I cared for a man who literally let himself rot to death despite being surrounded by people who wanted to help him. Chris changed all that by being audacious enough to believe there could be a cure. I watched as he participated in various modalities being tested. I often joked that he was in better shape than me as he worked out rigorously every morning. The best part is that today, there really is change due to that hope.
Today, thanks to a breakthrough using epidural stimulation, four young men can move again and have restored many bodily functions. The research is now expanding on this. Take a look at Chris and Dana’s son, Will, explain details of this new treatment in this video.
So was it serendipity that made brought all these ideas together? Or was it, perhaps, Chris’s spirit whispering to us to keep going forward? For those of us who knew Chris, and how intensely powerful his spirit was/is, coupled with how dedicated he was to finding a cure, we probably wouldn’t be surprised if it were the latter.
Susan Allison-Dean is an ambassador for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. To learn more or to donate, please visit https://www.christopherreeve.org
No matter where we are in the world today, we may be feeling rising tensions around us: whether it is a bombing in Syria, mass shootings in a mall or a peaceful demonstration that turns into a violent riot. It can feel hard to escape what is going on around us or to us. There are healthy ways we can cope and unhealthy ways. Here are three holistic modalities we can use to get ourselves into a calmer state of mind in order to better problem solve and avoid the hazardous side effects to our health that stress causes.
1. Awareness, also known as mindfullness: the simple act of stopping ourselves in a tracks to check in with how we are feeling and deciding is this how we want to be or do we want to invite something better, more helpful into ourselves. For example: Anger gives us energy. Think about the last time you were FURIOUS! What did you do with that energy? Was it productive or could you have channeled it in a better way?
2. Nature: One of my favorite modalities to calm down and reassess what is going on inside. Taking a walk in green space has been shown to relieve stress. Getting on, in, on top of or near water can achieve a state called, Bluemind. A term created by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. Water is so powerful for our well-being that a new initiative, Bluemind Rx, #WaterIsMedicine , was recently presented at the #OurOcean conference in Washinton, D.C and shared with over sixty countries.
3. Energy healing: we are made up of a very complex set of interacting parts. Energy being a very big one. Growing information about how our cells react to different energy is showing that unless we are trying to run away from a tiger in the jungle trying to attack us, it doesn’t do us any good to be churning in negative energy. Reiki healers, therapeutic touch and many other energy healing modalities can reset our nerve system. Even drumming circles have been shown effective in taking a group of people and connecting their energy to a calmer, collective state. This process is known as entrainment.
There are a lot more options, more of which I will discuss in upcoming blogs. In the meanwhile, maybe you want to try one of these if you are feeling stressed by all the chaos around us. Even stopping for a few minutes to close our eyes and take some deep breathes will help. Imagine what a more peaceful, cohesive world we all could live in.
If you have a favorite holistic stress remedy you would like to share, please do in the comment section below. The more we have in our healing toolbox, the better we all will be.
Dianne and Mike Lough are proof that playing in the sand is fun at any age. They started building sand castles with their son when he was young. As he grew older, his interest in sand castles waned, but Dianne and Mike were just getting started. They continued to visit Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina building various sand sculptures. The couple who call themselves, Sand Mates, traveled to Sarasota, Florida in 2013 to compete in the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival , where they won first prize.
“I love being out here by the ocean. When I look out there at the sea, it just makes me feel like there are infinite possibilities, we can do more,” Dianne says. “I feel so renewed and rejuvenated after I have been to the beach.”
The doctor couldn’t have ordered a better therapy than going to the beach right now as Dianne has just finished recovering from breast cancer treatment. Dianne first discovered the amazing healing power of nature when she had a mild stroke after being electrocuted in an elevator.
“I was left with a chronic knot in my back that became scar tissue. I tried dry needling, massage and other techniques, which helped, but the pain never went away. When I come to the beach and build our sand art, however, I noticed the pain totally goes away and I am pain free for days. I’m not sure how it happens.” She smiles.
Art alone doesn’t relieve the pain. Dianne has been an artist all her life, her specialty being oil paintings. She recently added author and illustrator to her creative repertoire with her first children’s book, The Unique Sheep.
The couple, who hail from West Virginia and fell in love during their college years, work together to create their art sculptures. Mike builds the foundation, setting up support structures, digging up the sand, watering it down and packing it in tight.
When the sand is hardened, he gently removes the supports so Diane can begin her magic.
Some of their favorite tools come right from the kitchen; melon baller, spoons, knives and a cheese grater.
While most sandmasters use a straw to blow away extra sand from their sculptures as they go, Diane uses a balloon pump. “I was getting way too dizzy trying to blow away the excess sand,” she laughs.
“We do it for the love of it,” Mike says. “We only use natural elements found on the beach; shells, driftwood, seaweed. My favorite part of all this is the people we meet. Just yesterday a teenager stopped by and told us how he loved it, and you know how tough it is to connect with them.”
“We meet so many nice and interesting people. The kids are the funniest,” Diane adds. “I was making a turtle one year because it was turtle hatching season. A little boy watched me while he held his stuffed turtle. He asked me, ‘ Does it hurt when you carve into his face?’ ”
If there ever were an example of the healing power of nature, Diane is living proof. To look at the two of them playing in the sand, they may also be showing us that nature is also the fountain of youth.
What do you think? Pretty amazing, huh? Like the Sand Mates new facebook page to continue following their creative sand journey.
Do you have a healing with nature story? Contact me, I would love to hear it and maybe share it with your permission.
#NatureHeals #Bluemind #WaterIsMedicine #SandArt #OurOcean