I want to tell you a short story. It’s largely true, the bits that are not true arise merely as a result of my faults in my memory, ability to recall and some deliberate obfuscation to eliminate identification of the subject of the story. The story comes from my time working in neurosurgery. A young woman fell from a horse.
The fall was serious and the injuries were life-threatening.
Initially, the woman’s survival chances were rated as very slim indeed. An expert paramedic team arrived on the scene, so did a surgeon and an anaesthetist. The woman was carefully moved to accident and emergency department where another team of people went to work before transferring her to intensive care whilst a bed in a specialist unit (neuro-intensive care) at a different hospital (the hospital in which I was employed) was found.
Transfer was arranged, and a nurse specialist, an anaesthetist and doctor accompanied the patient in the rather impressive mobile intensive care unit to bring her to the neurosurgical intensive care unit where the responsibility was handed over to one of the best neurosurgical teams in the country.
Time passes, a number of surgical procedures are carried out, injuries start to heal and against the odds the patient appears to begin to recover.
Her recovery reaches a stage whereby intensive care is no longer required, and the patient’s care is downgraded to “high dependency” and she is moved to our unit whereby this lady came under the care of another expert team of which I was one of the most “junior” members.
This lady’s neurological state was still appalling and her injuries still very severe, and a huge question lay over the prospects of long-term survival and if she did survive, about the quality of life she might have to endure.
It’s contentious I know, but if I was some of the patients I have seen, I wouldn’t consider survival to always have been the best of the possible outcomes.
But survive she did. And a huge team of people ranging from pharmacists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, nurses, doctors, porters, cleaners, social services, technicians and so on, all contributed their encouragement and expertise to ensure her recovery.
Now, here is that all important detail. Throughout all of this, the family suffered enormously and one of the worst experiences for families of the seriously ill/injured is the experience of helplessness. It is the hardest thing to do to stand back and allow “care” to be delivered by strangers; strangers who may be faulted – most will be just fine of course, but some may have attitudes that we don’t like, some may seem weak, may seem officious, some may even seem lazy or ignorant, some will be kind, dedicated and hard working, a few may appear at the edge of a breakdown themselves, and of course some will appear to have their own “issues” – and so on.
So, family need to be involved, they need to feel empowered, noticed and involved. But you know what? We didn’t always have time for that as the patient was always the main priority, and whilst the patients were legion in number, time and resources were not.
So this gap was often filled by innovation on the part of the family. Maybe they’d play tapes of the patient’s favourite music, bring in aromatherapy oils, vitamins, healers, prayer groups and hope.
This particular patient had a healer visit every day. Laying on his hands and channelling his mysterious energies into her body. The nurses are happy to allow such activities as long as the additional treatments being offered are medically approved in that they do not affect bodily processes in a way that conflicts with medical treatment, do not put the patient or anyone else at risk (i.e. lighting incense and burning herbs, etc), and do not interfere with any of the routines of running the department.
The patient survived and eventually went on to recover sufficiently that within a couple of years she was living independently again. A good result not only for the patient but also for the Accident and Emergency, Intensive Care, Neurosurgical and Rehabilitation teams, you might think?
I was later told by “someone” the following line, and I hear similar lines a lot from the mouths of NLPers, healers, tappers and therapists. “The doctors said that she wasn’t going to live and would die within 6 months. Well, we weren’t going to take that so we employed a healer to see her every day. The doctors are baffled by her recovery, and it just goes to prove how well healing works. Doctors are so small minded, they really should look at all the evidence for healing.”
This was one of those rare occasions where I kept my mouth shut, but needless to say I was appalled. I regularly hear the immortal lines, “…and the doctors are baffled/amazed by his/her recovery....” which is rarely true of course. They are mostly just very pleased. So let’s not delete out all the research, hard work, dedication, medical expertise and experience, and let’s not forget the sheer amount of stress suffered by many staff, and let’s not ignore all the physiological processes involved and simply nominalise the patient’s recovery down to the fact that some strange man waved his hands around the room.
It used to be fashionable for credit to be given to pop stars or celebrities – the young patient’s favourite pop star was persuaded to send in a tape or visit personally, and the subsequent recovery is put down to that event, and little to do with the efforts of the staff, routine biological processes or anything else that is a little complicated and multifarious.
The reason I write this is because three times this week I have been asked by NLPers, “Why don’t doctors bother to learn NLP?” As scorn is heaped upon the medical profession for their sheer stupidity in telling patients such awful negative suggestions such as, “this injection might hurt a little.” (If it does hurt, that isn’t necessarily because of the suggestion or belief of the doctor. It might just be due to the fact that some injections hurt. Some hurt a lot. Some don’t hurt at all.)
Recently I’m hearing and reading a lot of biased criticisms by NLPers about things doctors say and do, as though all the suffering in the medical world is caused by negative suggestions that doctors say, and all healing results purely from the mental might of the patients to overcome such powerful negative programming.
Such criticisms are often accompanied by lamentation as to why don’t doctors learn NLP? After all, if they did, devastating travesties such as negative suggestions could be avoided. To which I can only reply the following: Why don’t NLPers learn and practice medicine – might that not be easier?
I’ll write more on this later.