36: A Close Call

36: A Close Call

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

A Close Call

The miracle of self-healing occurs when the inner patient yields to the inner physician.

~Vernon Howard

I was visiting friends near Orangeville, Ontario one summer weekend. They had a trampoline set up in their back yard on a grassy knoll. I loved the feeling of freedom as I bounced leisurely on the trampoline under the open blue sky. One of my friends, a tall young man joined me. We laughed as we alternated launching off the springy surface, like two kids on a seesaw.

We didn’t know that two adults aren’t supposed to jump together on a trampoline, and I began to go off to the side, being no match for his weight. I lost control and flipped over the edge of the metal frame and landed hard on the back of my head. The sound of my neck cracking was like dominoes falling on a hard surface. I lay on the ground without moving.

Several people came running. A woman tried to help me up but I felt a sharp pain shoot up my neck. I recalled from a first aid course that it is not recommended to move a person with a spinal injury. I asked her to call an ambulance.

When the paramedics arrived they placed a cervical collar around my neck and shifted me onto a transfer board. I was rushed to the hospital in Orangeville. The X-ray revealed subluxations of the C2 and C3 vertebrae. The bones were dislocated and essentially nothing was supporting my head. The doctor was concerned that one of the vertebra would nick or sever my spinal cord.

I remember looking at the film, thinking how odd it was to see my own skeleton. The technician had not removed my silver rabbit earrings before taking the X-rays, so I could see small rabbit-shaped shadows dangling from each side of my skull.

The doctor in Orangeville sent me to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto because it specializes in spinal injuries. A few hours after the fall from the trampoline, I was in a second hospital getting a second set of X-rays. It was not comfortable being strapped to a board with the ability only to move my arms. The pressure from the hard surface on the back of my skull was painful. It all seemed surreal.

It was a Sunday evening and only one surgeon was on staff who could handle spinal injuries. He would perform a procedure to stabilize my neck and protect my spinal cord. That required drilling into my skull and screwing in a metal halo. It would be attached to a vest with a frame to brace my spine. I would be in a wheelchair for a few months until it healed. I would have to stay in that hospital for several weeks.

I wanted to talk to my family before consenting to surgery. I hoped I could be airlifted to a hospital in Ottawa closer to home. An orderly wheeled me on the gurney to a phone. I called my mother and she agreed to look into having me flown back.

Then I called my grandmother, a Cherokee Elder, visionary and healer. She brought something important to my attention; that for some time my body had been trying to communicate with me but I had not listened. The injury to my neck was symbolic of a conflict between my body and mind. She asked for my thoughts on having the doctor do the procedure or considering alternatives. I told her I wanted the alternatives. She offered to do a healing ceremony, but I had to do my part by taking a Medicine Journey and facing what I saw there. I agreed to do it, just before the orderly showed up to take me back to the room.

The doctor returned with news. Situations had arisen due to a huge storm rolling into the city. Extreme high winds had shut down the airport and I could not be airlifted. He intended to perform the surgery himself, but I would have to wait. A golfer had been flipped over in his golf cart by the wind and his skull was crushed. He was in critical condition, so his surgery came first.

I fell asleep while waiting. The next time I saw the doctor, it was 3 a.m. He was too exhausted to begin another surgery. He sent me to the intensive care unit (ICU) to wait for the doctor on the next shift. I lay there, remembering the instructions from my grandmother. I had no idea what a Medicine Journey was, and regretted not asking. I decided to do my best. Closing my eyes, I began.

In my mind’s eye I was standing on a narrow path in a forest of tall pine trees. Far down the path I could see a glowing light and began to walk toward it. As I got closer, a figure appeared in the light and soon I could make out the features of a beautiful yellow hound dog. I walked right up to her and looked into her soft brown eyes. She turned her head and to my horror the entire side of her face was mutilated.

Instantly I had the thought that the beautiful dog was me. During my childhood I had experienced multiple traumas and she represented my self-image. Over a two-year period, this was the third time I had ended up in the hospital with a serious condition. Even though I had moved away from the people and the environment that had been harmful to me as a child, I had continued to find ways to hurt myself.

I understood the message my body had been trying to send me. By my own choices I was on a course of destruction. Something even more drastic than my current condition would result if I didn’t make a change. I had to get on track with my purpose in life.

I touched the dog where she was maimed, and then I said, “This is where it stops. This ends now.” I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t awaken until daylight when I was being wheeled into the X-ray room for another set of images. Back in the ICU, I slept again until I became aware of being watched. Opening my eyes, I saw several white coats surrounding the bed. I couldn’t turn my head to see who was speaking but one of them said the surgery would not be necessary. The dislodged vertebrae had shifted back into place. The doctor had no logical explanation.

Sunnybrook Hospital kept me three more days for testing. On the second day I was able to stand up and walk. On the third day, I was released with my spine intact. I received a follow-up visit with a doctor two weeks later, and he found no signs of damage. None of the doctors was ever able to offer an explanation.

I had read about miraculous healing, but this was the first time I had experienced anything like it. I could have been in a wheelchair wearing a cervical brace, but divine intervention through my grandmother’s healing ceremony allowed me to walk again.

~Robbi Ann Gunter

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