On April 1st, 2020, on a beautiful Colorado spring day, following a day of ice storm, I ran out onto our deck to chase away a pigeon at our newly planted vegetable garden. I slipped and fell back, my head hitting hard onto the deck. It was pretty clear that I had a concussion, yet being in my 70s, I had to weigh going into the hospital for a CT scan or MRI and potentially being exposed to the Coronavirus. My doctor suggested resting at home and keeping an eye on any escalating symptoms. I continued walking 2-3 miles daily but noticed that I was stumbling to the left. Two months later, a second fall necessitated my hospitalization. It was then determined that the second fall was caused by what had happened as a result of my first fall: a serious subdural hematoma that had pushed my brain all the way to the side of my skull. I had to undergo a craniotomy and spent several weeks in the ICU and in rehab. I wanted to share some of the insights gained from the experience.
It’s been about a month since my surgery and uncertainty remains regarding the cessation of bleeding in the subdural, but I realize that none of us really know the mortal dangers that we, as living beings, live with. My body was strong and when I walked into the ER, doctors and nurses were amazed, that given the MRI image I was able to even walk and talk. My body proved strong all along—in large part thanks to my Integral Yoga practices and prayer buddies—but my balance was very impacted by the clot that displaced my brain. The physical therapists and occupational therapist have been amazed at my flexibility, strength, and body awareness—again, thank you Integral Yoga and Zazen! The prediction was that recovery would take 3 to 6 months. In that sense healing is happening quickly.
INSIGHTS AND BLESSINGS
Seeing life and death in each moment:
I would not have said this two months ago, but many blessings have come from this accident. At first I mourned what seemed to be the loss of years in my life. I did not expect to have lost so much and been so dependent for what could be another 10-15 years of my life. But who among us knows when that time comes? I have seen that life and death happen every moment. I appreciate the preciousness and kinship I feel with life.
Prior to the accident, I had a very regular meditation practice. However, my few attempts to practice have not worked. What has worked is sitting on our deck in the morning (the same deck where that terrible fall happened on April 2nd). Our small backyard garden is now alive with fruit trees, flowers, and vegetables that have drawn a multitude of bees, dragon flies, bugs, worms, butterflies, and birds. As I sit in the morning sun with the breeze and summer air, I am acclimating to all that life in a mutual acceptance of each other.
Relief from the bad news of our time and COVID news:
Because I had to be very inward focused to heal and fully aware of each step during rehabilitation, I could not keep up with the news. Any computer interaction was extremely difficult. I could not fake meditation by just shutting my eyes. I had to maintain a focus I learned in Yoga and zazen. Before, during walking meditation, I could be quite sloppy. Now the slightest deviation of attention to my steps could result in another very dangerous fall.
Real understanding of love, family, and friendship:
This coronavirus has made us all aware how much we miss the presence of our loved ones. I have certainly felt that also. But the prayers and loving thoughts of family and friends have made me aware that the real connection is in the heart and that it is even stronger there than in physical presence. The physical presence of my husband has been essential, as I am still completely dependent on his constant care.
So here we are, all of us stuck in the same paradigm, completely dependent on each other, on an unfamiliar voyage where all we can do is take one conscious, heartfelt step after another, and care for each other as best we can. I’m well aware of my shortcomings but hope I (we) can meet the challenge of caring for each other.
All the therapists are surprised at my progress. The physical therapist said he is going to take Yoga after working with me! I am fairly independent at home. Of course, I’m not safe to go to the bathroom by myself during the night, and probably shouldn’t be left home alone. My new home health care nurse has been really helpful with ways to improve sleep, which is typically a problem for 18 months after a surgery like this.
Anyway, for now, I feel back in the land of the living and am enormously grateful. I do believe this is due to the prayers and love of friends and family. And of course, I believe it is my Guru, Swami Satchidananda’s response to my prayers for his help.
My remaining wish echoes that of so many others at this time. My sweet little 9 year-old grandson, Emerson, wrote me a note: “When this COVID is over and you are okay, I will give you the biggest hug ever.” I hope to see that day, as it will be wonderful for all of us.
About the Author:
Padma Renke Wick met Swami Satchidananda in 1970 and served as corresponding secretary at the New York Integral Yoga Institute during its early days. Over the years, she has taught Integral Yoga and contributed to Sri Swamiji’s interfaith service, organizing several “Unity in Diversity” conferences. Padma has two grown sons, Ganesh and Muruga, and four grandchildren. She and her husband, Vishnu, live in Longmont, Colorado. Padma regularly practices Zen with the Eon Zen Center in Boulder and meditates with the household at the San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute several times a year.