“This photo was taken less than 72 hrs after an ER trip for emergency units of blood. There was a 50 FT rock face I saw while hiking with family. I pushed the envelope and made it to the top. I did it for myself, for those who would, but can’t, and for those who are still overcoming their own obstacles.”
The Two Hearts Wellness way of seeing the world is comprised of several facets of my own self-ness. Not all of it is fabulosity and fun ways to enjoy holistic health and wellness. Some of it has to do with making the very best of a hard situation. My previous scholarly career and focus on suffering constructed one such perspective; another, of course is that I’ve had my own share of tragedy in this life. When I’m in clinic as an intern, too, I have been deeply moved by others’ narratives of pain and fear and grief. Suffering is part of what it means to be human and no degree of evasion, no matter how nicely gussied-up the sugar coat may be, will change that. What we do with our challenges is quite another story though. Myself, given what I know as a scholar and what I have experienced as a person–one who has struggled and one who is witness to pain in clinic–I accept suffering and I do so with grace and strength. Being able to do so–learning how to do so–has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I am always grateful when I can learn from someone else’s example.
One such example comes from the rare disease community. I’m not sure how this post popped up on my Facebook feed, but the picture and the accompanying text (above) appeared on my timeline one day and I forwarded it to my professional FB page with the comment:
“This post really touches my heart. I love this person’s courage and I love this person’s strength. I don’t know their story but whatever it is, may they continue to find grace and guts for every step of the way.”
The subject in the photograph, Jesse Marimat, commented on the post and I responded to his remark; soon thereafter, we started talking and I knew that his activity and attitude warranted a blog entry here at Two Hearts Wellness.
Before I write about Jesse, though, I would like you to ask yourself something. To wit: what does courage mean to you? When did you last need to grab every last shred of your courage and wrap it in guts and grace? What did you do and what did it mean to you?
Jesse has a rare genetic blood disease, congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type II. It is characterized by a dysfunction in the production of red blood cells. Dysfunction in the red blood cells means that in this case hemoglobin is compromised; this, in turn, makes for a lack of oxygen in the system and many resulting challenges down the line. Transfusions, which are necessary for survival, cause build-up of iron in the blood. Said result, for its part, causes other problems. Furthermore, CDA is an orphan disease and, as such, is not readily diagnosed. Jesse’s diagnosis, in fact, came later in his life after many years of difficulty and frightening, unexplained poor health. As a little boy, Jesse told me, he experienced a period during which he was frightened of needles and viscerally resistant to the transfusions. He got over that quickly, he said, because he had no choice but to submit to them. And though his present attitude of openness and acceptance is laudable, Jesse hid his condition from his friends when he was a teenager. The fortitude to be open about his illness narrative came in his twenties, and with fortitude came acceptance. Jesse also explained to me that he found meaning in his illness and his pain by helping others. As he wrote in the text that accompanied his photograph, he does his work for those who cannot. Currently, he is an advocate and a crusader within the rare disease community. Jesse also is involved with the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC. In planning stages right now, Jesse hopes to contribute to the effort to provide healthcare support for the rare disease community in the Philippines in the near future.
Being a humanities scholar gave me a couple decades to study the human condition. Being an intern in clinic gives me the opportunity to apply these lessons to real human beings. Before I go into clinic, I always stop and remind myself that whatever it is that I will see, it’s bigger than me. If I’m cranky, if I’m tired, if I have an exam tomorrow, I set it all aside and vow to be present for my patients. Selflessness and presence are two things that make for good listeners, and good listening is the best thing that a practitioner can ever do in the clinical encounter. People want to be heard. And Jesse spoke about transcending himself in order to transcend his own experiences of suffering, and when he spoke of helping others as a way of getting beyond his own concerns, it was a good lesson in listening to patients. And this made me think of some of the patients I have seen who are suffering greatly. How can any one of my patients get beyond his or her own suffering and find meaning? How can any one of us do the same?
I’ll be writing about Jesse and his work again in future blog posts. Meantime, I’ll be thinking of ways in which I can step aside from my own self in service to others. And as the face of Two Hearts Wellness, I will also wish to reiterate my philosophy on the question of health and what it actually is. Wellness, in truth, comes in all shapes, colors, sizes, and formats, and so does courage.
I used to conclude many of my class lectures with a question. Today, as I write this, I will do the same. After speaking with Jesse and learning of his dreams to turn his illness into a way to help others, I am left to ask one question. To wit: in transcending the self, then, where is it that one might find courage?
Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine. If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for personal training or health coaching services. If you are interested in Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.