Mindset is THE most important thing when recovering from illness, accidents and even major trauma. This is a perfect example of the growth mindset that we all have access to.
This is an amazing example of a seemingly impossible recovery I have witnessed (yep – I was there) when I was working at a major teaching hospital in Sydney, Australia. I was in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) when a young man in his 20’s came in with extensive brain damage after he was in a car accident and a passer by in good faith put a dry combine over his Right Temple area where his brain was oozing out.
Little did he realise that the brain is not a solid organ, so when the combine was removed it peeled off a portion of his brain. The young man was unconscious and stayed that way the whole time he was in ICU.
I next nursed him when he was in the Neurology Ward. He was a ‘vegetable’, no talking, not obviously conscious, not able to move. We washed him, cleaned his teeth, shaved him, fed him through a gastric tube and helped him with all the other bodily function things necessary. His family came in every day, stood around his bed and told him jokes. We all thought that that was nice but basically useless.
One afternoon his sister came running up to the nurses desk and said that he had smiled after one of their jokes. We rushed down to his bed totally disbelieving and worried about how to let them down gently.
We all stood around his bed. His mum told a joke. He smiled…..HE SMILED!
What can I say, this still brings a tear to my eye so many years later. It had been explained to us that – since his temporal lobe had been removed along with the combine and that was where the speech area is located that there’s no hope of him ever speaking again.
The family never gave up, they never believed what the Dr said. Remember this was in a time before neuroplasticity had been discovered. The brain wasn’t supposed to be able to rewire itself. But this guy’s brain did.
We nursed him through his amazing recovery. He opened his eyes, but still couldn’t speak, started to turn his head and move his arms in a spastic way, still not much control there at all.
His determination and positive drive tinged with occasional anger outburst – when we tried to help him guide his Cornflakes to his mouth – kept him improving. We all laughed when his Cornflakes ended up in his ear, his eye or running down his face. His humour was infectious and his experience changed my life. Another example of the power of growth mindset.
This man continued to improve, he relearned to walk, to talk and to control all his bodily functions. Last time I saw him he was walking down one of the roads at the Hospital with his family. Not 100% – but a functional, happy and very loved human being. The Doctors were totally baffled as to how he did this.
There is so much to this story. His determination, happiness, ability to laugh at himself, his family love and total belief in himself. He didn’t listen to anyone else, even the Doctors. He only believed he would recover and could see the joy and humour in everything, but was honest about the frustration of his recovery at times.
This man has changed my life and made me realise that there are no mistakes, everything that happens is ok, we can recover from anything even if it’s been declared physically impossible and that life is simply amazing.
That joy is an intrinsic part of recovery whether it be from chronic disease, severe injury or any other time in life that seems to have simply come to a standstill.
Allow your mindset to grow – not fix on what ‘should’ happen but what ‘can’ happen.. Focus on the possibilities and be determined to get there – you will.
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