I have been exposed to a great variety of learning experiences during clinical practice. Being a perpetual student, I try desperately to retain everything I can from each experience, hoping the knowledge will be beneficial for my patients. I have been reflecting on the many things I have learned. While I thought, one fact repeatedly popped into my mind, and I have come to realize it is one of the greatest lessons of all. By far the most impressive phenomenon I have encountered is the ability of the human mind to influence health.
Several times I have diagnosed two patients with the same condition. The patients also shared the same gender, age, body type, social and economic class, and had similar occupations and family situations. Identical care was given to both patients. One of the patients would recover as expected while the other progressed slowly or not at all. The reason for the recovery could usually be tracked back to the one thing the patients did not have in common; their frame of mind.
The patient who progressed well usually had a positive outlook, enjoyed life, viewed sickness as an inconvenience and had hope for a better tomorrow. The patient who progressed slowly or not at all usually had little hope, saw life as unfair, and tended to be depressed and unhappy.
I have had patients literally give up and begin inquiring about disability over a minor problem. All hope was gone, and the new diagnosis was the straw that broke the camel’s back. To the contrary, I have seen patients with devastating problems overcome their problem as though it were a minor condition.
The best example of overcoming great odds was a patient who had back surgery for herniated discs, reconstructive surgery for his shoulder, gall bladder surgery, a heart attack, heart by-pass surgery, bilateral hip surgeries, and suffers from degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine. Multiple complications have occurred as a result of the surgeries, many of which were life-threatening. The patient continues to experience episodes of neck and shoulder pain and requires intensive chiropractic care to keep going. Despite the long list of troubles the patient works every day and is always cheerful. The patient has always expected to return to work and get on with his life after each incident. Disability is a foreign concept for the patient.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” I have come to believe that people are also as healthy as they make up their mind to be. My patient’s will and spirit are a great example to me and hopefully a lesson for us all.