Saturday, June 15, 2013

Do We Attract Illness? What we can learn from Kevin Pearce

Periodically I have conversations with people about Newton’s third law-“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” There are a number of well meaning people that want to take this and other laws of physics and apply it to all aspects of life. Does it work? Do people get sick because of this or some other Newtonian law? Is it true that what you put out comes back to you? If you do something really good, is some other person on the planet doing something really bad to counteract it?

Everyone has life experiences-some are good, some aren’t. I’m the first to say that healing and well-being involves mind, body and spirit,  however, I find a lot of this stuff about how people “attract” illness to be less than helpful and at worst harmful. First and foremost, we get sick and injured because we are mortal beings and are programmed to do so.

If we over stress our bodies continually we increase the chances of catching some nasty bug that’s floating around the office. Having unprotected sex is going to put you at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Breathing while you walk across a city street on a cold day can cause an asthma attack and if you engage in a very physical sport, you have a chance of getting injured doing so.

There will always be a top 10 cause of death. No matter how many diseases are eradicated or how safe planes, trains, automobiles, the work place and so forth become, something will befall us. As a radiation oncologist told me many years ago, “People think they can get eat nuts and berries and avoid getting cancer. That’s just not the case. You can still get it no matter what you do.”

Yes, there are correlations between what people have done and their medical situation. Kevin Pearce is a good example of this. He was a top American snowboarder, slated for the podium at the 2010 Olympics. On New Years Eve 2009, he suffered a massive traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he crashed during a training run in the half pipe.

Hospitalizations, rehabilitation and on-going care, have significantly aided his recovery. However, he will never be a competitive snowboarder again.

He is on my mind at the moment, since a film has been made about his life, “The Crash Reel.” According to the producer of the film, Julian Cautherly, “We knew early on that we would be making a movie about a different kind of comeback story. It was never going to be a story about Kevin coming back and winning Olympic gold. It was clear from the get-go that a full recovery was not possible given Kevin’s injury and I think we were lucky because that fact alone made the movie different from your usual sports film.”

Kevin notes “This is the most insane and crazy recovery I can imagine going through, and it’s 100 percent a full-time job. There isn’t one day when the brain injury hasn’t come up. There are so many little things I feel I can share and teach people.” Kevin Pearce’s Recovery: Documentary Looks at Snowboarder’s Journey Back 

My oldest son, who was a competitive snowboarder during high school and went to school with Kevin, was out there spinning and flipping the same way he and thousands of other males were and continue to do. Kevin never asked for this to happen to him, any more than my son would have wanted it to happen to him. Yet because it did, Kevin, his family, friends and community have made changes.

Being sick or injured does not mean that you have bad karma, are a bad person or even have wished this on yourself. What it does provide is an opportunity to learn and grow emotionally, spiritually and even physically. Just as with Kevin’s situation, it means you and those in your orbit have the chance to make a major “course correction.”

While Kevin’s peers are creating video games, have major brands they promote and train for the next competition, Kevin has started a program called #Loveyourbrain. Because he realizes he was fortunate to have a family to help him heal, he is planning a foundation to help other athletes who become injured. A number of the snowboarders have always “given back” or “paid it forward,” so it’s not surprising that many have become involved in helping Kevin. Long story short, Kevin has a life far different than what he expected. He is making a difference but in a way he never imagined, and ultimately, his situation has impacted more than just him and his family in some extremely positive ways. 

As to my initial questions, I think Newton’s third law isn’t relevant when it comes to illness and injury. Stuff happens, it will always happen and we’re designed for it to happen. Life is a lot easier I think if you can accept this and go for the glass that's half full versus half empty. 

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