Three magic words.
A story to inspire.
A 75 year old woman goes to see a heart surgeon. Her heart is in a bad way, and her arteries are so severely blocked she is not eligible for a bypass operation.
But she doesn't seem to care. She is downbeat, downtrodden and miserable. The heart surgeon tries to engage her in questions but she doesn't seem to want to respond. From the information that she reluctantly offers, the surgeon learns she doesn't have any proper family and friends, and that she spends most of her days watching TV. She doesn't take any exercise and eats poorly. Her pallor is grey and her posture is pained. She doesn't seem in any way engaged with her life.
As the woman shuffles out, the heart surgeon despairs. She wants to help the woman, but the woman seems to have given up. Her physical symptoms are a real worry combined with her lifestyle and lack of support network. How much of this is her physical health, and how much is her attitude to her health and her life? How much worse could her attitude and her demeanour be making her health? The heart surgeon despairs, but she has tried her best.
Three months later, the woman comes to see her again. Nothing has changed, she seems as weary and tired of life as before. The heart surgeon again tries to discuss the woman's health prospects and general well-being, and again the woman is unresponsive and quite dejected in her demeanour.
It so happens that this heart surgeon is one of the finest in her field, and not only because of her outstanding medical skills. She has pioneered an approach to heart health which combines the body and the mind, and acknowledges the role that lifestyle - family, friends, a support network, outside interests, community and attitude - has to physical well-being. Despite all this, the heart surgeon wonders if she'll be able to help the woman. She feels her patient is slipping away from life, and her grave physical condition is not being helped by her attitude. This is going to take all of her years of experience, and even then, that may not be enough.
She thinks for a while, and then reaches for a piece of paper and a pen. She scribbles three words down on the paper and hands it across the desk.
The woman looks at it, and then looks up at the heart surgeon. For the first time, the surgeon sees the woman smile. A tiny tear glistens in the corner of her eye.
Three months later, the woman comes to see her again. Everything has changed. Her formerly grey skin is now flushed with pink. She smiles and laughs. She seems in better health. The heart surgeon is further encouraged by the results of her physical tests. The woman has indeed improved physically over the three months. The three magic words written on the piece of paper have truly changed this woman's life. They helped her to change her lifestyle, and that in turn helped her improve her physical health, as well as find friends, a support network, outside interests, community and improved attitude.
The above story is paraphrased from an excellent book I'm reading by the heart surgeon Mimi Guarneri called The Heart Speaks.. When considering the mind-body connection it's quite powerful and I recommend it.
But (I know you're wondering), what were the three magic words. They were:
'Get A Dog'.