Ion Grumeza

Author, historian, educator, and philosopher

The Healer

What happened to my friend is so powerful and unusual that I believe it deserves to be known by all my readers. It proves how little we know about ourselves, our profession and what is around us.

It all began a few years ago right before Christmas, when my friend, a strong and still agile seventy-year old, decided to cut the top of a pine tree that was pushing against his house. He was motivated by two good practical reasons: it was bending the gutter and it also made a handsome Christmas tree for his grandchildren. Armed with a chain saw, he climbed the aluminum ladder and began to cut the green tree two feet beneath the gutter. The more he cut, the harder he pressed against the tree and the faster the ladder began to slide away from the house. Realizing the danger, he stopped cutting and wrestled the chain blade out of the cut. Suddenly, the ladder collapsed, and he fell some twelve feet onto the icy ground.

A former pole vaulter, he managed to land with his knees bent and rolled on his side to break the fall. But the ladder fell on him, landing with its entire weight, and broke all the bones in his right ankle. Shoving the ladder off of him, he tried to get on his feet, only to experience and explosion of pain that had him collapse amidst roaring cries and moans. Looking at his foot, he realized it was twisted in a totally unnatural direction and was lifelessly lying there—he had no control of it.

Alarmed by the noise, his wife rushed outside the house and quickly evaluated the severity of the injury. His foot was rapidly swelling and looked like it was held in its awkward place only by the skin. “Help me get in the car and drive me to the emergency room!” cried my friend. But his wife, a registered nurse, knew better, and running inside the house, she called 911 and briefly explained what had happened. She then ran back outside with a thick blanket, a bunch of towels and a rope. First she made a torque bellow the knee to stop the bleeding and wrapped the towels around the ankle that was now so swollen, it overflowed the sneaker. Next, she pulled her husband onto half of the blanket and covered him with the other half. The pain was so excruciating that he could hardly breathe and had already run out of the strength to cry out loud. Wanting to keep him as calm as possible, she spoke soothingly and brought him a glass of strong brandy. Within minutes, they heard the ambulance siren, and shortly thereafter, colorful flash lights announced its entrance in the driveway; the white van pulled up near the fainting man.

After a brief look, the head paramedic decided to lift my friend using the blanket and placed him on a flat metallic bed inside the van. A painkiller was injected and the IV was quickly connected to one arm. Then with my friend’s wife aboard, sirens screaming and lights flashing, the ambulance headed straight to the hospital. Blood was all over the ambulance floor, while the tranquilized man was silent and half asleep.

By the time he was wheeled in to operating room, he was unconscious. A fifty-year old surgeon left my friend’s sneakers on as he cut the training pants that were soaked in blood. He called a few strong male nurses to hold my friend tight on the operation table, while he put the hanging foot in its correct position and pulled it with all his strength. The sleeping man jolted as if hit by a thunderbolt and let out a wild scream and many curses. Then he began to fight with the nurses who held him tighter. Another strong injection calmed him down, while the doctor looked at the naked ankle, now larger than the knee, bleeding and showing bone marrow dripping from the wound. A mask was placed over my friend’s face and he inhaled strong anesthetics, quieting his moans and sobs as his crying wife waited for news from the surgeon.

Four hours later, eleven wires, screws, pins and other titanium enforcements had been installed in the ankle to rebuild the joint. Finally, my friend was rolled into the recovery room where his wife was waiting. The doctor explained to her that some half-inch of the bones directly above the ankle bone was so smashed by the sharp edge of the ladder that the tiny pieces had to be cleaned out, leaving a gap between the foot and the rest of the leg. The steal gadgets should connect the separated bones and keep them steady so the marrow wouldn’t leak into the flesh, but her husband would never walk again by himself. Within the span of a few hours, her healthy husband had become a crippled man.

For the next weeks, a team of doctors and medical students stopped by my friend’s bed several times each day and shook their heads as they looked at the x-rays. Heavily sedated, my friend believed that despite his injury, he would be dancing by Christmas. Indeed, he was dismissed from the hospital before the holiday, but confined to a wheelchair, with his damaged leg bound in a plaster cast, held straight and parallel to the floor. Dancing was out of question and sleeping was possible only with help of many pills. Grandchildren received their presents and played around their armchaired grandfather who tried to smile while tears leaked out of his eyes. Relentless throbbing sharp pain inside the ankle indicated the flesh fighting to accept the invading metal gadgets and the loose nerves trying to reposition themselves.

At the next visit to his surgeon, my friend and his wife were told nothing but bad news. It was the same during the second and third visits when they were told that the surgery was a success, but missing parts of human bones do not regenerate, and the ankle joint was held only by wires, screws, pins and metallic plates. The reality was that my friend would need a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Back home, he sat in front of the fireplace reading or watched holiday specials on the television as he sipped tea laced with rum and munched on a few sweet cookies. Felix, a big reddish male cat, hopped up on my friend’s lap so he could more quickly snap up the crumbs from the cookies. Then the cat walked on the leg that was held straight forward and lay down on the white cast with all four paws hugging it. Happy with the cookies, the heat from the fire and the comfort provided by the round cast, Felix began to purr louder and louder as he fell deeply asleep.

The cast became Felix’s favorite place to sleep. He spent hours each day, lying on the cast, hugging it with his paws, and loudly purring. He even jumped on the bed, when my friend went to sleep, and resumed his place on the cast, purring contentedly through the night. The weight of the big cat and his loud purrs were comforting to my friend. Bit by bit, the pain lessened and the swelling receded.

At the next appointment with the surgeon, new x-rays were taken. It looked like there was considerable improvement, surprising the doctor who had no answers for the medical students who also examined the x-rays. A calcification process had begun, enclosing the smashed marrow. The doctor said he had never experienced such a case in his entire career and could only credit my friend’s exceptional bone genes. My friend, however, believed it was Felix who deserved the credit for what was happening; when he returned home, he welcomed Felix back and smiled as the big cat wrapped his paws around the cast, closed his eyes, and purred.

By May, my friend began to put his damaged foot down more and more. Soon he was able to stand and slowly walk as he pushed the wheelchair, using it as support. Each time he sat down or lay down, Felix joined him, laying his heavy little body on the leg and purring loudly. At his next scheduled visit with the surgeon, my friend walked into the office—slowly, but upright and by himself. The surgeon and all his office staff were stunned. My friend credited the healing to Felix, an absurdity that was immediately dismissed by the doctor. But, indeed, x-rays showed that the missing bone portion was totally rebuilt!

To everyone, this was a miracle recovery, and the doctor was highly praised for his outstanding surgical work and began to write a paper about the surgical procedure. During one of the follow up visits, the surgeon laughed hard when my friend declared himself healed because of his furry feline, who continued his purring on the ankle, now freed of its uncomfortable cast.

A few weeks later, the surgeon himself phoned my friend and invited him to the office for some important news. My friend arrived with his wife. The doctor opened with a surprising statement: “I never did this in my life, but I must ask you and Felix my professional apologies!” Arranging and rearranging his thick glasses and ignoring all the phone calls, the middle-aged doctor who was going bald and growing a round belly, explained that he had watched medical reportage on TV about mother cats nursing their kittens while purring between 25-50 Hz. The purrs, the report stated, were special therapeutic waves that fed the kittens’ bones and made them stronger and more elastic. This, in fact, was the main reason that felines can fall from very high places and land on their feet without breaking them. The surgeon realized that it was this same bioenergetics process that Felix had applied to his master. Days later, the doctor took out all the wires and metal pieces that he had thought would be there permanently. The ankle was a little crooked, but very functional, with no pain. Without doubt, my friend could dance the next Christmas!

As for Felix-the-healer, he passed away at the respectable age of twenty, as if he had waited first to heal his master who provided him with a good home and a good life. He was never credited for “felinotherapy,” nor mentioned by name in any medical papers. But he was buried right on the spot where his master broke his ankle. My friend gets moist eyes each time he sees the little dent in the ground covered with colorful flowers to mark the eternal resting spot of the best healer he ever knew.

Negresco Hotel – Nice

© 2013 Ion Grumeza