By Life Positive December 2005 By Nandita Shah as told to Gayatri Makhijani When Nandita Shah’s life drew to a halt under the assault of paralysis, she bounced back to full recovery through the judicious use of homeopathy and by allowing the body to heal itself. I was leading a typical hectic Mumbai lifestyle. A homeopath, I used to work up to five hours a day in my clinic, besides attending to phone calls through the day. I also used to conduct lectures abroad, which entailed lengthy preparations, not to mention the stress associated with frequent traveling. To compound it all there were family issues, my brother was getting married and an aunt of mine was suffering from cancer. Always having been health-conscious, I thought I was taking good care of the body in terms of eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise such as swimming. But then disease, I was soon to realize, has a way of telling you when to stop. The symptoms started with a little difficulty in walking or tasks such as squeezing a lemon and I also began experiencing numbness in my hands and feet. I consulted a neurologist who diagnosed it as Guillian Barré Syndrome, a form of acute post infective paralysis. This is an autoimmune disease where antibodies produced by the body to fight the invading virus end up destroying one’s own nerve sheaths so that rapid paralysis takes place. Progressing from the feet upwards, at its worst there is a danger that it could affect the respiratory system. The disease is self-limiting however and typically, after peaking at three weeks, it wanes off. Only then does the body start rejuvenating, very slowly repairing the damage done. The neurologist suggested immediate hospitalization, but I decided to treat myself with homeopathy at home. This is because allopathy has no cure for this disease. The usual treatment is not curative but empirical and entails steroids to make the patient feel better, and immuno globulins, foreign proteins introduced into the bloodstream to fight the virus. Both of these work against the body’s natural forces. Homeopathy, on the other hand, bolsters the body’s own healing process. Opting for homeopathy over allopathy saved me from the inevitable side-effects of the latter. My family and friends supported my opinion and even the allopaths amongst my doctor friends, though they did have reservations, respected my decision. So with the help of a friend, Dr. Rajan Sankaran, my treatment began. This consisted mainly of homoe-opathic medicines, diet care and exercise. The medicines I took served the sole purpose of empowering the natural process of healing. They were not many, nor did I have to take them over a very long period. As I was completely bed-ridden, I did not need much food. I ate food that was light, simple and as natural as possible, such as fresh fruit, raw and cooked vegetables and brown rice. Even when the nerve sheaths start recovering, the prolonged disuse causes muscles to waste away. The best thing to do in this case is to exercise, and I did so several times in a day, as much as I could manage, as the effort would be exhausting. I had always been a good swimmer. The natural buoyancy inside water, coupled with the fact that my muscles retained past memory, meant that even when I couldn’t stand on my feet, I was able to swim well. Barely three months after I contracted the disease, I started swimming for at least half an hour every day and it steadied my recovery process, helping me regain the lost energy in my muscles. Naturally, the initial period of the slow process of my recovery was a dark phase for me. For an active and independent individual such as myself, to reconcile to a state where I had to depend on others even for my smallest needs, was very difficult. A lot of the time I simply did not want to live anymore. Two ayah bais hired from a hospital attended to all my needs, turning me in bed regularly so that I did not get bedsores, washing me and bringing me food and medicines. Never having been so dependent on others, I now felt as if I was an adult’s mind trapped in a child’s body. As the nerves in my brain too had been affected, my attention span and power of concentration was badly affected and even reading became impossible. I could only watch some TV, mainly cartoons and that too, only for about half an hour before my concentration would give in. Time passed excruciatingly slowly as I lay day and night, the two maids for company, drifting in and out of sleep. I was like a prisoner in my own body. This experience made me realize what it is that animals put into a cage must go through. I now knew the value of freedom. Through out this time, my father was a source of strength who oversaw my convalescence. Friends, whenever they visited, brought cheer and I was always happy to have them around. I suppose time soothes all and gradually, after about six months, I got back on my feet. I started walking, initially aided by a stick. One can’t imagine how good that felt. I later even joined aerobics as a fun way to further improve my health. I believe everything happens for a reason and can be a learning experience. Paralysis was my body’s way of telling me to slow down. Though I love my work, I realized that I needed to cut down on it. My illness taught me to be true to myself and let society think what it wants to. It taught me to go for what I wanted, and to cut out the rest of the rubbish. On hindsight, I see that the years following my illness have been the happiest times of my life. It was at this point that I took the decision to move from Mumbai to Auroville. It had always been a dream, but, once the right decision was made, everything moved to facilitate it and suddenly there was a house, a job vacancy and everything fell in place. I have considerably reduced my practice now to make space for other interests in my life. I was always environment conscious and concerned about animal welfare issues and today I am actively involved with these causes. I have always believed in the body’s immense capacity to heal. My own experience has fortified the belief that, rather than depending on doctors, one needs to listen to the body. This is the philosophy that I attempt to cultivate in my patients. I have started an NGO called SHARAN. An acronym for Sanctuary Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature, its goal is to raise awareness about healthy diet and lifestyle changes in accordance with the laws of nature. Through various public talks I am spreading the awareness about how each one can take responsibility for their own health. I believe that this is not only empowering but is also a path to personal growth. The move to Auroville was also spurred by The One Straw Revolution by Fukoka, which impressed me deeply. Here I saw the philosophy of homoeopathy being applied to natural farming. I realized that this philosophy of nature is universal and can be applied to almost any field. It is a spiritual path. I am thankful to the illness, as it helped me clear my mind, change my life for the better and find my own space.
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