“I can’t even see where the chart is! I think I’m blind,” said Dr. Denise to the ophthalmologist who was giving her a vision test as she sat in the examination room covering her right eye. Dr. Denise, who was a second-year medical student, started experiencing sudden deterioration in her vision and how she viewed the world. It was right before Christmas in 1997 when she got the diagnosis from the ophthalmologist: “You have optic neuritis.” Dr. Denise was immediately referred to a neurologist.
Optic neuritis is the inflammation of the optic nerve, causing pain and temporary vision loss. In Dr. Denise’s case, time was of the essence. The neurologist confirmed her diagnosis and promptly sent her to the hospital for treatment. He told her that if she received IV cortisone within the next 6 hours, she had a better chance of recovering her eyesight. Her treatment was successful and her vision began to return after 6 weeks, but it was many years before her brain felt normal. Her transformational experience has many lessons for all of us.
1. Practice compassion
“The ophthalmologist showed me so much kindness. Sometimes you just need empathy,” she recalls. “After 3 weeks, I went back to medical school and that was a different story. Surprisingly, I went through a bad bout of optic neuritis with no one in my class noticing that something was wrong. No one offered me class notes. I felt so sad.” Dr. Denise explains, “My experience has made me compassionate. I pay attention to people around me. When I see that something is not quite right, I offer help.” Inspired by her own struggles, Dr. Denise specializes in the treatment of autistic children and their families in the form of Naturopathic care and Ayurvedic medicine.
2. Ask for help
“In the intensive care unit, I received high dosages of cortisone to reduce swelling on my optic nerve and save my sight. My loss of eyesight and brain swelling caused me extreme disorientation. I had to keep the side rails of my bed up so I would not fall out of bed. I asked for help with everything. On the third day of my hospital stay, which happened to be Christmas Day, my husband walked with me to the nursing station and then down the hall. I remember holding on to him tight and asking him not to let go of me. I had no idea where I was and how to get back to my room. My husband was very helpful and played a huge role in my healing. He was the power behind me in medical school. He typed all of my research papers, as it was painful to look at a moving computer screen. Very slight movements sent sharp shooting pains into my brain,” recalls Dr. Denise. For many of us, it is difficult to ask for help. But there are times when asking for help can really save us.
3. Advocate for yourself
“It’s not just that I was blind, but I knew something in my brain was not right. There was something really wrong with my sight, my colored vision and my brain.” Dr. Denise was committed to finding allopathic and alternative treatments. She searched tirelessly and tried a myriad of healing modalities over the course of the next decade. She implemented color therapy that gave back her colored vision. She listened to tapes by Dr. Deepak Chopra and used Bates Eye Exercises to improve her eyesight. Dr. Denise remembers sitting with Meir Schneider discussing how much his Natural Eyesight program helped. “Meir listened with his whole heart and never hurried me. He was truly interested and cared.” Dr. Denise, under the direction of her occupational therapist, learned HANDLE therapy to boost her brain functioning and restore her vision. Under the guidance of her Naturopathic doctor in medical school, she tried DMSA treatment to clear mercury from her system. She recalls clearly how homeopathic treatment “turned on the lights” and helped her to feel normal again.
In addition to medical treatments, Dr. Denise also changed her diet. She eats fresh, non-processed organic food. Alcohol is on her “No” list. She giggles and explains that she cannot afford to lose any more brain cells. Instead, she introduced vitamins, Ayurvedic herbs and lots of oils, such as coconut, flaxseed and omega 3 fish oils.
4. Be persistent
Not every therapy brought the results she was hoping for but she never stopped looking. For example, the DMSA treatment at first improved her colored vision and then made it worse. She had a strong feeling that vision therapy would really help but she could not find an optometrist to help. “Finally, I found Dr. Murray, who was helping the children I was working with. I observed the children’s treatment each Saturday for six months. At last, I was given a custom program for vision therapy. I never skipped a day of HANDLE or vision therapy for a year. The combination of the two therapies was magic and a big key to my recovery. I gained confidence with my sight and my tracking improved.”
5. Make daily self care your priority
Looking back, Dr. Denise admits that stress of medical school played a significant role in the sudden loss of sight. She has learned through the principles of Ayurvedic medicine how to prioritize and take good care of herself. Her morning self care routine starts with meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga. Then she enjoys a light breakfast. She eats a nutritious lunch as her main meal of the day and makes her dinner smaller and easy to digest. She doesn’t skip meals, nor does she cut back on her sleep. She gets 8 hours of sleep every night and wakes up at the same time each morning—even on weekends. She has learned to pace herself and not give in to her innate drive to constantly push herself to the limit. She has embraced the practice of downtime and self-reflection.Make daily self care your priority. Click To Tweet
On behalf of all the autistic children you have helped and will help, thank you Dr. Denise for sharing your story and highlighting the importance of self care. Namaste!
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