Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Asclepius Lost

The Sanctuary of Asclepius. Photo Credit: Briantist

I'm back at it, that is to say, back at a medical facility being assessed by occupational and physical therapists. Why? Who knows...my neurologist like other doctors I've seen since the stroke seem to be reluctant to accept what I've come to accept as my situation for the last nearly 4 years: I had a hemorrhagic stroke that permanently damaged the nerves in my brain's control center that tell my foot and leg muscles what to do. Permanent. That's my understanding. Nerve damage. Not repairable. But here I am...again.

In order to get here my son drove me to the clinic and then I had to take an elevator to a lower level where I followed a sterile, empty corridor tunnel from parking building to clinic. The woman at the information desk said that it would probably be safer to take the tunnel than the street. Sad commentary. But as I walked alone in a winding hallway with only my cane for protection I wondered at that. Seems equally likely that someone could accost me there with no one to hear or see. Keep walking...

I said the corridor was empty. This is not entirely true. There were a few shut doors labeled for employees only and then, every few feet a different poster with a different photo and story of some patient who was helped by this medical center. One was a ballet dancer; one was a firefighter; one was a middle-aged woman...everyone with glowing reports about how their lives were made better by their treatment here. I can't help comparing it to another corridor I walked down, years ago when I could still technically walk.

The ancient city of Pergamon, now in ruins outside the modern city of Bergsma, Turkey, was the site of many structures including the Sanctuary of Asclepius or just The Asclepion. Asclepius was the Greek god of healing arts (medicine); some even believed that he might be able to raise the dead. So it was here, to his sanctuary, that multitudes of pilgrims came to be healed of their infirmities. And healed many of them were. But the clever doctors at the sanctuary had many tricks up their sleeves that could help insure their success. The first was the approach to the sanctuary, which was a long corridor or colonnade. A patient had to be able to traverse this corridor in order to reach the physicians so if he/she was able to make it there was a good chance he/she could actually be healed. Along the colonnade were strategically placed sculptures of body parts--an ear, an appendage, etc.--with inscriptions of quotes from patients who had been healed at the sanctuary. These sculptures were intended to be encouragement for the patient making the long pilgrimage to the center, thereby using mind over matter to convince the patient he/she was in good hands with the physicians there--another trick employed to ensure a higher healing success rate.

I can only assume that the posters and the long corridor down which I hobbled are a modern day version of the methods used at Asclepion. But I was not one of the lucky ones. The doctors I saw today confirmed what I've been told--what I know to be true--that this is as good as it gets. This is permanent. No clever tricks will raise the dead nerves in my leg. Asclepius has failed me.


It's quiet now. Too quiet. Strains of "Old McDonald" still filtering through my head. Stuffed animals in my bed. I can hear the clock, both clocks. I can hear the fan in the convection oven. I can hear the organic sounds swishing in my auditory canal. The toys are still scattered around the room; farm animals on the dining room table; a mangled car track on the floor. All silent now. The animation sucked out of them. It flew out the front door with the giggles, the roars, the "play with me, Nana"s as though a mighty wind came through and blew them all away. The same wind that is blowing you home, away from me til you are just a tiny dot and I am left here with just the clocks and the silent animals to keep me company.