Recovery is Possible
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
by: Michael Carmody, GCFP

Section: Recovery

Phineas Gage, one of history's most famous neuroscience patients, was a 25 year old foreman leading a railroad crew near Cavendish, Vermont. They used explosives to clear the path, with Gage utilizing a 43 inch long and 1.25 inch diameter tamping iron to pack explosive powder. At a critical point, the powder was to have been covered with a damping cloth by his assistants, but one afternoon both men were momentarily distracted, resulting in an explosion that sent the iron bar through Gage's left cheek and exiting the top of his head; it landed eighty yards away. It was reported that he never lost consciousness.
Afterwards, Gage was profoundly changed. Though he retained motor function, his cognitive abilities were greatly diminished. His demeanor changed from bright and articulate to base, volatile, and animalistic. The story goes on and makes good reading, but for the purpose of this article, it's the suddenness, and the appalling, dehumanizing absoluteness of a traumatic brain injury I wish to focus on.
No one knows if or when something of this nature might happen to them. Whether we're at the dentist's office waking from anesthesia, driving to work, or walking up a flight of stairs, having a brain means we're always at risk of acquiring a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The consequences can be dire: there is an extremely high suicide rate among survivors.
I know why. I'm a two-time survivor of adult TBI. The first one occurred when I was eighteen, the other at twenty-four. I was given a rather severe prognosis in 1987: much would now be impossible for me. Before my injuries, I was an athlete of note. Post-TBI, I couldn't walk. My dominant arm’s functioning and vision were impaired. Choosing words to use in a sentence became a struggle--my mind seemed hopeless. For thirteen years, I felt like I was veering or falling with every step I took. To resist this sense of misdirection, I overly engaged the muscles of my arms and legs and held my breath. It was tortuous.
I willed myself back from the brink of death. Constantly exhausted and hurting throughout, I pushed myself beyond my limits. I engaged in intense physical exertion. I would go to the gym for hours at a time, but I was still in a miserable state. Finally, a professor of mine invited me to attend a class unassociated with the university. This classwork was an integrated study of the methodology developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais.
Without this work, I'd likely have remained miserable, exhausted and in pain to this very day. Instead, I can now walk with ease, see with binocular vision, and converse without so much struggle. I even recovered enough to return to the wrestling mat and joined the coaching staff at Johns Hopkins University. My recovery didn't happen instantly, but once I began taking Awareness Through Movement® classes, the first thing I noticed was a profound improvement in balance. My spasticity and pain lessened. I was no longer a slave to the gym. Now I was adding minutiae to reengineer a safer, easier, way to move. Moving more easily and safely, lead to a more graceful and effortless way of being!
Over the years, I’d often ended my sessions at the gym swimming laps. I typically swam a mile; I knew how long it took. After I began taking ATM® classes, I took a break from the gym and the pool routine for about three months. When I finally returned to the water, I expected to feel a little nauseous and weak. I assumed that exhaustion would reach me long before I completed a mile. I was wrong. I glided smoothly; my body rippled through the water. I felt like a child again. I thought I must've miscounted my laps when I reached a mile because when I glanced at the clock, it was just a bit over half the time it usually took me to do a whole mile. I decided to swim ten more laps, but when I was done, I was still short on time. That's when I realized I hadn't miscounted: I had become much more efficient at swimming in a pool after a few months of not swimming at all. Weird huh? Not really, because efficiency of movement is a hallmark of the Feldenkrais Method®.
Whether like me, you are dealing with the issues of impaired balance, vision, speech, and cognition, or simply seeking calmness of body and mind, I invite you to enter Dr. Feldenkrais' Applied Physics Lab. It's right between the field of gravity and the floor. If you've suffered from TBI, I would especially like to recruit you. I wish to share this work with the growing numbers that have or share the burden of this unique and ever present personal crisis.

Michael Carmody, is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm, musician, martial artist, and father. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, he now divides his time between Baltimore, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Northern California. He is actively presenting workshops, and teaching classes in Awareness Through Movement, and recruiting individuals interested in developing Feldenkrais® post-neurotrauma clinics around the globe. Please contact him further in this regard.
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Comments (3)
Patrick Siebert
7/11/2016 4:01:56 PM
Having wrestled at Okla. State I was struck by your story and would like to compare notes. Mostly I am interested in fining any studies at John Hopkins that validate our stories. My phone number is 512-568-5503. Call when you like.

Michael Carmody
3/18/2016 6:18:34 PM
Everyone still doesn't seem to realize that my story is universal... a story that we all share... Whether we know it or not... Whether we want to admit it or not... I'm here to do the work that makes the difference. I want everyone to Avail themselves of what is essentially their Birthright... And what socially we should have in place.
Post neuro Trauma Centers around the world..! You may come to realize that we share our lifetimes to affect Universal Social Change above all else we ever do. I need your assistance and support in this endeavor.

2/7/2016 11:01:28 PM
I am wondering if this treatment would help someone recovering from guillain barre who have trouble getting there balance back and are learning to walk again on there own

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