The Struggle to Return to Health

return to health

Lesson Learned from Not Inheriting the Patience Gene

Two months into re-hab! An unplanned surgery to repair knee tendons ripped while chasing grandchildren! Not a good way to spend the summer.
So,  in one of those quiet moments, I found myself contemplating the real meaning of health. Now, let’s be clear, this injury will, they tell me, be healed within time.
Just follow the directions of the doctors and the physical therapist and all should be well. At least, that is what they tell me. yet, I would not be truthful if I did not express some concern for what this injury did do is, for the first time in my life, slap a dose of reality in my psychic face.
What is often so frustrating is that so many of the cliches we speak or hear really are based on truth. No, we are not as young as we used to be and despite the fact that I think of myself as someone in their 40s, I am not, and the body does take a little longer to get back to “normal”. And, yes, I wonder what the “new” normal may be and how cautious I will be on steps from now on.
There is frustration of having to be dependant on other people for the simplest of actions. That was a real reality check and frightening on many levels as you could not help but wonder, is this a glimpse into a future? It was a real cause for celebration when the PT doc and the surgeon gave the OK to start doing simple things. Those activities of daily life that we take so much for granted have become small victories as I am able to return to doing them, leg brace and all.
So, a lot of thinking has been done as I progress through this healing process, a process that looks like it will take quite a while to complete. It is amazing how much we do take for granted. It is amazing  when you loose some of that health, how much it really does take over your soul. In our religious tradition, there is a host of texts that celebrate health.
Indeed, from a Jewish traditional perspective, staying healthy is regarded as a sacred act and when you loose that health (or part of it) the tradition understands that you cannot even be fully directed to a relationship with God. What that means is that health is a key aspect of human life and when we loose it, we are unable to function fully as part, or most of our daily life, is concerned with healing and or the alleviation of pain.
It is not surprising that there is so much emphasis now, among Boomers, on trying to stay healthy. We are, we hope, blessed with an extended life span and we wish to stay as active as possible for as long as possible and as independant as possible for as long as we can. It is not surprising then to see a steady flow of Boomers to gyms, or adventure travel or plastic surgery or activities for the mind such as Mindfulness and other forms of meditation. The mind-body-soul connection is becoming more important to many of us. Indeed, this connection ( a basic aspect of Jewish medical thought ) is playing an increasingly greater role in medical treatment.
Patient centered medicine is slowly being replaced by person centered medicine. I recently interviewed a Dr Jessica Israel on my radio show . Dr Israel is a geriatrician practicing in Ocean County, N.J. and has created a team approach to treating patients. This team approach, very much a holistic person centered model, involves a multi disciplinary team that looks at the whole person in creating a care plan.
The philosophy behind this seems to be that a person who has lost their health brings to the doctor their universe of experience, hopes and fears. Thus, they are much more than just a sore leg or diseased organ. To facilitate healing, that entire person’s experience needs to be addressed. Many of us know that this is common sense. There is the understanding that how we feel can impact how we heal and thus how quickly we can return to health.
So, the lesson for all of us may be to never take our health for granted, that it is a blessing and that we need to be mindful of how we treat our body. Now, if this leg would just hurry up and heal……..!

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About Richard Address

Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min is the founder and editor of He is the author of “Seekers of Meaning: Baby Boomers, Judaism and the Pursuit of Healthy Aging”. Rabbi Address developed the programs in family issues for the North American Reform Jewish movement and currently serves as a rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, N.J. He hosts the weekly “Boomer Generation Radio” in Philadelphia

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