He didn’t die, quite. But later thought he may well of. Steve Gurney’s episode of Acute Kidney Injury (see Part II) didn’t finish him after he was discharged from his third hospital (one each in Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand) – 4 weeks after the event. While media outlets clamoured to hear the story of this amazing athlete’s brush with death, he had a $92,000 medical bill and was so weak he could barely walk. He couldn’t return to his own home because it was on a hill and he couldn’t make it up the steep track.
Steve did all the right things. He began exercising by walking to the letterbox and gradually increased it from there. He lived on fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes and meat – nothing pre-processed. While his body began to be restored, it was the mental anguish – so often hidden from others – that really shook him up. This from his book “Lucky Legs”:
“I’d gone from top dog in my sport to lowly turtle. My aim to compete as a mountain biker in the Olympics had disappeared down a mud puddle. I’d lost 15 kilograms, mostly muscle, there was a possibility of permanent kidney damage and my career as a pro athlete was in question. My fuzzy mind reasoned that the ‘mat of my expertise’ had been jerked from under my feet now that I had been robbed of my fitness, too. It was like the bottom had fallen out of my world and I was falling, out of control, with nothing to ground me. ….The depression went on for six months … death seemed like a realistic solution … But there was a tiny spark that said, ‘Don’t jump. … hang in there … like a long endurance race …”
Steve’s story of recovery is one of endurance and it is one of reaching out for help. Some of the help Steve got was from practices which scientifically speaking don’t have a leg to stand on, yet the process of reaching out and talking with people concerned and willing to help was, and is to anyone in similar situations, so very important. Steve didn’t go for homeopathy, but I’ve been told be someone who acknowledges it is a load of nonsense that they think it valuable to have in the community because of the power of the placebo affect. She may well be right (needs a study).
The story continues and is one of anguish and triumph. The two time winner of the Coast to Coast returned to it three years after his brush with death and won again, and then won another six years in a row. Steve’s experiences had strengthened him mentally and focussed him on the things that mattered most to him. As he said, “Contracting leptospirosis … was a good thing.”
There is an ancient Hebrew concept of health called “shalom.” Often translated simply as “peace” it is actually much broader than that. Unlike the common idea of health being merely an absence of illness, it encompasses the notion of being in right relationships – spiritually, physically, environmentally, and communally. Those of us working in medical science do well to be reminded of shalom.