Assignment: Anti-inflammatory Medication
Then he plunged into a Brahms concerto and his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music: it was no longer still and shrunken but supple and graceful and com- pletely freed of its arthritic coils.
Having finished his piece, he stood up by himself, far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room. He walked to the breakfast table with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.
After an hour or so, he came back to the house and worked on his correspondence until lunch. Then he napped. When he arose, the stoop and the shuffle and the clenched hands were back again. . . . As before, he stretched his arms in front of him and extended his fingers. Then the spine straightened and his fingers, hands and arms were in sublime coordination as they responded to the demands of his brain for the controlled beauty of movement and tone. Any cellist thirty years his junior would have been proud to have such extraordinary physical command.
Twice in one day, I had seen the miracle. A man almost ninety, beset with the infirmities of old age, was able to cast off his afflictions, at least temporarily, because he knew he had something of overriding importance to do. There was no mystery about the way it worked, for it happened every day. Creativity for Pablo Casals was the source of his own cortisone. It is doubtful whether any anti-inflammatory medication he would have taken would have been as powerful or as safe as the substances produced by the interaction of his mind and body. . . . He was caught up in his own creativity, in his own desire to accomplish a specific purpose, and the effect was both genuine and observable (20).1
We all can recount of patients with strong wills. With the introduction of activity, we too have seen miracles. As a profession, occupational therapy harnesses will and gives the individual control through activity. That is
human, that is care. We are respected by physicians and the health care system for that caring, perhaps because we have a strong background in the physical and biological dimensions of life, as well as the psychological and social. Most importantly we have respect for the human and the unknown. This is empathy. Brian Hall describes empathy as:
The capacity for one person to enter imaginatively into the sphere of consciousness of another, to feel the specific contour of another experience, to allow one’s imagination to risk entering the inner experiencing process of another. (19, p. 162)
1Excerpt reprinted from Anatomy of an Illness, by Norman Cousins, with the permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, New York. Copyright © 1979 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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