Lynne Cooper is an amazing woman. I gathered this from brief interactions with her over the first few months I got to know her while she was practicing yoga at my studio. When she left to go on her yearly trip abroad, I never imagined that she would come back being anything other than revitalized and rested. Instead she came back with her ankle and leg in cast, determination to heal that is second to none, and also a peacefulness and quiet resolve to learn the lesson in every moment of the serious injury that she had suffered.
Lynne and her partner had gone travelling around the Channe Islands for seven and a half weeks. The ventured out on adventurous hikes and expeditions as is their hobbie and passion. Six days before returning to South Africa, they had been in less adventurous Eastbourne walking through Gildritch Park – a very typically British Park: very well-groomed, clearly signposted, with clear paths that are disability friendly – no slipping sliding, skidding, or climbing involved. When Lynne was faced with a fork in the road – she decided to – as is her habit – not make too drastic a decision. There was that moment of slight hesitation, a pause, a subtle sense of knowing that something was about to happen. Lynne decided to take the less obvious path….the one that ran in-between the two. There were three log steps on this less than obvious ‘middle path’, and on the second step, she slipped. A sense of nausea came over her and with the impact and severity of the injury, all the energy drained out of her body as her adrenals responded to the shock. She broke her ankle in two places – both the tibia and fibia were broken right by her ankle joint. An injury known as bimalleolar with dislocation. There would only be one injury worse than this bimalleolar fracture. Such an injury would involve the heel and is referred to as trimalleolar.
Lynne was operated on in casualty in England and refused medications offered by the hospital, including morphine to numb the pain. She was adamant she wanted to experience the injury in real time and stay connected to how her body was doing. Throughout the ordeal – during the time in hospital and afterwards all she had by way of conventional medicine was:
- laughing gas at the time when the dislocation of the ankle took place,
- anesthetic when the pins and plates were put into her ankle, and
- Clexane – a blood thinner, which was important for the flight back to South Africa.
In England the doctors advised that she rehabilitate herself. That she take it easy and that she shouldn’t expect to be back to normal within four months if not more. Reading more about the kind of injury she suffered, she learned that many end up walking with a limp for about 9 – 12 months after the injury – and some never walk without a limp again. In some cases the swelling doesn’t go down which affects the kinds of shoes people have to wear. There are many, many stories out there about people who have had their lives ruined by an ankle injury and the limitations this kind of injury can bring.
For Lynne – the possibility of her not making a full recovery never crossed her mind. Today – two and a half months later, she is active and walking around – without a limp. She is doing yoga, swimming, cycling and going about her business as she would have if this never happened to her. There is some limitation in terms of the flexibility of her ankle which is due to the pins still being in there, but her ankle is still more flexible than many healthy ankles that pass through my yoga studio. If you didn’t now Lynne had suffered a serious ankle injury, you would never pick that up from the appearance or functioning of her ankle.
This is how she did it:
Philosophy of life and mental attitude:
Lynne firmly believes that things happen as they should and any illness, disease or injury such as hers, is a message to you. A message that tells you that something’s got to change – be that in your physical, emotional and or spiritual life. Lynne broke her ankle less than a 100metres from the maternity ward where she was born. Her operation in hospital took place right on the edge of the neighbourhood where she lived right before she immigrated to South Africa. This was significant and played a part in Lynne’s understanding of the injury. She was being stopped dead in her tracks and forced to take stock, stop, re-evaluate and re-assess. The lesson would become clearer in time and will continue to unfold with time.
Lynne was operated on, on Saturday the 2nd of November and flew back to South Africa on Thursday the 6th. She started private yoga therapy lessons with me on the 19th and continued to have two sessions a week for four weeks. We had these sessions while Lynne’s leg and ankle was still in cast. Her toes were free to move and the cast ended right below her knee. The day after we finished our sessions for the Christmas break, her cast came off.
I was nervous to work with Lynne. She seemed so adamant to get herself healed and functioning as normal again and I was worried that she would want to push her body – when her body has really given her a clear message that it wanted her to stop. I was very relieved when Lynne agreed with my proposal of gentle movement for half the session, and serious meditation and Yoga Nidra for the second half. I believed it would be good to move the body, keep the parts that haven’t been injured open and flexible and strong. In looking at the body as a whole and recognizing that all parts are connected, I wanted to improve and maintain the healthy functioning of the rest of the body, promote circulation and avoid stagnation. Looking after, nourishing and nurturing the healthy parts, would certainly influence the healing potential of the isolated injury in the ankle.
On a metaphysical level, I also recognized that the body and soul were using the ankle injury to get a message to Lynne. This message was what was most important to the healing process. If Lynne didn’t get the message or even attempt to listen – the injury simply wouldn’t heal or it would heal with other side effects to keep the message alive. I therefore thought that the healing meditation and Yoga Nidra would be the most powerful part of the healing process as it would bring Lynne to a much deeper state of awareness and to a place of ‘listening’ to her body. I also believed that through healing meditations the wisdom within her body, her body’s natural ability to heal itself, would take over and literally – the bones and damaged cells and tissue would heal quicker. Lucky for me – Lynne and I were on the same page and she was ready and willing to go on this journey.
During our very first session we recognized that stagnation, tightness and a decrease in strength had already start to set in and while it felt difficult to do basic movement and stretches, Lynne felt good getting to moving again. Perhaps the extent of the work that lay ahead became evident when she saw how difficult she found movements that previously were seen to be so basic..
The Yoga Nidra we did during that first session highlighted to Lynne that her ankle would be fine. The issue wasn’t a physical one. The ankle was just the message. The message was clear already – there was an issue with Lynne’s ability to move forward and a real need to rethink her life and where she was going. Her journey would be an emotional and spiritual one, more than a physical one.
Our physical practice was very much focused on balancing the earth element in her body – grounding, getting back to basics, feeling safe, secure and contained. Given the fact that her injury took place so close to her place of birth and early life, it seemed to make sense to balance earth. The Yoga Nidra however, highlighted to Lynne that there was ‘darkness’ around her spine – which highlights imbalances in the water element – associated with fear, being indecisive, not being able to ‘flow’ and showing a need to become still in order to acquire knowledge about the self.
Lynne and I continued our half our yoga and half hour meditation sessions over four weeks. We made adjustments to postures and used props to make it as accessible and comfortable as possible. Lynne’s body thanked her:
“Not doing anything would have driven me insane! Yoga 100% helped my body cope with spending 80% of the day lying down. I never had any body or back pain and I could feel the energy that needed to move around and be released in my body were given the opportunity to do so, through the yoga. I also thought – I can’t do anything about my situation so what’s the point in moaning – just get on with it”
Lynne’s guided meditations lead her to visit the actual injury in her body and heal it. It also took her on journeys that enlightened her about the reason for this strong message. She met her late dad as a guide in one of her meditations and was often brought back to the message of ‘going back to source’. She was confronted with the question of living an authentic life – being who she really is, doing what she truly should be doing, and living a life in line with her true values. All big questions and big issues – requiring big messages from the body apparently!
Medical Input and Lynne’s response to it
Lynne flew back to SA with her leg in an open cast and had the stitches removed and cast changed to a regular closed cast on the 18th of November. She was able to move her toes and as she knew the ankle was safe in the cast, she moved what she could move – as often as possible. She didn’t take up the advice of the doctors to use crutches, as she didn’t want to mess up her alignment and gait. She focused very consciously on keeping her foot as straight as possible.
“Most people adjust their gait to suit the injury, but then you end up with everything lopsided and out of alignment, which would explain the high incidence of limping. It just means more work to line it all up again.”
“The doctors in England didn’t recommend physio. I know of people who were told by physio to take it easy and not move too much. My theory is move as much as you can. When you feel pain, you know your limit and when to back off. However, most people live on painkillers and anti-inflammatories with an injury such as this – so they don’t know when it hurts, when to stop, when to push and what their body needs.”
Lynne saw an orthopedic surgeon at Mercantile Hospital to assess whether the cast could come off and stay off at the six week mark. This was part of the care plan devised by the doctors in England and she kept to it.
When the cast came off the doctor took x-rays to determine how well the bone had healed and said he would, on the basis of the x-ray, advise as to how long Lynne would need to wait before the foot could start bearing any weight. The X-rays revealed a completely clear and healed bone. The ankle and foot were able to safely bear weight straight away.
Straight from having cast off on the 13th of December, Lynne went to see the chiropractor. “It seemed to make sense – because of the way I have been lying with my leg up for 6 weeks, hopping to toilet, pushing self around on ‘wheelie’ chair and so on, my whole body alignment would be out. I saw Neville Dugmore and he realigned all the bones in the foot, knees, shoulders, and basically brought the entire body into alignment. He said that most people don’t think of coming to chiropractor after such an injury, when really it is an essential thing to do.”
“Energy flows through your body and it is an important part of the healing process. I therefore think it is really important to be aligned.”
“After the cast came off, I used crutches for two weeks only when I left the house, and then started moving without crutches altogether. After a week of no crutches I went to see Neville again as I was now moving around freely without crutches and he again adjusted the bones in the injured foot as well as my knees, hips and lower carriage. He also aligned my ankle joint on this visit.
Lynne believed that both bones and muscles needed to be realigned and put into place after the injury and time spent in ‘compromising positions’. She opted for the Bowen Technique to have all the muscles put back into place. The Bowen therapist focused on the achilles tendons, as well as the muscles in the arches of the feet and Lynne has a follow up visit scheduled. Lynne considers this, again, an essential part of healing process: “I wouldn’t even think of not doing it.”
Reflexology: Lynne had reflexology three times while her cast was still on and twice after the cast was removed. While the cast was still on, the reflexologist worked only on the toes of the injured foot, as well as the whole of the healthy foot. These sessions, while painful due toe crystallization that had occurred in organs, in Lynne’s opinion was also essential to the healing process.
“ The reflexologist worked a lot on draining the lymph which is painful too – but you’re not made of glass… so deal with it. By that stage the bone had healed so the pain couldn’t have been serious!”
Other parts of feet was better in the last visit with reflexologist, showing that the organs were clearing and working better again.
Lynne isn’t a big fan of conventional medicine and steered clear of anything that wasn’t natural. Her reasoning is that the chemicals in these medicines affect and slow down her organs as they are required to process these chemicals. She wanted her organs and immune system to be free and clear to deal with healing her body naturally, and basically do what it does better than medicine and chemicals do – heal itself
For Lynne a big part of the healing process was getting back into her body. After an injury or accident of this kind it is almost natural to take yourself out of your body in an attempt to cope with the pain. The long flight home was another way in which she could easily become’ disconnected’ from her body and to combat this, she took Melatonin. She went on to take liver detox capsules to rid her liver of the chemicals from the anesthetic. According to Chinese Medicine the liver rules the muscles, ligaments and tendons and so she really wanted her liver to be in top form.
She further took some Bone Knitting Drops to help the bones to heal and Natruflam, which is a natural anti-inflammatory. Her natural products all came from Nature’s Own Health Shop in Walmer.
Lastly she took Arnica – to release any remainders of shock from her body.
Lifestyle and Activities
In keeping with Lynne’s philosophy that moving around in a safe way is good she took up swimming, cycling and got back into gardening. She got in the pool the minute she got home from the chiro on the day the cast came off and found it liberating. She started off by just standing in the pool and then went on to swim breaststroke, made lots of circling movements or just jumped up and down in the water. Crawl was hard at first and she had to constantly remind herself to relax and open – as she does in yoga. The body tries to protect the injury and it is a constant exercise of awareness and letting go and opening up when the body naturally wants to tense up and close off.
Lynne was riding her bicycle two weeks after the cast came off. She just wanted more movement and it gave her a lot of freedom, which, after such a long period in a cast and at home – was also important and liberating. Her ankle didn’t move too much during the cycling, but she just saw it as another way to get more movement in her body going and giving her body healthy and well-deserved exercise.
Lynne got herself some skateboard knee pads to help her crawl around even when her ankle was still in a cast, which allowed her to not only do yoga postures on her knees, but also to crawl around her garden. Gardening is something that she loved doing before the accident, and she wasn’t about to give up all the things that she loved. Staying engaged in this calming and grounding activity was really good for her mental state – apart from bringing more movement to her body.
Lynne returned to yoga on the 13th of January, after a month break and a month during which she no longer had the cast on her ankle. The level movement, strength and flexibility in Lynn’s ankle, already was remarkable. After just two private sessions in which we stretched out the front of the ankle as well as the achilles, tested stability through standing sequences and balances and released the last little bit of tightness, Lynne was walking perfectly normal again with no limp, and she was able to join the group classes again as she needed no particular care or adjustments.
“The more yoga I do and the more active I am the more the swelling has gone down. The pins and plate in ankle is also restricting the movement so pointing and flexing is slightly more limited than other leg. However through a regular yoga practice yoga, it is always improving. “
An amazing recovery indeed.
Personal Journey and Learning
There’s been a lot of learning for Lynne through this experience and she continues to live a life of awareness, listening to what the messages from her body, soul and the universe might be. The accident stopped her dead in her tracks, encouraged her to go back to her source – who she is, what she is really about and has encouraged her to seek the life that she truly wants to live. The fact that this happened to her while in her 50’s, for her, means that she didn’t recover this well because she is so young and fit and healthy. She orchestrated and claimed her health back by being proactive, open and involved in the process both physically and spiritually.
At the moment Lynne works as a Holistic Health Analyst and is connected to Nature’s Own Health Shop in Walmer. She mainly sees people who have been unwell for years and years; those who have reached the end of the line when the medical aid is exhausted and the complexities of issues and illness that need to be resolved are severe. She would now like to liaise with Orthopedic surgeons to get in touch with people who are suffering similar injuries such as she had – and get to working with people to help them access all of the range of alternative approaches alongside the contemporary medicine route to heal themselves. She wants to use her own experience to motivate and help people. Health and wellness is not skin deep – looking at the real reason why the injury took place is vital to recovery – and vital to a good quality of life.
Don’t we all want to live a life of purpose and meaning? Do we even know or realize that when we’re not, our body is trying to communicate that to us through a myriad of ways – niggling feelings, things going wrong, physical or emotional issues, problems, illness, and all those events having you feeling you’re life is a battle. What will happen when you begin to listen and act, authentically in response to these messages? Can you afford never to find out?