A Meditation on Health and Healing

Eric Herman Headshot

Eric HermanTwo weeks ago, on February 9th, my father-in-law, Gordon Miller, suffered a massive stroke. At this writing, he is being fed through a tube, is partially paralyzed, cannot communicate, is on dialysis treatment and demonstrates little awareness other than signs of physical agony. 

He is in a condition that we all should rightfully fear ever suffering. 

As my wife, Diane, and I sat at his side in St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, Calif., struggling to cope with our own thoughts, I randomly noticed that on the wall in his room was a beautiful painting of a pool. Given the weight of the circumstances this initially seemed a rather insignificant observation. But later while walking around the hospital’s corridors, lobbies and vestibules I noticed that all of the walls were decorated with hundreds of images of water – seascapes, shorelines, streams, waterfalls, lakes, and every television I saw that wasn’t being used to watch a program was running images of water accompanied by the sounds of moving water. 

It was obvious that in designing the hospital’s interior spaces, water had been chosen as the unifying theme – presumably for its soothing nature and healing powers. 

Back in my father-in-law’s room, I was taken by the juxtaposition of the aquatic image with all its bucolic beauty and the condition of the man in the bed. It struck me that aquatic exercise is exactly the means through which we can increase chances of avoiding stroke and also how to recover from many forms of affliction and injury. 

In a recent study published in the Journal of Cardiology, examining the impact of swimming for sedentary, older adults, researchers concluded, “Swimming exercise elicits hypotensive effects and improvements in vascular function.” This study is just one of many in recent years that have conclusively pointed to the positive impact of aquatic exercise in preventing a range of diseases including hypertension, arthritis and many others. 

As I sat there with my wife and family, and took in the sights and sounds of state-of-the-art medical practice in all of its dizzying sophistication, I couldn’t help but think that for all of our modernity, we are all still so very fragile. And when it comes to health and healing, both physically and psychologically, the power of water remains.

And to a greater point still, I’d like to say to all of you reading this that we all should cherish our health and that of our family and friends. None of us knows how long we have. As one who has suffered my own share of health-related issues, this experience really turned my head around. I weep for the suffering Gordon is experiencing and for others enduring such unthinkable afflictions, but I’m inspired to think that through aquatics and the other components of a healthy lifestyle we all have an opportunity to make the most of today. 

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