The Laying on of Hands

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Things are not looking good. Chemo-therapy 2009 and open-heart surgery 2011 have improved things
but the heart is struggling. Some of the heart valves are leaking but the underlying cause is a little-understood condition
sickle cell anaemia.

We all have red blood cells which carry the oxygen we breathe in, round the body. Red blood cells are shaped rather like a ring-shaped doughnut do the job well and crucially, slide over each other. Sickle cells being crescent-shaped (hence the name) are less efficient and carrying oxygen and sometimes tangle together – usually in the joints. These episodes called “crises” are painful, often caused by cold or stress.

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All this means that the heart has much more work to do get a given amount of oxygen delivered round the body and the heart ages more quickly.

After weeks in hospital with only a few days at home just after Christmas, she is back at home again but the attention needed puts my duties as a volunteer on the back burner. The results of some very sophisticated tests suggest that just one more is required, with a view to another heart operation in a few weeks time.

It’s a Cock-up

The level of expertise involved is amazing but cock-ups still happen even with all the bureaucracy and regulation.

Before Christmas we are in a four-bed ward and a young girl is in the next bed. In her early 20s, she has had chemo-therapy for a year, is bald as a coot and now bed-ridden. Mum is there most of the time being able to stay with friends in London and Dad when he shows up is sometimes in tears. Weeks later when visiting the hospital for another blood test, we find she has been moved to her own room. I had previously mentioned two sites to them which might be able to help: Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary and Cancer Options but because of a computer virus, these have not been followed up.

Am I Going to Die Mummy?

Mum is showing the strain but bearing up, and relates a scary incident. Part of the regular medication includes one to keep the lymphoma under control and one day this medication is missed. 24 hours later, the girl’s mood has changed completely and it’s like the spark or joy of life has left her. Fortunately, Mum spots this and asks if this medication has been given? The girl is now having fits and a check of the file shows it was

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omitted for some reason plus someone’s initials have been scrubbed out. Medication restored, the happier mood returns although the girl does ask “Am I going to die, mummy?”

But That’s What I Usually Do

Back to my own loved one in hospital and liquid intake and outtake is closely monitored with daily blood tests to check the kidney function and other readings. With heart and kidney issues, treating one can affect the other giving a narrow range of doses available which the doctor describes as being “between a rock and a hard place”. Decision is made to stop one medicine because of the test results – fine. One hour later, a young male nurse comes in to do some observations and give some medicine including the one that has been stopped. Politely, we protest which gets the answer “But that’s what I usually do!” to which we suggest that he goes and check? One hour later embarrassed nurses apologise.

As von Clausewitz might have said – Medicine by Other Means

There seems no point in ignoring other options. One that springs to mind is Harry Edwards Healing Centre. In 2006, a year before I have cancer myself, a former colleague gives me a copy of Ramus Branch’s book: Harry Edwards: The life story of a great healer.

An incident that lingers from the book (page 43) is where Harry is in Iraq in the days when it was a British Protectorate. He has run out of medicines and the mother of a local sheikh is very ill. In desperation, Harry grinds up some pink carbolic toothpaste powder into four sachets, telling her to take it at sunrise and sunset – it works!

Do You Mind Being Touched?

A healing appointment is booked and we manage to find the Sanctuary deep in Surrey at Burrows Lea. Three healers are waiting and after filling in a brief questionnaire, we go into a healing room. The sun is streaming in through the large picture window and the healing can take place either lying down on a couch or in an electrically-adjustable armchair.

Preferring to stay in the armchair, the main healer then asks “Do you mind being touched?” No problem she says, and the process is exactly what it is usually called, the laying on of hands. Nothing is said, no mumbling to themselves, no chanting, no incense, no gongs or happy clappy new age stuff. Starting at the head, the two healers move round the body while the other lady healer with hands open, is also praying. The room is very quiet – one can hear the recent rain running off the roof, the birds singing outside – even the grinding of the gears in the battery-powered wall clock.

Session lasts an hour. Chatting to the healers afterwards, we are told that their training takes two years. We pause in the chapel for a few minutes before the drive home.

George Emsden
Now retired, George is busier than ever: working through an OU Maths & Physics degree, blogs, volunteering at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen and Haringey Winter Shelter plus being a very proud granddad.