January 29, 2002Meningitis
GREETINGS AND SALUTATIONS from Arnold's Way!
Sweet November. The passing of May
Bed ridden, lying still. There is no hope
Twinkling of the nose. Feeling in the leg
Doctors aghast. How holy is thy name
Welcome strangers to the new hope express
Fasting may just be the way
It's a Sunday afternoon. It's just like every other day except for the fact that I, Arnold, am in my third day of fasting at the Tanglewood Wellness Center in Bethesda, Maryland. That's a story in itself. How I got here, why I came here. But let's save that for another time. This week's newsletter is about meningitis, human spirit, and the will to thrive, not merely survive. I chose this week's topic at around 3:00am on Sunday. Waking up suddenly it dawned on me that this is it. There could be no other choice.
This week's newsletter is about Lliam. It's not only about his will to survive but also his ability to thrive against all odds placed on him by his limp body, his paralysis, and his inability to talk. He was bed ridden for one and a half years. His only hope, according to the medical field, was no hope. Doctors stated that he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. These are the words I hear at 3:00am. These were the words that came exploding out of my mind. These are the words that brought me to anger and to joy and to feeling an obligation to write Lliam's story.
As taken from the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, "Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the three membranes that encase and protect the brain and spinal cord." Sounds serious, and it is. As we read on it states, "Infection usually originates in another part of the body and travels via the blood stream to the meninges." I look at the definition, and I think of the conversation that Lliam and I had. Eight years later, still recuperating, he explains.
Lliam was born determined to follow his passion, to set a path that was quite the norm for a young Irishman. Being muscular, tall, strong, and quite handsome with a passion for adventure he joined the French Foreign Legion. He served 7 years until he grew tired of that and chose to explore another passion. Diving. This time he went to school, but somewhere in between school and the freedom of a new life, life circumstances took a dramatic turn for him. I was going to say tragic, but as I look at Lliam it seems impossible to say that. I look at his face, I look at his eyes, and I look at his teeth. I hear his voice, I hear his determination, and I hear his path for the future. Lliam, in spite of his severe shortcoming, is a man at peace, looking forward to each moment of his life.
He continues telling his story of going on a routine visit to the dentist. It is nothing really out of the ordinary. He gets an anesthesia to deaden the gums so the dentist could work on them. When the work is done he takes a bus home. These are all ordinary events that happen over and over in this country and in the world. They were a series of events that were so simple that very few people would even hesitate to do it. He was going to the dentist for an ordinary cleaning. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, within an hour, Lliam's world, the world he knew, the world he expected, would change for ever. He had an attack of bacterial meningitis.
In the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide it states, "Bacterial meningitis, as opposed to viral meningitis which causes mild symptoms and clears up on its own within a week, is more severe and can develop within a few hours." In Lliam's case it was exactly one hour after the dentist's visit and after the anesthesia. I continue to read the Harvard text. "Severe neck pain and stiffness particularly when touching the chin to the chest can be followed quickly by confusion, loss of consciousness, and death."
Lliam developed all those symptoms including almost death. His landlady found him unconscious in his room three days later. Needless to say he was very sick. Lliam spent the next one and a half years in the hospital. There is no known treatment for bacterial meningitis other than antibiotics, which did not work. He lost his speech due to the inflammation in his meninges. Lliam also lost the use of his legs due to the same inflammation affecting his spinal cord. To Lliam it became the brightest of times not the darkest. He began the road to transformation. He thought about the dentist and the anesthesia. He wondered why meningitis, why me, why such a complete devastation of a man's body in one hour?
Lliam, lying down in the bed, began verbalizing not quite clearly but in an understandable voice. Listeria was what did him in. I listen carefully, for listeria was a foreign word to me. He explains. I listen. Our chat lasted no more than 15 minutes since both he and I were really focused on our own recovery, which required as much rest as possible. I was on my third day of water fasting and Lliam was on his fifth day. We finished our conversation, and I returned to my room, opened up the Food Revolution by John Robbins. The first headline, the very first word of the page that I opened to was "listeria." Was it an accident? Maybe, maybe not. It stated, "Listeria is another of the food-borne pathogens not to be taken lightly. Ninety-two percent of people who become infected require hospitalization and 20% die."
I stopped momentarily trying to recall Lliam's theory about how he contracted meningitis. "The anesthesia shot somehow it awakened the listeria pathogen, which was lying dormant in my digestive tract. It then proceeded to enter the bloodstream and caused my brain damage." Just a theory, but Lliam was in the hospital for one and a half years, lying prone with no movement and no speech. There was no other option but to look deep within his soul for answers about why me, why here, and what will tomorrow bring?
The answers came soon enough during his stay at the hospital in which he had no movement until that one day. While lying prone and unable to make any audible words other than groans and moans, Lliam discovered nirvana, the highest of all possibilities. It was the possibility of complete healing. On that fateful day Lliam's hand slowly inclined forward to his nose. That was hugely significant. There was feeling and movement there that he hadn't experienced for a long time. At that moment, he knew that everything in due time would be OK.
Lliam told the doctor about his theory when his speech got somewhat better, but no one really listened since it was just too hard to fathom. Listeria, according to the Food Revolution, "thrives on the inside walls of refrigerators where it can grow from just a few cells to millions in a matter of weeks," and can cause meningitis. I close my eyes and wonder if I am in harm's way. Are my children, is my wife? We delve into what food creates this deadly pathogen. The Center for Science in the Public Interest "advises the public to avoid the food most likely to carry it - soft cheese, rare meat and poultry, foods containing raw eggs, raw shellfish, ready to eat hot dogs and lunch meats (unless heated to steaming) and unpasteurized juices."
Looking at the list, looking at the implications, my first question would be way aren't more people contracting this deadly disease? The second would be why isn't somebody or some group voicing serious concerns? Well, they are. In the year 2000 the following public interest groups voiced their concern: The Center for Science in the Public Interest Safe Tables our Priority, The American Public Health Association, The Consumer Federation of America, etc. They all called for regulation in the meat industry that would require warning labels on all hot dogs and all deli meat stating that they may be contaminated with listeria. They also called for mandatory testing of these products to see if indeed they were infected. The American Meat Industry refused to submit to both requests. A Mean Institute spokeswoman stated, "We don't agree with end-product testing as a way of measuring food safety." The American Meat Institute also pledged their resolute opposition for having any such warning labels on their product.
Where does that leave the American public? If there is no warning there is no fear. There is only ignorance. There is a belief that prevails in the American society that the food they eat is of high quality. They believe that no harm can be done to them by their indulgence. According to Alternative Medicine, written by 380 leading physicians, "Bacteria resistance to antibiotics is a rapidly emerging problem with potentially disastrous consequences." According to Leo Galland, M.D., "It is no accident that the most allergic generation in history has been raised on antibiotics." According to Carol Jessop, M.A., Clinical Professor at the University of California, "80% of (her) patients who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome had a history of recurrent antibiotic treatment as a child, adolescent or adult."
So we think about Lliam, his on going bout with meningitis, his treatment, and his lack of any physical advance in almost a year and a half of treatment. We think about reported cases of meningitis among children, among high school students, among college student, and among adults. We think about the medical community's reaction. What should we do? We think about the heightened sense of fright when someone comes down with meningitis. We think about the public statement of calming for this supposedly deadly and contagious disease. We hear about the use of antibiotics as a common form of treatment. We hear about the ideas about mass vaccinations to successfully contain this supposedly deadly disease. We don't hear the words of listeria, which is a known pathogen. We don't hear the words of what foods cause this pathogen - the soft cheese, the rare meats and poultry, the foods that contain raw eggs, raw shellfish, or the ready to eat hot dogs and lunch meat that haven't been properly heated. The American Meat Institute has squashed that possibility. When a person comes down with viral or bacterial meningitis the medical community blames some obscure virus or bacteria that miraculously appears in our bodies.
These are the words Lliam heard for years. These are the words that were told to him while he was lying in bed for a year and a half. According to the medical experts, the only treatment available to him was antibiotics and bed rest, which is just what Lliam did for a year and a half without any real improvement. Lliam, knowing these results, took matters into his own hands and began his long journey to a sure recovery.
Lliam is on his 49th day of water fasting. He is lying in his bed at the Tanglewood Center where I am also staying. I am in my fifteenth day. The fact that I was able to understand him was a miracle. It was a miracle to him and a miracle to me. It was amazing that he had been able to enunciate his words let alone talk in sentences. Lliam is telling his story after leaving the hospital. He reflects on the saga of returning home, the saga of leaving home, the saga of a proud warrior being reduced to a bed ridden patient. There is no remorse. There is no regret. Lliam speaks of only hope, only of a bright future. He remembers the day-to-day struggles of barely being able to talk and barely being able to walk. Each step is a struggle. Each step is a victory. Each step is a closer step to total stardom. Lliam lived 7 years with small victories and slow enunciation. He learned to use weaknesses as his strengths. He supported himself by creating friends, by being himself, by saving money for all, and by investing in a network marketing saving for all telephone users. So Lliam speaks and I listen. He talks of hearing about raw food in May of 2001 in Ireland from the keynote speak Loren Lockman. The speech was so powerful, so true, so positively for Lliam that Lliam traveled again to hear Loren speak 2 months later. At this time Lliam makes the push for optimum health, optimum possibilities, and optimum self-testing. He is completing a 50-day water fast.
So Lliam, ex-foreign legion, ex-special forces, ex-diver, ex-patient, lied dormant for one and a half years and then spent another 6 years in a semi-invalid state as seen by him, not me. He comes to American from Ireland on crutches. Every movement was a victory won by sheer determination to so called make good in a world that played a cruel trick on him. It was on this premise that I was awe struck. It was not by his sentences of slow eloquence, not by his presence of peace in a body that was no more than 125 pounds in a 6'3" frame, but of his hope. Lliam talked about his feelings, his future, his past, and his warnings of things he learned, things he saw. It was a story not so much about him but about the possibilities. Lliam spoke about the future after fasting 50 days, after feeding for 3 weeks to gain his strength back. By the way, he should gain 20 pounds of the 40 he lost. Lliam spoke of returning to school, studying philosophy for the next three years, supporting himself by selling telephone network marketing, and then beginning to study Natural Hygiene to help people like himself who want to help themselves to become better people.
So I look at Lliam. I look at his presence, his calmness, and his peace, and somehow know that all things are possible.
I thank you for your time.
Food Revolution by John Robbins
Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Loren Lockman, Director of Tanglewood Wellness Center
Lliam Cullinane (www.lliamcullinane.com)
Stay tuned for articles on meningitis and breast cancer and leukemia
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