Joy gasped for breath through a persistent cough. When the cough did not go away she visited her naturopathic doctor. She was advised to get chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. Her doctor called her immediately on seeing the x-ray, “You have a collapsed lung. Go straight to ER.”
Asked not to drive and go with the expectation of spending at least the night in the hospital, she struggled to comprehend what was going on as she entered the ER and waited. For more than 10 years Joy had been practicing yoga and ate only healthy vegetarian food. “This should not be happening to me, I am not a smoker!” She thought.
Soon she was admitted to the hospital and a chest tube was inserted. The attending doctor, a surgeon, confirmed that her lung had collapsed and had been for at least two and a half months. There was a jelly covering it and her trachea had shifted. Next day the doctor informed her that a “black spot” was discovered on her lung.
The doctors were surprised and impressed. “No one walks around with a collapsed lung for two months. You sure know how to breathe!”
She was given three choices: 1. Go home with a mini chest tube, 2. Go home, take some time, and return to have chest tube reinserted, or 3. Have surgery to remove the jelly and hope lung inflates.
She opted for surgery, which was scheduled immediately.
The day following surgery the doctor visiting her informed her, “You have Valley Fever. You have had it for some time. It invades your immune system, but your knowing how to breathe has prevented you from facing an unbelievably life-threatening illness. Valley Fever can kill.”
Her body swelled up like a balloon. Soon she had medical staff visit her just to view her body and touch her skin to hear it snap, crackle, and pop like Rice Kipsies.
Days passed but nothing changed. More tests and X-rays, but nothing changed. One nurse visited her during her breaks and offered chanting and guided imagery.
Slowly Joy began to internally give up and let go. Her partner noticed this and in desperation reached out to a healer he knew. A healing ceremony was scheduled but Joy knew nothing about this.
On the day of the ceremony her room filled with people and flowers. The high priestess leaned into her space and whispered, “Is there anything you want to say, some thing or someone with whom you want to make amends? Anything you wish you had accomplished or completed in this life?”
“No,” Joy responded. “If I were meant to finish my book or dissertation I would have.”
Then she asked, “If you live, what do you want?”
“I want to go to Italy to eat and drink as much as I want.”
Then as Joy sat up in the center of her bed, surrounded by all these people, the high priestess asked everybody to chant, meditate, and pray for her, to mentally assist her in her breathing.
Silence embraced the room. When the meditation was over, one by one everybody left and she was again alone. She felt uplifted.
Next morning another chest x-ray was taken and soon the doctor rushed in and said, “You are going home, your lung is re-inflated enough to remove this tube.”
Unable to believe what she was hearing, Joy was speechless. “Was it a miracle? Did I die? Was I going to breathe without a device” She wondered.
In October 2006, many years after her discharge from hospital, a pulmonary specialist finally discharged her from treatment. He said, “Go and live! Go to Italy, fly a plane, do inversions, handstands, regain your life. You have endured the most serious Valley Fever trauma.”
It’s been almost 13 years since her lung collapsed. Joy has continued to teach and practice yoga, emphasizing breath. She believes that it was her training in breathing that was instrumental in her recovery. She is also grateful to her doctors and hospital staff for their skill in treating her. In addition she credits the high priestess and all the people who prayed for her in playing a vital role in her recovery.
Credit: This has been written based on a full account written by Joy here. Joy (Kathryn) Lanzerotte is a licensed counseling psychologist and a former university professor. She is also a yoga teacher for over 2 decades. You can find Joy on Facebook here.
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