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The Surgery

The date was July 10, 1995. I had an appointment with my naturopathic doctor, Ellen Potthoff, who had been working with me for a several weeks and had seen my health continue to deteriorate despite the homeopathic remedies she had prescribed. I was so weak I could no longer climb stairs or walk more than a few steps without sitting down to catch my breath. I had to sleep sitting up because I would start coughing and could not breathe lying down. She told me that I needed to see a M.D. to determine what was going on. Knowing my desire to utilize "natural" healing methods, she intuitively suggested that I make an appointment with Dr. Leonard Saputo, an internist in Walnut Creek, CA. She did not know him personally but said she had heard that he was open to "alternative" approaches to medicine.
I called Dr. Saputo's office that morning and was told by his office manager, Willie, that he was booked that day--in fact, he was overbooked that day. "But," she said, "I have a feeling that you need to see Dr. Saputo right away. If you will be here at 1:15, I will squeeze you in."

I arrived with Victor for my 1:15 appointment. After his examination, Dr. Saputo informed me that I was in congestive heart failure and that I needed to be hospitalized immediately to determine what was causing it. I objected saying that I could not afford to be hospitalized as I didn't have any insurance. He told me firmly that I could not afford NOT to be hospitalized. He told me not to worry about the logistics, that he would take care of it all for me, but I needed to go to the hospital NOW -- THIS MINUTE!

He instructed Victor to drive me across the street to the hospital and to park where the ambulances park. He said that someone would meet me at the emergency room entrance with a wheelchair. I later found out that often congestive heart failure is treated at home with medication and that Dr. Saputo was acting on his "intuition" that I needed to be hospitalized immediately.

I was admitted to the hospital that afternoon. The cardiologist told Victor that they would be keeping me overnight for tests and that he could go home. That night my condition deteriorated dramatically. I began to have great difficulty breathing and I was put on life-support. Had Dr. Saputo sent me home, I certainly would have died that night.

Doctors were baffled as to what was causing my congestive heart failure as I wasn't responding to typical treatments. One of the cardiologists on staff that evening had an intuition that I may have a rare tumor he had read about in medical journals but had never actually seen--a tumor called a myxoma located inside the heart. They performed an echo cardiogram and were shocked to see a tumor the size of a tennis ball located inside the left atrium of my heart. I was failing fast and they knew I needed surgery immediately. Arrangements were hurriedly made and as I was being wheeled into the operating room my heart stopped. The team of heart surgeons and cardiologists worked diligently to save my life. They put me on life support and successfully removed the tumor in a three and a half hour operation.

I was then faced with another life threatening challenge. My pulmonary arteries began to spasm and my blood pressure dropped to 50 over 30. Victor and my daughter Kris were finally informed that there was little hope that I would survive. It had been 8 hours since the operation and despite the best efforts of the staff, they had been unable to raise my blood pressure. They were certain they were losing me.

Victor, a certified hypnotherapist, asked if he could be with me. For the next two hours he used his hypnotherapy training -- whispering in my ear and explaining to my body what it needed to do to stay alive. He talked to my heart and talked to my arteries. Even though I had not regained consciousness, he trusted that some part of me could hear him.

After two hours, he took a break and returned to the waiting room where he went into a meditation. During that mediation he prayed saying, "My will is that she stay" and then reaching a point of surrender as "Thy Will Be Done, my will and Thy Will are one" resounded in his heart. At that moment of surrender, a nurse hurried into the waiting room to find him. "Her blood pressure is coming up," she said. By the time they made it back to my room, my blood pressure had returned to normal—120 over 80. It took about five days for me to fully regain consciousness and 14 days before I was released from the hospital. My journey back became, as my cardiologist later told me, "the buzz of the hospital. "

I remember an incident one night as I was becoming more aware of my surroundings. One of my nurses, a tall, thin, South African man, was ministering to me. I remember being very cold and uncomfortable. He covered me with heated blankets, helped adjust me in my bed, rubbed my back, all the while speaking to me softly and comforting me. At one point, he came to the foot of my bed and holding gently onto my feet he asked in his song-like accent, "Carol, do you believe in miracles?"

"Yes, I do," I replied.

"Well, I want you to know that when you came out of surgery, there was not one person on this floor who thought you had any chance of surviving."

He paused and holding my feet a little more firmly he continued. "I saw you leave your body, and," he said intently, "I saw angels bringing you back. I am here to tell you that you are a miracle and you need to always remember it."

I will always remember the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice as he delivered this message giving my feet a final tug as if pulling me fully back into my body. From that point on, I improved each day at such a rapid rate that it was being called a miracle by the hospital staff. One of the doctors told me that in all his years of practice he had never seen anyone undergo what I had undergone and recover so rapidly. "It must be your positive attitude," he said.

I know that it was a combination of many factors:

  • Dr. Ellen Potthoff's intuitive referral to Dr. Len Saputo

  • The willingness of Dr. Saputo's office manager to follow her intuition and "squeeze" me in that day

  • The willingness of Dr. Saputo to follow his intuition and insist that I be hospitalized

  • The cardiologist's intuition of the presence of the tumor

  • The skill of the surgeons, cardiologists and hospital staff

  • Victor's love and skillful use of hypnotherapy and his willingness to surrender to a Higher Power

  • The prayers of hundreds of people participating in a prayer tree that had been set up

  • Energy work performed by Reiki practitioners who visited me in the hospital after the surgery, and

  • The fact that I had been doing "Lighten Up" for over three years prior to the surgery which had enabled me to love myself unconditionally by aligning my body, mind and spirit.

This combination of traditional Western medicine and intuitive complimentary medicine all contributed to saving my life. Neither approach alone could have done it. The story illustrates the power of an integrated approach to medicine that treats the body, mind and spirit. I am well aware that I would not be alive today without all these blessings... and I count each day I am still on the planet as a gift to be honored and treasured!

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