Many years ago I had a young patient named Jerry. Jerry was about 22, in great physical health, and just a lovely guy. One afternoon, after I hadn’t seen him in awhile, Jerry came into the office with a black eye and stitches up one side of his face like someone had taken a big bite out of his cheek. He was limping. I gasped at the sight of him. I asked him what had transpired.
He relayed a story of a trip to India gone horribly wrong. He started the story by saying that his dad had purchased this trip as a graduation present. They went to spend some father-son bonding time together and were having a tremendous time. One day they decided to take bikes out of the local village to see some of the incredible vistas the area had to offer. They hired a guide and took off with about eight other tourists. He reported that the day started out fine but the guide kept them out late and it started to get dark. They had helmets with lights on them but it was no match for the ensuing darkness of the hilly trails they were navigating. Jerry said he was in the lead behind the guide and he did not see the guide veer left. He stayed peddling straight. Straight off the edge of a cliff.
When you fall, are you ready?
Now imagine sitting in a lobby full of people at your chiropractor’s office while young Jerry tells his tale. You could have heard a pin drop. Nobody moved a muscle. He continued.
He said all he felt was the pressure of wind rushing past him. The bike had long separated from his body. He noted that in this moment, as he catapulted through the descending feet of cliff-face, he actually had a second to think.
Grab something. Grab anything.
He twisted, and he grabbed. First nothing. Loose gravel broke off between his fingers as he continued down the cliff wall. His fingers were in shreds.
A lone branch. Big enough to hold his rapidly accelerating 195 pounds. He grabbed it and held on. Everything fell silent as the gravel and dirt he disrupted finished bouncing off the cliff wall and hitting the ground hundreds of feet below.
Jerry’s breathing was so fierce he was afraid he was going to “gasp” himself right off the only hold he had on life. He centered himself and slowed his breathing. He remembered the yoga classes he had been taking and tried to focus on one thing. He matched his breath to a count of four in and eight out. Slowly his heart rate returned to the atmosphere.
After several minutes of silence, he heard something. His name? Yelling was coming from far above him. He would have to wriggle to be able to tilt his head up to yell back. He found a small foot-hold and with that and the security of the branch he moved just enough to yell back. They heard him.
The rescue team took hours. If they could have observed his position in daylight, the team would never have attempted a rescue. But somehow, four medical people, two professional climbers, and his dad got Jerry out of his unfortunate predicament.
I looked around the lobby. Flies could have found ample housing in all of those gaping mouths, including mine. Jerry talked about miracles and a new lease on his young life. I get that, I do. But something else struck me.
When the fall came, Jerry was ready. Jerry was prepared.
Let me ask you this question. Had you fallen off a cliff at 30mph what would your survival likelihood have been? Are you ready?
Jerry was very fit, in tune with his body and reflexes, flexible and grounded in the principles of yoga. ALL of this effectively saved his life when faced with a physically catastrophic event.
What about you?
Now it may not be flying off a cliff in India in the middle of the night, but could it be an unexpected car accident? Could it be an illness that creeps up requiring all of your human might to navigate? Could it be a sprint through the airport to catch a flight to your son’s wedding? Think about it. Can you pull someone from the waves, or will you stand on the beach wishing you had the strength to help?
When you fall, because it will happen, are you ready?
This week think about your responsibility to be healthy. Is it important that you don’t put your life partner or children in the position of having to care for you because you didn’t care for yourself? What does being fit mean for your “life experience” now and later? Do you see this concept of “fit for the unexpected in life” as a motivator or deterrent to taking those extra steps toward being healthy?
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