Meet Shiitake, he is a beautiful black lab assistance dog. Shiitake’s job is to alert his owner before she collapses. This beautiful young woman who looks like the picture of health actually has serious vagal tone health issues. Her doctors have been treating her heart, nervous system ailments, blood pressure, and a myriad of other big health problems with several very serious drugs one might only see an older person taking.
When speaking with her on the phone she mentioned that she collapses many times a day and has done so for quite some time. It is really terrible she cannot leave the house and is mostly bed ridden. In the past few months she has graduated from collapsing while being aware of her surroundings to collapsing and losing ability to speak coherently or even be cognizant of her surroundings, and worse yet, now arches all the way back as her husband says, “like a banana.” Yet, no diagnosis of seizures as you might be wondering. Everything she has stumped all of her specialists.
Of course, now it gets me honing in on her vagal tone and it seriously not functioning well. It seems to me that she is following the perfect picture of everything her vagus nerve is in charge of, is out of whack for some reason. Could it be trauma, injury, or simply a viral infection that settled on the nerve. I am thinking, and please forgive me being for being too far out for some readers, that a virus settled on this very long, wandering nerve. So many places a virus can settle along.
All of my sessions with her are dealing with vagal tone for her using Feldenkrais, Functional Integration® lessons and Awareness Through Movement® that I specifically designed for her. In the past several years I have created a program called, “The Gut-Brain Connection,” that uses Feldenkrais lessons to help the organs in the belly to better connect to the nervous system all the way to the brain. And in her case it has been nothing less than amazing. Not, me, of course, but the idea of this and her being able to function better using this way of working.
We created a three day intensive, all three days in a row. The first day, she felt great, and no episodes that day or nite. But, as one might expect, she was very tired and slept for hours and still felt exhausted upon waking. Her nervous system working to re-organize
The second lesson she felt even better, social, and very happy. She is learning to listen to her body’s cues. She normally is not very hungry. On this night she was starving and ate a large salad and a little bit of ice cream for dessert. This was the most food she ate in ages. Two hours later, did not feel well and had a small episode of collapsing in the kitchen, dog along her side making sure she was ok. When she told me about it today it was clear her vagal nerve got too much information from the expansion of her actual stomach where it so richly innervates, and therefore creating a “fritz” of sorts.
Today was her third lesson. May I say, that secretly I was hoping just a little that I might be privy to a small episode to see if we could intervene using Feldenkrais hands, touch and movement. Please forgive me here, but in this case it would help me know more if we could help her at home when this happens. The lesson went great, she felt great, and she slowly rolled to her side and sat up as she has done the previous two days.
This picture above looks so sweet, doesn’t it? Well, this was her Medical Alert Dog staring deeply into her eyes trying to let her know she was NOT ok. See how his eyes are open so wide and not letting go of his eye contact with his owner? Then, his real tell truth, was his yelp of alert! She knew she was about to collapse yet, did not feel anything.
We slowly laid her down on my padded table. Her husband did his thing of asking her if it’s happening yet, does she feel this and that. The dog, still whimpering and staring at her. She did not feel a thing, yet, I could see her face go grey, and her left eye start to twitch and squint and sizably change shape as did the whole expression and musculature of the left side of her face, lips and mouth. Her voice became high pitched and very tiny and fading away. It was clear she was headed in for something neurologically big.
I put my hands on her belly and felt most of her digestive organs literally stop their motility and her pancreas felt seriously pulled up toward under her left ribs. Her mesentery tissue in her belly had absolutely no felt-motility. I supported both organs together and gave her a “Gut-Brain” Functional Integration lesson. It’s what I have been teaching for a few years. Within three or four minutes her organs were full of motility and functioning back online again. Her face color came back, her eye stopped the twitch and her left side of her face looked as similar in shape to her right side. And all of her speech was as clear as she was when she came in. She smiled, breathed easily and fully rosy beautiful.
She slowly rolled to her side, happily sat up, giggled a few times and then stood up on two very strong potent legs fully supported, happily so.
Her husband in surprise just asked, “WHAT did you do??” “How did you do that?!” Now, THAT will be the trick to be able to teach him how to do what I do. Better, that I keep teaching her what she can do for herself. Yes, very good idea.
Thank you Moshe Feldenkrais for teaching us to make what seems impossible, possible.