Helen is one of the most courageous people I know. She does not allow
anything to stand in her path and she constantly Pacman's around any issues that
come up or meets them head on. Her progress over the years that I have known her
has been profound. Her determination to move forward and constantly improve
herself, always seeking different options and treatments, in many ways has been
her salvation. Through her process of recovery she has been visionary. She has
set her goals and consistently worked towards them.
This is an engaging and honest autobiographical account of Helen’s
whole life, to date. Her life, is filled with challenges and adventure, which
she embraces enthusiastically and bravely. The hardships which she endures at
different times in her life, she treats as opportunities to learn from and Helen
shares those opportunities with others.
The book is inspirational and confronting, as Helen deals with many
commonplace issues experienced by many people. Helen explains her movement
through the various stages of grief, using the analogy of ‘the phoenix rising’,
and as she enters the final stage of acceptance in her grief experience, Helen
presents, as ‘a rare bird’ indeed.
BA, BipEd, Grad Couns, MPhil, PhD Candidate,
specialising in the area of trauma and memory.
Nerida has been working in the area of neuroscience for the past 9 years and has been in private clinical practice as a Psychologist since 1994. She is past president and Fellow of The Applied Neuroscience Society of Australasia. She is a Fellow of the Australian Association of Psychologists.
To the Reader
I realise that to read through this book may be a slow and somewhat arduous task, but that represents the incredibly confusing state of my brain injured mind! Life WAS and IS exceptionally busy, complicated and confusing, as it is for most people! Some extraordinary things have happened to me and I would really like to share them with you, the reader.
If you got anything out of this, please help me out and tell all of your friends/acquaintances about The Phoenix Rising. I intend to use a large proportion (if not all) of proceeds from this self-published book for helping other compromised people (brain injured) who I know, to access some treatment at Solstice Mind Matters.
Helen Ross Lee
Glenn Wilson, from the Corryong district in Victoria, was one of the first people to encourage me to write my story. In 2013, when he first heard about my accident and journey towards recovery, he said he found the whole thing totally overwhelming and that my experiences would surely make a great book.
Sydney acupuncturist Daniel Deng was a big supporter of my video production as well as covering the costs for the self-publishing of this book. Solstice also, including both Nerida and Ross, were extremely supportive.
Journalist and writer Stephen Williams did a sterling job of editing my manuscript and steering me in the right direction – and I sometimes listened to him. Some sections were added by him and I greatly appreciate his assistance and contribution.
My husband Wayne Lee put up with a lot during the 7 years it took to research, write and edit the manuscript.
Finally, thanks also to the many other people who helped and encouraged me along the way, including some sections added by my editor who assisted me in the early drafts.
Firstly, this book is dedicated to the memory of
my late father, Warwick Ross.
Secondly, it is dedicated to all healers and especially to the many people who helped me on the journey to heal my mind and body.
In 2008, at the age of 46, I had two beautiful children, aged 8 and 10, and I worked as an accident and emergency nurse in a Gold Coast hospital in Queensland, Australia. I was divorced from my second husband after stupidly cheating on him but life was still good. I had been an Australian champion hang-glider pilot who had flown in many international competitions but I had been out of the sport for about 10 years raising my children.
I started to ease myself back into hang-gliding near where I lived on the Gold Coast and after a few months decided to enter a hang-gliding competition at Dalby, 200 kilometres inland from Brisbane, where pilots would be towed aloft by a small aircraft. Unfortunately, I lost control of my glider during launch and crashed. Unconscious, I was rushed to hospital. I had suffered an extremely severe traumatic brain injury, with effects similar to a bad stroke. My family and friends were told that, assuming I lived, I would be severely disabled for the rest of my life. I spent the next 11 months in a rehabilitation unit in a Brisbane hospital where I surprised everyone with my recovery.
Upon discharge from hospital, I redoubled my efforts to make as full a recovery as possible. This included trying some unorthodox treatments, with varying levels of improvement, as there was little that conventional medicine could do for stroke victims, apart from physiotherapy. I am still recovering. This is the story of my fight for survival – and dignity.
Science, including medical science, is what is published in peer-reviewed journals where the scientific community can read about and test experiments and data. This process is usually expensive and slow, especially with medicine, but it is the best – perhaps the only – way of moving closer to the truth of how the world objectively and empirically is. No doubt we are getting closer to understanding how the brain works and to what extent it can be repaired after injury, but it is the most complex thing in the universe and there is obviously a massive amount we do not know about it.
So if you have a brain injury and the orthodox medical community says it has done all it can for you, well, you might be tempted to try some unproven, unorthodox treatments if your recovery has not been all you’d like it to be. This is what I did in the hope that one or two unorthodox treatments might improve my condition. The alternative was to sit back, twiddle my thumbs in a wheelchair and wait for a scientific breakthrough – a breakthrough that may or may not happen.
My brain injury caused effects in me similar to a stroke where brain cells die due to an interruption of blood flow. Orthodox medicine says that once those brain cells are dead, they cannot be brought back to life and are gone forever. Your disability will depend on what function those brain cells performed and how many were affected. Even though those brain cells are now dead, the question then becomes to what extent other cells can make up the deficit or change in some way (brain plasticity) to give you some recovery.
I was highly motivated and hopeful in looking for therapies to assist in this recovery process and I didn’t care if they were unorthodox therapies – some people would call them quack therapies – as that is just my personality. I am not one to do extensive research before I spend my money: I would rather just jump in and see what happens. Moreover, as a result of my brain injury, I was probably even more impulsive and credulous than I formerly was.
I am aware that some serious books have been published that claim alternative medicine is basically rubbish. Prominent books include Trick or Treatment (2008) by Simon Singh and Edward Ernst, and Suckers (2008) by Rose Shapiro. Such books, amongst other things, highlight the role that the placebo effect can play when a patient undertakes any treatment. The placebo effect is where a person feels better, even if you give them a useless treatment, simply because they are receiving some treatment. Well-designed clinical trials screen for the placebo effect because it is both ubiquitous and powerful. I would argue that the placebo effect is better than nothing and I will happily take it. I leave it to others to research what is real and what is imagined.
I have at least one friend who advises me not to waste my money on unproven ‘quack’ treatments. He says I should wait and keep my powder dry for when a ‘proven’ treatment appears – perhaps stem-cell therapy or whatever – which no doubt would be expensive. Well, it is easy for him to tell me to wait. Wait and do what? Watch TV all day? Keep pissing my pants because I am incontinent? Keep talking in halting speech like a retard? Put up with my spastic limbs? Wait, he says. I say unless you have been in my shoes, do not be so quick to judge.
Also, the line between quack treatments and scientific treatments can occasionally shift, or at least blur. An unimpeachable medical opinion from 2013 pours scorn on a drug called etanercept as a treatment for stroke and Alzheimer’s. In 2015, Griffith University in Queensland, is beginning a trial on a drug called etanercept, as a treatment for various symptoms, which may include some of the symptoms which have been bothering me. (I volunteered to be a part of this trial). Of course it has since been proven to be ineffective in completely resolving stroke-like symptoms, but there was obviously some prima facie evidence to suggest it might be effective, to some degree.
I realise that popular books promoting certain unorthodox medical treatments and written for a general audience by someone with a vested interest are not scientific books and must be taken with a grain of salt. I am not qualified to endorse or condemn any unorthodox medical treatment – I can only say what my own experiences were in the hope they might be useful to someone else.
Some other books have been published, claiming to have reviewed scientific data to prove that there is no God. Atheists will clutch at straws. However, I can also provide references to published scientific books claiming to provide indisputable evidence as to the existence of God Almighty.
I have changed the names of about half of the 70-odd people who I have referred to in this book. This is to protect their privacy. I have received permission from all the others to use their real names.
Gold Coast, Queensland
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