A Personal Story from Luis Rolando Durán Vargas (Part 1)
“You have ten discs compromised in your spine; you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other degenerative diseases… actually, you are not able to walk normally and neural pain doesn’t let you to sleep more than three hours. You are about to lose your right foot’s functionality, and in the same leg you don’t have any reflexes or strength. Your lumbar spine requires an urgent and intensive intervention… we should remove three discs and perform a fusion with titanium.”
A devastating diagnosis
Six specialists consulted agree in the general diagnosis with few differences in terms of details. For more than one month I wake up at night with intolerable pain and my capacity of movement is completely reduced. For a person whose work involves traveling the world, visiting remote communities in different countries, and spending long hours in front of a computer, both diagnosis and solution was devastating. It almost implied abandoning the way of life in which I had invested my energy and passion, a lifestyle that allows me to work accordingly with my beliefs: for over thirty years I have dedicated myself to actions in disaster risk reduction, humanitarian assistance, and to the strengthening of human and technical capacities in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.
Let’s do Tai Chi
My wife, a woman of strength and firmness of mind, most affected by the situation, but with a passionate heart, reiterated her support and solidarity to me, in what it was necessary to undertake. More over, she also made a proposal that was to utterly change the course of events: let’s do Tai Chi – she told me – I have seen many impressive testimonies of its power for healing. Not only did I accept the challenge, but also I decided to do it with conviction, putting apart all reticence and scepticism. When I came to the Costa Rican branch of the Taoist Tai Chi Society for the first time, I did it dragging my legs, physically and spiritually supported on my wife shoulders. The instructor, Peter Turner, explained to me his own journey, that kept him out of a wheelchair, and also how Tai Chi could be the solution to my problem.
A millimeter of difference..
I started a working process specifically to address my spine condition. During weeks, in sessions that seemed eternal, I dedicate myself in doing a single movement – the dan yu – using a bar in the wall and a chair. With almost no mobility in my leg, my right foot enfolded like a cocoon and frequent neural pain, the healthy parts of my body started to inform the weakened ones how to move. Working together every two or three days, or more if necessary, the instructor supported me to correct the position and to strengthen the spirit. I discovered how a millimeter of difference in alignment could generate such a difference in revitalising force and balance.
Energy & Hope
In a short period I could feel the balance arriving, and how tedium, pain and desperation changed into surprise and joy. In two months I was able to walk again, I could sleep and rest, and energy and hope replenished my life. In four months of consistent diligent daily practice, and a glimpse of a wisdom of millennia, the situation change completely. With some bewilderment, doctors concluded that surgical intervention was no more necessary, and that I was able to go ahead with my life. Without analgesics, anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy or injections…
At this stage, the trial by fire was to resume my normal activities. In November 2011, four months after the starting of my Tai Chi journey, I travelled to Africa where I spent one entire week teaching to a group of young professionals of four different countries, in aspects of local development, risk reduction and disaster preparedness and response. Some weeks after that, a MRI confirmed what was observed: the conclusion was that from the three original lumbar discs compromised only one was still slightly affecting the nerve. During my last visit to the hospital I have been discharged and the doctor has confirmed that I am in a very good condition, with symmetrical strength and reflexes in both legs.
Nowadays, Taoist Tai Chi is an element of my life, not something that I do when something hurts or when I remember.
The balance of the body, the round, light, quiet and powerful movements are in my heart and keep taking me by this path of health and happiness.
– Luis Rolando Durán Vargas, 2012.