Stepping Stones

by Carol Hansen

The Surgery

(Presented at the Health Medicine Symposium, May 1997)


The date was July 10, 1995. I had just left an appointment with my naturopathic doctor, Ellen Potthoff. Ellen had been working with me for a couple of weeks and had seen my health continue to deteriorate despite the homeopathic remedies she had prescribed. She told me that I needed to see a medical doctor 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 he was open to "alternative" approaches.

I called Dr. Saputo's office late that morning and was told by his nurse 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. 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 that I could not afford to be hospitalized. Dr. Saputo 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, but I needed to go to the hospital NOW -- THIS MINUTE! He instructed Victor to drive me across the street to John Muir Hospital and to park where the ambulances park. He had arranged for someone to meet me at the door 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 John Muir Hospital that afternoon and spent about an hour talking with cardiologist, Dr. Chris Wulff. He 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 the staff worked throughout the night suctioning my lungs. 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--I wasn't responding to typical tests. 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 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 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 whispered in my ear, 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 reached a point of surrender. "Thy Will Be Done" 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. My journey back became, as Dr. Wulff later told me, the "buzz" of John Muir Hospital. It took about 5 days for me to fully regain consciousness.

I remember an incident one night as I was becoming more aware of my surroundings. One of my nurses, a tall, thin, black man from South Africa, 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 in a soft, melodic, comforting voice. At one point, he came to the foot of my bed and as he held gently, but firmly, onto both my feet he asked in a voice that was almost song-like, "Mrs. Hansen, 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 held my feet a little more firmly as he continued. "I saw you leave your body, and...". He paused for a moment before he continued very 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 never forget the look in his eyes or the tone of his voice has he delivered this message. Giving my feet a slight tug, he released his hold and my body was filled with a tingling energy.  I now realize that he was probably grounding me and pulling me fully back into my body. 

After that point, each day I improved 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:

This combination of traditional Western medicine and complimentary medicine helped to save my life. Neither approach alone could have done it. I like to share this story because I feel it illustrates the power of an integrated approach to medicine as well as the magic of Lighten Up. I am well aware that I would not be alive today without all these blessings.