Meet the woman who thought her­self well

Af­ter be­ing told she would never walk again, JENNI HAL­LAM ex­plains how pos­i­tive think­ing got her back on her feet

Daily Express - - YOUR HEALTH -

WHEN Jenni Hal­lam was di­ag­nosed with a rare bac­te­rial in­fec­tion in her spine, she was told she would never walk again. Yet although the odds were stacked against her she was de­ter­mined to get back on her feet.

A year later, not only could she walk un­aided but she was train­ing in the gym sev­eral times a week thanks to the power of pos­i­tive think­ing.

“I be­lieve that if you re­ally want to do some­thing and be­lieve that you can, then al­most any­thing is pos­si­ble,” says Jenni, 62, a per­sonal de­vel­op­ment coach from Beck­en­ham, in Kent.

“It’s the same think­ing that drives ath­letes and Par­a­lympians and I used it to think my­self bet­ter.”

Jenni’s ill-health be­gan when she de­vel­oped vi­ral menin­gi­tis in her mid-40s. “The day I fell ill was an or­di­nary Satur­day. I went to an ex­er­cise class in the morn­ing and then met my fam­ily for lunch.

“We were sit­ting around a restau­rant table or­der­ing food and sud­denly I couldn’t see prop­erly. I couldn’t read the words on the menu. There was an in­cred­i­ble pain in my neck and at first I thought I’d hurt my neck in the ex­er­cise class that morn­ing.”

How­ever, it soon be­came clear some­thing was se­ri­ously wrong.

‘The pain was so bad I couldn’t hold my head up’

“I was try­ing to act nor­mally and play with my son, who was four at the time.

“Yet the pain was so bad that I couldn’t hold my head up and I had to put it on the table.”

Jenni went to hospi­tal where she was di­ag­nosed with sus­pected vi­ral menin­gi­tis. To con­firm the di­ag­no­sis, doc­tors did a lum­bar punc­ture.

The pro­ce­dure in­volves in­sert­ing a hol­low nee­dle be­tween the bones of the spine so the fluid can be tested for in­fec­tion.

The di­ag­no­sis was con­firmed and Jenni was given an­tivi­ral drugs. Over the next few weeks she re­cov­ered and was dis­charged from hospi­tal.

Yet over the fol­low­ing six months she be­gan to have an un­ex­plained pain in her lower back.

“Ini­tially I was told it was sci­at­ica but within six months I was com­pletely crip­pled.

“I couldn’t move or get out of bed be­cause the pain was so se­vere.

“I couldn’t work and at my worst I couldn’t even lift my head,” says Jenni. Af­ter six months of pain, she was sent to hospi­tal but was im­mo­bile and had to be lifted out of her house by the fire bri­gade.

“The paramedics couldn’t get the stretcher over the ban­is­ters in my house so they had to call the fire bri­gade to lift me out,” she ex­plains.

When she ar­rived at hospi­tal, doc­tors dis­cov­ered she had a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion in her spine, a rare com­pli­ca­tion of un­der­go­ing a lum­bar punc­ture.

Be­cause the in­fec­tion had gone unchecked for so long, it was slowly trav­el­ling up her spine and caus­ing ir­repara­ble dam­age.

“It was agony,” says Jenni, who was given in­tra­venous drugs to fight the in­fec­tion and ex­tremely strong pain killers. Yet, although the in­fec­tion was suc­cess­fully treated by the an­tibi­otics, one of the discs in Jenni’s back was left per­ma­nently dam­aged.

Doc­tors rec­om­mended surgery us­ing metal plates to fuse her spine back to­gether.

How­ever, they warned that it was un­likely she’d ever walk again. Jenni was dev­as­tated.

“I’ve al­ways been very into fit­ness and I couldn’t imag­ine my life with­out be­ing able to dance and run and jump,” she says.

“Although the odds were against me, I was cer­tain I was go­ing to get bet­ter and get back in the gym.”

So against doc­tors’ ad­vice, Jenni re­fused to have the surgery, in­stead turn­ing to self-help books, seek­ing al­ter­na­tive ways to get bet­ter.

In one of the books she chanced upon some­thing that would change her life.

“I read ev­ery self-help book I could find and started to im­merse my­self in neuro-lin­guis­tic pro­gram­ming (NLP).”

NLP is a school of psy­chol­ogy which as­serts that peo­ple’s be­liefs about them­selves and the world are set in their minds at the same age they learn lan­guage.

These be­liefs ex­ist in the sub­con­scious part of the brain and af­fect the way peo­ple act ev­ery day.

Yet by us­ing spe­cial tech­niques, these core be­liefs can be changed, al­low­ing peo­ple to do things they never thought were pos­si­ble.

“It’s like dis­con­nect­ing a piece of learn­ing and re­plac­ing it with some­thing else,” says Jenni.

“So if I had be­lieved I was never go­ing to walk again, I’m sure I neve would have got there be­cause I would have be­haved dif­fer­ently.”

Jenni used vi­su­al­i­sa­tion tech­niqu to imag­ine what she wanted her life to be like when she re­cov­ered an used that vi­sion as mo­ti­va­tion to get bet­ter.

She fo­cused on the vi­sion ev­ery day and over the next few weeks be­gan to make a mirac­u­lous re­cov­ery.

Although doc­tors said Jenni would never walk again, she was de­ter­mined to take a few steps us­ing crutches.

“It was in­cred­i­bly painful but I w de­ter­mined to do it,” she says.

“I was in a ward with lots of older peo­ple and they all cheered when I got up and took a few steps.”

Over the next three months, Jenn stayed in hospi­tal and un­der­went a course of gru­elling phys­io­ther­apy to teach her to walk again.

“I de­fied med­i­cal opin­ion. My spin fused back to­gether and I learnt to walk again with crutches much more quickly than I was ex­pected to,” says Jenni.

Af­ter three months in hospi­tal,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.