MY BODYWORK EVOLVED OVER 25 YEARS WORKING AS A NURSE...  I am a Care-giver, born and raised.  I Care...  That is just my nature.  Out of my own selfish need to care for others, I have been transformed again and again by this Spiritual Path commonly called: Nursing. 

From my personal experiences caring for thousands of patients and their families I have been granted these amazing privileges:  To witness countless acts of human compassion...  To see so many of my fellow Caregivers commit astounding acts of selflessness and sacrifice...  To work beside heroes in the most impossible of situations -- in the face of terrible pain, overwhelming fear, catastrophic injury, hopelessness, despair, anger, deep suffering, shock, and death...  As a result of my Nursing experiences I have been left in a permanent state of awe by the strength, dignity, and courage I have witnessed in the Human Heart!  I have constantly benefited by being humbled and inspired by those in my care.  And though my original intention for becoming a nurse remains unchanged, my nursing career has changed again and again and again as I encountered metamorphosis after metamorphosis.  And I have unfolded in ways I never dared to dream of...

Throughout my 25 year career as an "Alternative Healthcare Specialist"- I have been driven by this simple belief: People need Non-Drug & Non-Surgical alternatives for Pain Relief! 

It shocked me in my first year of med-surg nursing to realize just how many people were submitting to surgery as their FIRST line of treatment for pain!  An MRI image showed something mechanically suspicious and so, surgery was the only treatment offered... "Why did you need this surgery?" I would ask my patients and they would say: "Because I was having pain." And then me again - incredulous: "Didn't you try some massage therapy and stretching first?"  They would say: "No.  The Doc said I needed surgery. The drugs weren't working for me anymore.  This was my only option."  I was stunned... But then, I come from a different background: California.  My dad had been a gymnast while in college at UC Berkeley.  Every gymnast knows how to treat muscle strains and sprains! It is a must!  They are injured so very very often!  So I learned massage as a child... I would get injured... My dad would fix it... Sprains?  Dad would ice it and Ace wrap it. Muscle cramps?  Dad would take a few minutes to massage the entrenched spasm and release it... I learned my massage skills naturally over the years - right along with riding my bike, mowing the lawn, cleaning my room, making an omelet. I learned how to do it from being injured... When I graduated from nursing school - I thought EVERYBODY knew how to give and receive a massage! It's just like walking the dog or brushing your teeth before bed!  Massage is just what families do whenever somebody gets hurt!  Right? 

Well, it opened my eyes to see that was not so!  It opened my eyes in a huge way!  Right then and there.  Without realizing it, my career course was set!  I am a Natural Healing Advocate!  I believe People need an alternative to expensive & invasive Western Medicine... They definitely need Non-Drug Treatment for chronic Pain!  America's addiction to pharmaceutical pain-relievers like Hydrocodone & OxyContin and to black-market opioids like Heroin, is not just a scandal, but it is an international tragedy!  People are getting fabulously rich pushing this stuff on the public!  Drugs at best - are a temporary necessity. But Pain-Relieving Drugs only mask pain!  They do not eliminate Pain at the source.  And - they have so many dangerous side-effects!  Surgery should be THE LAST RESORT - when all the other viable options have been exhausted!  In fact, it is my professional opinion that it is "Drugs & Surgery" that should be labeled: "Alternative Medicine." If your chronic pain can be managed successfully without Western drugs?  Without Western surgery?  Then not only is that smarter!  That is: "Traditional Medicine." I advocate: Hands-on Pain-Relief as the first line of treatment.  I now have over 30,000 clinical hours in this Specialty.  I can tell you: It is not just smarter.  It IS Traditional Medicine!  

Hippocrates - the Greek Physician and celebrated father of Western Medicine famously said: "The good physician must be skilled in many arts.  But chief among them should be the Art of Rubbing."

Start with an educated muscle therapist if you are in pain.  Rule out the need for drugs!  Rule out the need for surgery!  If your pain can be eliminated in 30 minutes, and then maintained through regular monthly follow-ups - Without Drugs! - then for heaven sakes!  Whenever you start to get all Painy again - go back and do that again.  We need help!  More than drugs.  Think about it this way: Your hair does not untangle itself!  Why should your muscles relieve their own knots???  Next time you are in pain: Get some skilled bodywork.  Do that BEFORE you consult a surgeon.  Do that BEFORE you get charged for an expensive MRI!  

The first rule of Medicine is "Do No Harm."  So first - rule out the need for drugs to achieve pain relief.  Then open up the joints again and relax the soft-tissues and rule out the need for surgery.  Hippocrates also said: "Vigorous massage constricts and firms up the body... Gentle massage relaxes the body... Much massage thins and lightens the body... Moderate massage thickens the body, and increases the flesh."  This is not NEW AGE bunk!  This truly IS Traditional Medicine.  If you don't already know how to do it?  It is time to learn!

When I first began my nurse's training I never imagined I would create my own hospital-based alternative pain treatment program and that my clinical practice would consist of providing holistic manual therapy treatments of chronic pain sufferers.  I never dreamed I would leave the hospital and go into private practice at the tender age of 50.  In all honesty, on my first day in nurse clinical training I only hoped I might have what it takes to be a pretty good nurse.  I never counted on becoming a Neuro-Somatic Healer, a National Board Certified Holistic Nurse, a St. John Certified Neuromuscular Therapist, a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, a Certified Chi-Lel Medical Qigong Intructor, a Lomi Lomi Practitioner & Instructor, a Vibrational Healer, or Nationally Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. 

How "Caring for the Caregiver"  Began...

I became acutely aware of the special pressures, stresses and needs of Caregivers during my experiences as a home-health hospice nurse.  Going into people's homes, preparing patients and their families for death is tough work.  Hospice nursing forced me to encounter my deepest fears and caused me to reevaluate my core values and beliefs about death, dying, and the afterlife...  Working in hospice helped me clarify what I believe to be important in life and to discover many things I no longer believe to be that important at all.  Hospice helped me feel more alive, caused me to truly appreciate what I have, and ultimately, it helped me realize just how fortunate I am. 

The hospice nurse's suffering is nothing compared to what the family goes through!  Hospice nurses have a safety net.  We become "experts" on the dying process. 

This psychological safety net creates a professional barrier, an emotional "safe space" that helps us endure, detach, and distance ourselves from the dying process.  But being a Caregiver myself, I began to sympathize and experience true compassion for my fellow Caregivers in the family. 

Caring for an ailing loved one is difficult enough in any situation.  But assuming the role of Primary Caregiver to someone who is terminally ill - actually stepping up and volunteering to stay with it, deal with it, and manage it - day by day, week by week, month after month to the very end - is a monumental act of devotion.  It takes a truly special person, a committed person, and a very very strong person to see it through to the end.  I could not help but admire the tremendous courage it takes for someone to willingly choose that kind of caring. So, I began Caring for Caregivers.  I couldn't help it.  I felt such sympathy for them.  For what they were going through and for what they had still to endure... I could feel the harsh effects this kind of stress was having on ME.  I couldn't imagine what it was doing to these family Caregivers!  So, instinctively, I began to Care for the Caregivers... I learned that the same methods I had been trained in to provide comfort and relief to the dying - worked even better on the Living.  I now began using these methods with each of my Primary Caregivers and teaching them how to do it.  Just like my dad did for me so long ago... I began teaching Laying-on-of-Hands techniques to anyone and everyone who wanted to learn.  Sometimes entire families wanted to participate, and we would work on these dying patients, together.  More than once, I witnessed such tender caring that it brought me to tears.  And then I would have to dry my eyes while driving over to the next home to do it all over again.

I was just doing what I instinctively knew how to do: Releasing muscle spasms the way my father had taught me when I was a boy.  Praying.  Laying-on Hands.  It felt like nothing special.  Simple and Natural.  Sometimes the entire family wanted to learn how to take away an others' pain!  It was awesome... Easing someone's pain is actually very easy.  I really didn't give it a lot of thought.  As I said: I am a Caregiver.  All I really cared about was making my patients and their families feel better... I would take away their pain...  The lightest touch - for just a few minutes - and I could ease tired muscles, release emotions, calm a migraine, or "ground out" overwhelming fears and anxiety.

More Nurses Like Dave...

The hospital received letters from family members expressing their gratitude for my "alternative methods" and suggesting they employ more nurses with my special training.  As a result I was appointed Chairman of an Alternative Therapies Committee and eventually I was reassigned from my hospice duties.  I was offered a unique opportunity:  Create my own Hands-on Healing Clinic and have the people come to me.  Teach others to do what I do. 

Over the course of the next year I acquired all the necessary credentials to open the first hospital-based Neuromuscular Pain Management Clinic in the state of Indiana.  This changed my life forever...

My Introduction to Chi-Lel™ Qigong

In my new role as Chairman for Alternative Therapies I attended the 1996 American Humanistic Psychology Conference on Mind-Body Medicine in Indianapolis.  A number of renowned pioneers and practitioners of holistic healing were offering workshops to promote their various approaches to integrative medicine.  I was deeply impressed by the heart-centeredness and compassion of each of the presenters.  But what really blew me away was the Saturday night keynote address given by an unknown Chinese Healer named Luke Chan.  This encounter sent my career down an even more unlikely path.

My First "Fa Qi" Circle

To my great good fortune, Master Luke Chan chose not to lecture that evening, but instead demonstrated a group healing technique developed by his teacher: Grandmaster Pang He-Ming - an eastern and western trained research physician from Beijing...  Master Chan showed the assembly a videotape of his visit to Dr. Pang's research center, dubbed: "The World's Largest Medicine-less Hospital," where no medications are used and no special diets offered.  Instead - patients suffering from various "incurable illnesses" were taught - the Ancient Self-healing Art of Qigong. ...We saw large groups of patients - men, women, and children of all ages - performing slow elegant exercises together... ...We saw teams of teachers moving among the crowd, using their hands to direct healing energy to hundreds of patients at a time... ...And most amazing!  We saw a team of Qigong Doctors performing a Fa Qi treatment for a patient with bladder cancer...

This was a form of Laying-on of Hands that very few Westerners had ever seen before.  As the Qigong Doctors worked their hands several inches above the patient's abdomen, an ultra-sound technician carefully monitored the small walnut-sized tumor on her screen while Master Chan kept his video camera trained on the image in the monitor.  In the background we could see the team of doctors begin to work more and more intensely on their patient, quickening the pace of their energy treatment in a joint effort.  Suddenly on the video we saw the tumor begin to shift and change shape as if dissolving, and then in a matter of moments it completely disappeared from the screen!

After viewing the video, Master Chan told the stunned and curious audience about his book: "101 miracles of Natural Healing" - a book about his personal experiences interviewing patients at the Qigong Center and how he had received Grandmaster Pang's permission to teach his Qigong methods in the West.  He then explained that since we had such a large group - over 500 therapists of one type or another - he wanted to make good use of so much loving energy by demonstrating the healing method we had just seen in the videotape and actually treat a number of people at the conference who were also suffering from cancer.

The chairs of the auditorium had been prearranged in a large circle and the people in need of treatment were positioned at the center of the group.  Master Chan stood on a table so everyone could see him and - like the conductor of an orchestra - led us in the chant: "Hao La, Hao La, Hao La..." - which means in Chinese: "Healed!"  "Mission Accomplished!"  "Complete!"  As we chanted - opening and closing our hands in synchrony with the words - he skillfully guided us through a visualization process designed to unite our intentions into a unified energy field of Love and Compassion... An intense energy began to fill the auditorium.  It grew very warm. Then Hot...  Suddenly it began to feel like electricity was moving through me.  I felt chills and goose-bumps.  The hair on the back of my neck prickled and stood up. Tears began to well up in my eyes...  I had never experienced anything like it before.  I could feel how we ALL wanted to relieve the pain, the fear, and the sickness that is caused by Cancer.

The power of so large a group was amazing!  I have never experienced anything like it before or since.  I could feel my heart going out, as usual, to everyone around me.  But more importantly, for the first time, I felt my own unconditional love returning to me - amplified 500 times!  Everywhere around me, tears of compassion were streaming down faces.  We were all chanting and weeping and praying in Chinese!  Our hands opening and closing in perfect harmony with our "Hao La, Hao La, Hao La..."  And then somehow it was over...  And there was no way for me to sleep that night!  I felt SO energized and altered.

"Spontaneous Healing Always Happens NOW!" - Master Luke Chan

The next day I introduced myself to Master Chan and told him why I was at the conference; explaining how I was charged with creating a hands-on healing center for my hospital.  He asked me one critical question: "Will you also be doing the therapy yourself?"  When I replied: "Yes" - He stated matter-of-factly: "Then you will need to learn Fa Qi before you give all your Qi away."

Trial by Fire...

Care-giving has always been a Trial-by-Fire process.  But we gain something when we allow ourselves to be tempered in that fire; when we learn how to care for others without looking away and when we refuse to close our eyes or our hearts to human suffering...  We gain the ability to heal others through simple acts of Compassion.  We learn about Life, Love, the Human Spirit, and also about our relationship to ourselves.  

These days, the majority of my patients are Caregivers.  Not surprisingly, they are often exhausted, worn-out, depressed, frustrated, and in a lot of pain.  They have tried everything they could think of but their pain just keeps coming back.  Usually they come to their first visit because someone else told them they should.  Many of my clients are referred by physicians, osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, sexual abuse counselors, nurse practitioners, spiritual counselors...  Word of mouth for my services has spread from Hawaii to Vermont.  But in my own community I am most often just referred to as: "That Nurse who teaches Tai Chi.  You know?  That pony-tailed guy."

My Very Simple Discovery...

Whenever my patients achieve pain-breakthrough and remember what it feels like to be free of pain they invariably ask the same question: "Are there any special exercises that I can do at home to help keep the pain away?  And I always reply: "Yes!  Now you need to learn Qigong."  We always start with Fa Qi.  So people stop giving their energy away!

When all is said and done, the thing I can say without fear of contradiction is this simple discovery: We are all ultimately healed!  We are healed by Death.  Death is not to be feared.  When it comes for you, Death is to be embraced.  In reality, it is merely the shedding of one Form and the putting-on of another.  Nothing more...  Nothing less...  AND: Even when we are Dying - we are still Living!  

 

Pahka Dave in his Home Studio.

Pahka Dave in his Home Studio.

My Silent Heart Attack

On April 27, 2012, on my first day of vacation in Hawaii, I had a heart attack and died.  But—let me back up.  You really need to hear the whole story if you want to understand how Pahka Dave’s writings came to be…  That spring, my wife Patti and I traveled from Chicago to Big Island to celebrate my 54th birthday with our dear friends - our Ohana: Our adoptive family…  We had no agenda at all!  We simply planned to get there, kick back and relax, and hang-out like locals.  A long extended Luau—filled with good food, good music, and good company…  It was going to be perfect!  What we did not know, was that during the long flight from O’Hare International to Hilo, microscopically small blood clots began forming in my blood stream... As a nurse, I can tell you that this is a common occurrence on long-distance overseas flights.  Usually this type of clotting only effects travelers in their calves, creating a painful cramping condition known as: DVT - Deep Vein Thrombosis.  Travelers become aware of a DVT when they begin experiencing lower leg pain with intense cramping.  There is no mistaking the symptoms.  It is excruciatingly painful!  Usually after a few days of bed-rest and with the right medication the clots quickly dissolve and the pain clears up.  Usually… That’s how it goes.  But not for me.  For me - all safely buckled-up in my seat inside that pressurized cabin, way up there around 33,000 feet - these tiny blood clots began to form into bigger blood clots, some of these larger clots worked all the way through my blood stream and became lodged in a narrowing in my Left Anterior Descending Coronary Artery.  What all that means is that: Somewhere over the Rocky Mountains or when we were well-over the Pacific Ocean - without any warning signs: I began having a “silent heart attack.”  The term “silent” means that you do-not-know that you are having a heart attack.  You feel basically fine.  There are no warning signs...  Well don’t you know?  That is bad!  This type of heart attack is the leading cause of death for men my age.  We die suddenly without warning.  Bam!  It happens all the time.  It happens so often that it is practically cliche’…  Who has not heard this story?  “Local man—in his 50s—drops dead without warning.”  Seriously, I happens all the time! 

The Ordeal…   

In the beginning of a “silent heart attack” there are no alarming symptoms; no pain or shortness of breath or any sense of distress.  There is just a vague feeling of heaviness in the chest and a feeling of deep exhaustion mixed with emotional sadness…  Most men just don’t notice anything is wrong.   And I was no exception.  Who doesn't feel tired, emotional and achy pretty much most of the time?   Men my age are just TOO GOOD at ignoring our own pain and sadness.  Besides!  That is what Happy Hour is for!  Right?  Have a cocktail!  Forget about it…  So the Silent Heart Attack remains silent! 

NOW keep in mind that my wife and I started our travel-day at 3:00 am - leaving to catch the “red eye” from Chicago to Phoenix.  So any physical discomforts I was feeling I simply chalked-up to the strain of traveling on so little sleep.  14 hours of flying and making connecting flights can do that to anybody!  As far as I could tell - I was just fine!  Tired, that’s all.  I was confident once we disembarked from this DC-10, all would be well.  I tried to sleep.  But no go…  I tried to meditate.  No go…  So I breathed deeply and rested.  I just had to be patient.  Tough it out.  I tried to rest and watched another movie…  Hawaii was waiting for us.  I reassured myself.  I was going to be fine… 

AND all this turned out to be true!  Once we were on the ground in Hilo I felt so much better.  We both did!  We were both happy to be off that plane, breathe Island air and stretch our legs out.  …If you have never been?  Just arriving in Hawaii feels good!  It is amazing…  Before you even leave the airport…  You feel good!  But the downside of this meant: My "silent heart attack" remained “silent.”  Back home in Chicago, it was nearly midnight.  But here on Big Island, it was still early evening here…  The tropical breezes were blowing…  There was a soft gentle rain…   The sun was beginning to set above Mount Mauna Kea.  And if we were lucky we might see the full yellow moon rising impossibly huge over Hilo Bay… 

This was not our first vacation to Hawaii so we both knew the drill: The first night, no matter how tired you are - you stay up!  Then when you get up the next morning you are already in sync with Local Time.  So despite both of us feeling more than just-a-little exhausted—there was no thought of turning in any time soon.  We collected our bags…  I made some quick phone calls to let people know we were safely on the ground, while Patti went to pick up the rental car.  Within 45 minutes of landing we climbed into our rental car and casually cruised up the Hamakua coast without a care in the World.  About an hour later, we arrived to our friend’s home where it was big hugs and lots of Aloha all around…  We spent perhaps another 3 hours there laughing, sharing food and trading stories - with me having a silent heart attack the entire time.  Completely unaware…  

Facing the Darkness…

Now we had made arrangements to stay in the guest-suite of some other friends who lived nearby - just another five more minutes up the road.  It was finally getting late local time. I felt completely exhausted and worn out!  So Patti volunteered to drive.  She got behind the wheel, and I climbed into the passenger seat and buckled up…  Wise decision!  We rolled down our windows and waved goodbye, promising to be back in the morning for breakfast.  Patti backed out of the driveway and off we went…  Good thing we did not have far to go.  We were both so tired!  At this point we had each been awake for well over 24 hours.  We were really looking forward to settling in with a hot steamy shower and then finally climbing into bed.  Just as Patti turned up the long driveway and was pulling up in front of the house I died—right there in the car!  I remember saying: “I feel sooooo dizzy…”  And then everything sort of closed-in around me, like I was inside a long dark tunnel or a black tube that was squeezing-in around me; tighter and tighter and tighter…  Then Boom!  The curtain fell... In an instant... ALL the lights winked out!  Patti said later that I just folded over in my seat - completely Lifeless!  I had to take her word for it.  Because I could not know!  I wasn't there!  But it seems I died right then-and-there, sitting next to my wife, strapped into my seatbelt - which thankfully - spared my face from striking the dashboard… 

My NDE : The Inky Black Void…

As a hospice nurse, I had read many accounts of Near Death Experiences.  I have also spoken face-to-face with patients who have had that Near Death Experience.  They were clinically dead - no breath, no pulse - and then somehow they were resuscitated.  Many people speak of seeing white lights or meeting loved ones or encountering spirit guides, angelic or demonic presences and the like.  Some survivors describe vivid and elaborate heavenly scenery.  Some told me how their whole life flashed before their eyes in an instant…  But what I experienced was nothing like that.  My NDE was not like any I had ever heard about or read about before.  For me, there was only this tunnel shrinking into blackness - no lights - white or otherwise…  There were no angels.  No demons.  I had no time to ponder or reflect on anything!   In fact: Absolutely nothing flashed before my eyes.  There were no disembodied voices beckoning me to go here or there.  No pearly gates.  Nothing...  For me, everything just stopped!  One moment I was sitting in the car next to Patti.  The next moment I was adrift in The Inky Black Void… But that is not quite right either…  There was no real “me” as I know me to be.  I had no body on at all!  No hands or feet…  No inside or outside…  No upside or down…  There was no way to orient myself in space at all…  In that Dark Place there were no stars, no lights, no clouds or mists.  There was Nothing!  Absolute Darkness.  Emptiness.  And yet, I was definitely: THERE!  Wherever THERE IS???  It was a dark singular-awareness.  Like being adrift in the womb again I suppose…  I was just floating there.  It was effortless...  I was floating effortlessly in IT - in the warm, Velvety-Soft, Inky Black Darkness…  I guess I was all alone, but I did not feel alone.  There was this dark pulsing field of warmth and vibration...  I know I felt cared for; loved, held, supported and embraced…  There was no fear there.  In fact: I felt complete!  I knew that much!  I was complete.  And all was as it should be!  I was neither upset or sad.  Actually, the whole experience in the Void was supremely relaxing…  There was no pain there.  No thoughts.  No words.  Everything simply felt "perfect."  Exactly right.  Exactly as it is!  I knew without doubt that this endless empty expanse was Eternal.  Meaning: I knew that it is always present!  Never NOT there…  In fact: The Void awaits each of us.  But more than that—it holds and embraces us too.  As you read this, the Void is already holding you too - RIGHT NOW!  Don’t worry!  There is nothing to be afraid of!  When you meet it, you will see…  It’s warm and nice.  You will like it.

And Backdown to Earth… 

Death for me was: Momentarya blissful and perfect place to be.  But I did not get to stay there long!  In real time I came back a mere 30 seconds later because Patti was shaking me violently and saying emphatically: “David!  David!  Come back!  Come back!  David!”  And so I came back.  How could I refuse? I came back.  But I was terribly confused.  In shock!  Disoriented… “What?  What happened?” I asked Patti:  “Are you ok?  Did I pass out?  I am so sorry!  I didn’t mean to pass out.  I didn’t mean to scare you.” Patti said: “No David.  You didn’t pass out!  You were dead!”  But that would not register in my mind for quite sometime.  Sometimes denial is a godsend.  It protects us from being afraid.  I said: “Oh, that can’t be.  That can’t be.  I am fine.  Just fine.  I feel fine.  Really.  Look at me!  I am fine!  I am so sorry.  I didn't mean to scare you.  I am so sorry…”  

Adrenaline was coursing into my body now and filling me with a surge of energy.  I became highly animated and Ihad to move…  You cant die as long as you are still moving!  Right?  I unclasped my seatbelt and climbed nimbly out of the car.  Patti got out too and we started arguing over the roof go the car…“No, David.  You were gone!  You left me.  I’ve seen you pass out before.  This was not passing out!  I said to myself: ‘Oh great my husband is dead!’  And started shaking you and calling you.  You didn’t just pass out, David!  You weren’t breathing.  You were dead!”  But what she was saying wouldn’t sink in... Like I said: NOT KNOWING you are so very very close to death is a blessing… “Oh you are exaggerating!  Look at me… I am fine.  Just fine.  I am walking and talking.  I am fine.”  But I wasn’t fine.  Not at all!  The truth is: I was still at Death’s door!  But my psyche was protecting me, or rather my ego was protecting itself.  That was smart.  Instinctive.  The last thing I needed to do was panic!  Get all upset…  So, i did not feel fear at all, and although it may sound odd to you, what I felt the most intensely in that moment was not fear.  What I felt most in that moment was embarrassment; sheer embarrassment.  Dying like that - in front of my wife with no warning - gave me the most sharply stinging slap of shame I have ever experienced in my Life!  I felt so exposed!  So vulnerable!  And so ashamed!  I wanted to be fine!  So I clung to that idea.  I was in clinical denial… 

The shock was acting as a buffer.  It was actually preparing me for what was next to come.  Or rather somehow instinctively - I was preparing myself to endure the most unbearable pain of my Life!  But arguing with Patti that night, I didn’t know that!  And I didn’t want to know I was having a heart attack!  I wanted to be fine...  I grabbed the luggage out of the car.  And I apologized to Patti again and again for frightening her.  And I swore to her up and down that I was fine:  “Just fine.”  I said as I walked around the car.  I put the bags down for a moment, and gave her a hug...  “See? I am fine.”  And I fully believed it myself.  “I just need a hot shower and to finally get some sleep.  I will be fine in the morning.  You’ll see.  We are both exhausted.  That’s all.  Now, let’s go in.”  So we grabbed our bags and went inside to find our room.

All my nurse’s training, and I didn’t understand that I was experiencing an M. I.!  I blamed all my symptoms on the long day of traveling, on the lack of sleep and on feeling exhausted.  But it was still gnawing at my mind a little…  I told myself: “I can’t be having a heart attack!  I am a nurse.  I would know!”  And really, in my defense, I wasn’t experiencing any of the cardinal warning signs of imminent heart failure.  Plus now I was ramped up on embarrassment and adrenaline.  So the truth is: I wasn’t experiencing any chest pain - not yet anyway!  There was no classic left-arm pain.  No left-sided jaw pain.  No sweating.  No shortness of breath.  None of that…  What I felt was: Hopped up!  Anxious.  And..  I just felt this tight ache across my back and shoulders.  But not a heart attack!  I said things to Patti like: “I can’t be having as heart attack…” And: “NO!  I don’t want to go to the hospital…” And: “NO! For God sakes don’t call 911…”  I said: “We are both exhausted.  Let’s both take a hot shower and wash the traveling out of us and then lay down.  Really, I just need to get some sleep.  I am sure I will wake-up feeling fine in the morning…”  You know…   All the things a man having a heart attack might say!  

Fortunately for me, sleep would not come…  I know now, if I had managed to fall asleep that night, I never have lived to see another day.  But the reality was - I could NOT sleep!  I was antsy and I couldn’t get comfortable.  I was too jazzed up to calm down.  I couldn’t lay still for more than a few seconds.  It was then that my chest finally began to hurt.  I began sweating.  Both of my arms began to hurt and throb.  I became shorter and shorter of breath.  It hurt to lay back…  It hurt to lay on my side…  I sat up and started massaging the center of my chest.  That felt better.  But not for long…  So then I tried kneeling beside the bed and leaning across it like praying as a little kid…  That relieved some more of the pressure.  But then, as the minutes passed by, I became more and more agitated.  I started moaning between breaths and clutching at the skin on my chest, pulling it up from the ribs…  But I couldn’t be still!  I got up and I began pacing the room…

By now my chest pain was increasing exponentially.  My heart was racing!  I was hot.  Then cold and clammy…  My “silent” heart attack was now a full-on Myocardial Infarction.  What was happening to me was this: The left side of my heart was starving for oxygen and beginning to die…  I needed to relax and calm down fast!  Patti said: “David, let me take you to the emergency room.”  But instead I opened our bag and took out the Xanax.  I promised Patti: “I am going to take this Xanax.  Then, if I don’t feel better in 40 minutes, I will let you take me to ER."  5 minutes went by… Everything kept getting worse.  Now there was this intense burning pain building in intensity, running down both my arms, across my mid-back and perfectly in the center of my chest.  I lost my color.  I was growing pale and ashen.  My heart was pounding in my ears.  I was sweating, gasping for air, trying to force in a bigger breath… I kept pacing the room.... 10 minutes went by… A crushing chest-pain asserted itself.  It escalated and intensified beyond any pain I have ever experienced!  My heart muscle was slowly dying…  I started to cry.  Patti said: “Talk to me, David!  How are you?  Are you any better?”  “No!”  I said, “It feels like like someone is trying to cut my heart out with a rusty tuna can.  There is white-hot circle of pain right in the center of my chest!”  20 minutes went by… 

The Long Ride…

Now, in my role as a hospice nurse, I had witnessed patients dying from a heart attack before.  I had witnessed it, started CPR, and then waited the long dreadful minutes that it took for the EMTs to arrive and relieve me.  That experience now came flooding back into my mind…  The pain was pushing me out of my body… It was as though I was witnessing myself from outside myself.  I saw myself pacing and pacing, breathing so rapidly, and becoming frantic…  The pain in my chest was simply excruciating and too much to bear!  Finally, it sank into my conscious mind - “I am having a heart attack!”  I said to Patti: “You know what?  I am having a heart attack.  I am pacing back and forth and gasping for breath exactly like one of my patients having a heart attack.  My pulse is racing.  I can’t slow my heart down.  I can’t get a breath.  I am getting scared.  You’re right.  You were right.  I am so sorry!  I am having a heart attack.  I am so sorry!  We should go to the ER in Waimea right now!   We can’t afford to wait for an ambulance.  I am afraid they won’t arrive in time.”

I knew instinctively that the most helpful thing I could do for myself on that long ride to the hospital was relax.  I became very detached and focussed and I began doing my yoga-breathing.  I stayed calm, meditated on my breath and let-go…  I had to!  I had no choice!  Panicking only made my heart race more and that made the pain in my chest so much worse!  I knew if I panicked completely that my heart would seize up into a spasm.  So, I relaxed into the pain - as if my life depended on it.  Because it did!  And that’s how we rolled out onto the road.  Me, taking one breath at a time, trying to float on top of a sea of pain.  And Patti driving us through the dark…  

Once we were on the road I felt some better… Perhaps the Xanax was finally helping?  On that long ride that night - heading to ER in the car next to Patti - I made peace with Death; I made peace with myself, I made peace with my Life, my past, and with God…  A sense of serenity came over me.  I said to God - quietly in my mind: “Well…  If this is it?  Then, I guess this is it.”  I was at Peace about it.  Perhaps that was the Xanax talking?  I relaxed into the pain and the pain eased up some more... I got my cell out and phoned ahead to the ER to let them know we were coming in.  “Hello.  My name is David.  I am a nurse and I think I am having a heart attack.  We will be pulling up at your door in about 20 minutes… Oh!  No.  No worries.  My wife is driving.  We will be there shortly.”  

We arrived at the ER doors of North Hawaii Community Hospital around 3am.  Three nurses were waiting for me with a wheelchair.  They quickly whisked me away while Patti parked the car.  They set up an EKG, drew blood to check for cardiac blood-gases and tried and tried to find a usable vein to start some fluids.  They gave me sublingual nitroglycerine.  “Mr. Cowan, you are having a heart attack.  Put this under your tongue.”  It took two more doses of nitro and then a shot of morphine before I could feel any pain relief at all.  That was a blessing.  But I was far from out of danger!  I needed to have an emergency angioplasty procedure as soon as possible.  NOW!  Would be best!  But Big Island did not have an interventional cardiologist available anywhere on the Island.  My only hope to avoid death was an emergency flight with Hawaii Life Flight to Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu.  Phone calls were made as I slipped in and out of consciousness… 

I was transported by ambulance to the tiny local airport where I was loaded into a small twin-engine Cessna to be Medi-Evac’d to Oahu.  The morphine had me in such a blur.  I remember being awakened at one point by the flight nurses.  We were outside, under the stars, and I was lying on a transfer gurney; the night breeze on my face.  “Come on Dave!  You need to help us here.  Bend your knees…  There you go.”  Once we were all safely on board - the pilot, two nurses and with Patti strapped in right beside me - I lost consciousness again.  I have no recollection of arriving in Honolulu or of being transferred to the hospital in rush hour traffic.  All of that escaped me.  The next thing I remember is waking up in the Cardiac Cath Labjust as the surgeon was pulling this impossibly long thin wire out of the radial artery of my right wrist;  leaving behind a single stent, to prevent my artery from occluding again... All-in-all, I endured almost 30 hours of circulatory compromise.  Not good!  Not good at all!  I was lucky to be alive... 

The shock of it, the mortal terror I experienced realizing just how close I came to Death - left me completely riveted!  Through my NDE - I was stunned wide awake!  This was my wake-up call!  A second chance to start again and live my Life the way I know I should have been Living it all along… I decided there in Honolulu in my hospital bed, that I would live as though I had died that night.  And then: Who would this new Dave be?  What if I put all of my painful past behind me?  Who would I become?  

Only Time Will Tell...  

What I can say about it is this: Out of existential fear - I immediately began practicing my Qigong everyday without fail!  I practiced diligently... Each day... As if my Whole Life depended on it!  Just 7-Days after my heart attack, I filmed my second Qigong Training DVD - "Lift Qi Up & Pour Qi Down in Paradise, Volume II" to show people how to turn their Qigong Form into a Cardio Workout.  I had to share it!  You know?  Just in case I die sooner rather than later, and leave this Earth without passing my knowledge on.  And that is how it is for me now...  I am always thinking: "What if this is my Last Day?  How shall I live?"  The result?  I now have a complete;y different perspective on Life & Death & Healing...  And I now have a very intimate knowledge about what that ALL means!  More and more people keep coming to me for treatment - for Pain Relief & Emotional Clearing - and for Qigong Treatment & Training & Bodywork.  Perhaps it is because they sense I am tapped into something BIG?  Or perhaps Spirit knows I am finally a Hollow Bone - as the shaman say - and therefore a Clear Channel for transmitting healing energy?  I don't really KNOW...  And I know NOT KNOWING is also OK!

The Old Hawaiians say this: "O Ke Aloha, Ke Pono Ai."  Which means: 'Only Love Can Set Things Right."  I know this much is True!  Not just for me.  But for everybody I meet!  And so from Pahka Dave and his whole family - Aloha!

  

Pahka Dave Cowan & Patti Shaffner...  So glad to still be on the Planet! 

Pahka Dave Cowan & Patti Shaffner...  So glad to still be on the Planet!