Dealing with PTSD after infant surgery

People who have had infant surgery for pyloric stenosis (PS) or other maladies deal with this in many different ways.

The human tribe has been compared to a zoo: the homo sapiens species also includes a large range and variety of animals, characters, looks and lifestyles.  Dr Gary Smalley has aptly and colourfully compared our different human temperaments with those of the beaver (Melancholy/Compliance), golden retriever (dog, Phlegmatic/Steadiness), lion (Choleric/Dominance), and otter (Sanguine/Influence).

Years ago I discovered a blog by Randy Friedman in which she chronicled her release from the after-effects of her PS surgery at 6 weeks and “leveraged” from this to promote her life coaching and golfing clinic.  Her site breathes energy and is well worth a visit.

This past week I came upon Laurie A Wheeler’s account of how she too overcame the post-traumatic stress resulting from her difficult PS surgery in 1969: it had affected her mother as well as herself, and before she reached adulthood she suffered many years of multi-faceted abuse at the hands of a family member.

Laurie Wheeler also not only survived but overcame the PTSD that resulted.  She wrote to me –

I don’t have any problems, but that’s because of Body Electronics (a form of sustained acupressure done with group work)… I actually processed on the table the very early conscious memory of the operation, it was very odd because it was from an infant’s point of view so no real language to describe other than wanting the “warm thing” (mom).  No fear, no pain really, no way to cognify self, but somehow cognifying other… forced individuated consciousness [that] must be part of the trauma.

She explained further –

I found using a variety of alternative methods to traditional counseling and yak sessions actually helped.  I have been involved in a process called Body Electronics and then helped develop a discipline called the Compass Way (or embodied grace practice) where you learn how to identify your self protective, every day, and grace (at your best) consciousness.  The last is what cleared my PTSD completely.  Sadly that was from a mixed bag, most likely from the infant surgery to start [with] (though I asked mom and she said I was under general [anesthetic] at least, I suppose there’s a blessing for that…
They had never seen a baby born with [PS] and [the doctor] explained that [my pyloris] was not swollen shut, but was solid.  [Mom] had tried for five days to get me into a doctor; one of them told her I was allergic to breast milk.  Poor mom, she cries even now 43 years later.

Laurie’s website is also well worth a visit, and I was challenged and inspired by the way she wrote up her nutshell life story – as an example of the kind of writing that others will read.

A large part of a zoo or botanic gardens visit is to see and appreciate the rich variety of animal and plant life on our planet.  Every such visit also helps me to recognise that as a Golden Retriever / Beaver (to use Smalley’s characterizations) I will never manage to think, feel and act like a lion or an otter!

It seems clear to me that Laurie and Randy both have Otter/Lion temperaments, and I’m grateful to savor and learn from the way they have been able to manage their PS and PTSD.

Dogs and beavers I’m sure would like to be bigger and more fun-loving than they are, but they also seem to be quite happy being what they are and doing what they do best.

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