Writings

The past few months

Dear devotees,

Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

For some months I’ve been silent, but I thought that now is a good time to give you an update on my situation. Things have been changing for the better for some time now, and on Sunday I’m flying with Saci Kumar prabhu to Moscow for a Russian tour. We’re testing to see how it goes and then we’ll see about further travel.

What happened was that on December 21st I was in Port Elizabeth on the eastern coast of South Africa. At about 3am that morning I got up but then fainted and hit my head. I got up from the ground and then fainted again. I managed to make it back to the bedroom and laid down till 4am, when I got up and took a shower. However we noticed that there were two bad cuts on the back of my head, and I was feeling bad generally, so I was taken to a local hospital.

There was so much pain in the back that I couldn’t lie down, and I sat in a chair by the bed, keeping the pain at bay with pain killers. The doctors took some x-rays of my back only, which were of very bad quality, and they couldn’t detect anything. They didn’t do any scan of my head, and on the whole they were really casual and don’t care type people, so they didn’t take my case seriously enough, and I was discharged the following day around midday.

Despite the pain it was wonderful that so many devotees from around the world contacted me and expressed their sincere concern. Indradyumna Maharaja, BB Govinda Maharaja and Sivarama Maharaja phoned me, as did Bhakti Caru Maharaja and others. Many emails came in from GBC members and other devotees from all over. It was very heart warming.

We went back to our centre in Port Elizabeth, and I noticed that actually my back was in quite a bad way. I couldn’t sit easily, or walk easily, or turn easily. It was extremely uncomfortable.

On the 24th we decided to return to Durban, and I was taken to and from the plane on a wheelchair. Sitting was really difficult, and I only managed to make it by taking more pain killers.

I didn’t do any programmes for some time, as it was just too uncomfortable. Sitting in a car was a nightmare. There was constant pain in my right leg, and it became much worse when I coughed, and our friendly devotee doctor Umakanta prabhu told me he thought I had a slipped disc in the spine. I didn’t really know what that was, and in consultation with another devotee specialist doctor, Sunil Mohan prabhu, we decided to have an MRI scan done of the back, and while we were at it, of the head also.

We tried to get it done by medical aid, but the company flatly refused, so Harideva prabhu, or master negotiator, along with Sunail Mohan, worked out a special deal with the x-ray company, and I went in in the middle of January for the scans. First they did the head, and then the back. As they were doing the back one of the technicians came out to the devotees waiting for me in the lobby and asked “did he have a fall recently?” It was clear something was quite wrong.

We got the MRI scans and to our surprise we found there was a huge blood clot covering a third of the brain, on the right side. These things can easily be fatal, although in my case there were no apparent symptoms at all. Sunil Mohan contacted a neuro-surgeon friend and told him, and the man reserved a bed for me in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in his hospital, and I was told I had to go in for a brain operation, immediately. What a shock!

But when we went there the neuro-surgeon tested me for my reactions to different stimuli and found I was basically normal. He couldn’t believe it. The MRI scans also showed that I did have a slipped disc, and that the sciatic nerve was under pressure, and he told me I should be screaming in pain, which I wasn’t – although my back, and as a result my right leg – were definitely somewhat painful some of the time.

So he decided there was no need to do the brain operation, but rather we should wait some time to see if the blood clot cleared up of its own accord. Regarding the slipped disc, it was also decided we would wait to see if that improved rather than have a spine operation.

A couple of days later I went with my assistant Arjunacarya prabhu to Harideva’s house on the south coast, a little outside Durban. We spent some days there and I tried to walk as much as I could, and sometimes it was all right, but sometimes it was terribly painful. Sitting in a car was very painful, and sitting on comfortable chairs, like lounge chairs, was totally uncomfortable, so I took to sitting in austere, hard chairs and found that
much easier.

From that time on till mid February there was slow improvement in the back and right leg with occasional relapses. From time to time I was massaged on the back and legs, and one time our kind massage devotee worked me over too hard and there was a severe relapse with lots of pain, but then it corrected itself again after a couple of days. Things were getting better.

I was meant to go to Mayapur for the GBC meetings, which started around February 14th for me, as I’m a member of the GBC Executive Committee, but our neuro surgeon ordered that with a blood clot like that on my brain I definitely couldn’t fly, so I was stuck in South Africa for the time being.

In the middle of February we went in for another scan of the brain, and found that the clot had indeed reduced in size by about 60%, and we felt there was some light on the horizon. The back and right leg were also improving, although really slowly.

Arjunacarya prabhu and I then went on a little tour from Durban to Johannesburg and other areas, preaching. On the way, while we were in Newcastle, we were contacted by Rasamrita devi dasi and her daughter Devaki,
who told us that my old friend Loka Bandhu prabhu, Rasamrita’s father, had passed away, so we had to come back to Pietermaritzburg for the funeral. It was a grand programme, completely performed by devotees, and about 500 people attended and heard lots of preaching about Krishna consciousness and the glories of Loka Bandhu prabhu.

During this time I was experimenting with different exercises, in an effort to avoid having surgery on my back. I was really taking a chance and just trying things I would find on the internet, and some helped, while others
made my back and leg worse. Coughing was still a very painful experience. One exercise that did help was what I call a “semi-press up”, in which one lies on one’s front on the ground and does what is like a regular press up, except one only lifts from the waist up off the ground. From the waist back through the legs remains on the ground. That helped, so I really got into that, and one day managed 353 of them. I’m still doing 50 to 60 every day.

I’ll write again in a few days with information about how things have developed since later February, but the basic idea is that things have now improved a lot more, by Srimati Radharani and Lord Krishna’s mercy.

Hoping this meets you well.

Your servant,

Bhakti Caitanya Swami

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