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105: The Attitude of Healing
Episode 517th March 2021 • Hope For Chronic Pain • Dr. Katinka van der Merwe
00:00:00 00:30:57

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The healing process always requires optimal emotional, physical and mental participation of not only the physician, but also the patient. After treating hundreds of severe and complex pain patients, Dr. Katinka van der Merwe has developed significant experience in predicting which patients bring the correct attitude to the table, optimizing their chance of a successful outcome. In this episode, Dr. Katinka interviews her patient, Mark, and discusses the attributes that every patient must require while fighting for their health and sanity.


er College of Chiropractic in:

Kaylie: Her and her team have gained international attention due to their unprecedented success rate in these cases. Kent State University is slated to be involved with the first study of her work starting this year. She's an international speaker and best-selling author of three books, Putting Out the Fire, Taming the Beast and Wake Up Miracles of Healing from Around the World.

Kaylie: Dr. Katinka practices in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and is the CEO of the Spero Clinic.

Dr. Katinka: Today, I want to talk about a very important part of the puzzle in healing, and that is the part that is within your control, which is the attitude that you bring to the healing process. Henry Ford said whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right. When I accept a new patient, we enter an unknown territory together. My patients have usually tried it or they've been all over the world. They've seen a ton of very smart doctors and they have reached the end of their rope. They're desperate for hope and yet too scared to hope. Hope may mean disappointment. Hope has crush them when it didn't deliver. I have treated hundreds of severe patients and through the years I have learned that many factors go into patient outcome success. Will this patient get better, or won't they?

Dr. Katinka: One of the biggest predictors of success in my experience, is the attitude of the patient undergoing treatment. A positive attitude is a huge predictor of success. It's a state of being or viewpoint that promotes positive thinking. It's the foundation for an optimistic outlook and leads to constructive affirmative thinking, both of multiple health benefits enhancing a state of well-being. Many research studies now show that a positive attitude has a significant impact on your healing outcome. In my case, I don't need to see this studys because I have seen it in real life. Right now, I'm treating a young girl from South Africa who suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, also known as a suicide disease, because it is so intense in its nature of pain. This girl has seen many, many doctors in South Africa. She's been in pediatric pain programs where they try to, one can say, inhumanely desensitize her to pain. I did a Zoom interview with her while she was still in South Africa and turned to my staff member after we finished it and said, I don't know if she's going to do well in our program. I could tell by practice, by having seen thousands of patients over the years looking into her face, that Heather did not have hope. And sure enough, when she came in, her body was there for treatment.

Her mom was there on board. But Heather's spirit was not on board with healing. She would go through the motions, but there was no fire behind it. Three weeks into treatment and this was a week ago, I pulled her out of treatment, sat her down and had a very difficult conversation, which was, if you do not change your attitude, you need to get on a plane and fly back to South Africa. This is a child. This is not easy as a doctor, but I know that I'm fighting for her life. And if we could not turn her mind, we could not turn her health around. Heather took all of 20 seconds to think and looked at me and said, I don't need to go home. This is my home. I want to fight. That was four treatment days ago. And yesterday, Heather moved her legs for the first time in three years. She couldn't even move a toe. That is one example of how incredibly powerful the human spirit is. But I hear you say bad, bad. But what do you know? I heard every day I'm in horrible pain. I've tried. I've tried to imagine being while I've tried all the things and yet here, I am still in how when I had my four-year-old son, he was a newborn. I woke up with horrific pain in my face one morning. I thought I surely had to have an abscess tooth or something horribly wrong. Whenever I ate or drank anything or my teeth were exposed to air, that pain got much worse. I'm talking about, for me, level 10 pain, which I wasn't used to have been healthy all my life. So, I went to my friend who was my dentist and asked him to do a CT scan, and he came back after viewing the scan and said the most dreaded words to me, which is there is nothing wrong with your teeth. I knew immediately that it was nerve pain, that it could be trigeminal neuralgia and that I was in deep, deep trouble. Over the next three weeks, everything I knew about attitude, about the body's ability to heal itself flew out of the window because I was breastfeeding at night, which is when the pain was at its worse. I could not take any painkillers. So, I was up all night with my new baby. And after just a few weeks of this, I will never forget the moment when I thought I would not want to live like this.

Dr. Katinka: I wasn't, you know, sitting their contemplating suicide. But looking forward in my life, I knew that that road was absolutely not workable for me. I could not sustain it. I believe that that was a very important experience for me to at least begin to understand the pain that my patients go through, because it is how on earth and you cannot readily explain that to people that have never been there. Luckily, my dad, who has a very big belief in the body's ability to heal itself, could talk to me and remind me of the root of all healing. I changed my attitude and within three days the pain had miraculously disappear. But yet I have that experience to hold onto. So, what is positive thinking? Positive thinking does not mean that you stick your head in the sand or pretend that things are just fine. Positive thinking describes the mental attitude of optimism, which holds on to the possibility of a favorable outcome in all situations, despite being in daily pain, despite perhaps having lost trust in your body's ability to be healthy.

Dr. Katinka: It relies on an emotional state of hope which looks past the current circumstance and supports the building of emotional, social and other resources for searching and holding on to the possibilities of positive outcomes. Positive thinkers make the best out of every situation, focusing on what they can control, letting go what they cannot control, and searching for ways to improve the situation and the lessons to learn at hand. Let's move away for a second from the more well-known path of the brain's connection to the body and look at the less well-known world concerning the energy field around the human body and the role it plays in our physical health. A magnet has an energy field around it. We've all done the experiment in childhood where you put metal shavings on a piece of paper held over a magnet and watch the patterns that it makes. Any electric field has an energy field around it. This is just physics. We also know that the human body has electricity running through it. We know that the building blocks of all biological life forms are light and energy, which every life form also emits. In turn, current scientific research has found that these light and energy emissions, also known as the human aura or energy field, are reflections of an individual's state of physical and psychological health. Researchers have found that mental and emotional activity experienced by an individual creates an immediate reaction in this energy field, which is then reflected back to the brain, much like Immer. Have you ever been in a room where someone walked in and immediately you either liked or had an intense dislike of them without them ever saying a word? This all depends on an interplay between your energy fields, which are either compatible or not compatible in energy.

Dr. Katinka: By using tools such as medical imaging, scientists were able to view which areas of the body were directly affected by specific emotions in images provided of individuals in a state of coherence or happiness, gratitude and love. The heart area and the body were brightly glowing with a warm light that spread throughout the body. Dr. Kirchhoff, who's a professor of physics from St. Petersburg University in Russia, has created an instrument known as a gas discharge visualization, or a GDV camera that can be used to view this field. This instrument works by measuring the electron densities within the systems and organs in the human body. The shape, color and size of the human energy field vary depending on the individual's physical and psychological state of health. For example, images provided by Dr. Krakoff display that stress has an intense impact on this field and causes it to become distorted and hollow in appearance. Further research shows that when individuals are in positive state of emotion, the field appears much more whole and vibrant. These findings confirm that energy activity emitted by the human body can change states of mental and physical health as well as the structure of space. I believe that it goes further when you have a negative thought or emotion that is reflected in the energy field. The energy field, in turn, controls the healing inside of the body, so it creates a cloud in the field that interferes with your healing.

Dr. Katinka: Today I have a very important guest. Mark White is a patient of mine that started treatment eight days ago, and I'm going to let him tell his story. But Mark is a shining example of a patient that came in with every right to be bitter and angry and traumatized, and instead more came in with the most positive, incredible attitude of hope and is seeing the results directly related to that attitude very quickly. Welcome, Mark.

Mark: Thank you. My story, it's fairly simple. It's I had a tragic accident, a freak snowboarding accident. The ending part was that my artery was severed from was coming out of my heart was severed. The vein coming, going back to my heart was severed. My scapula was broken three places. My clavicle was broken, my humerus was broken. All but two of my ribs were broken and shoved in towards my lungs. I should not have lived. The doctors did not think I should have lived. But there were a lot of good little things that that I think happened that kept me alive. When I had the accident, I went into two trees and slammed up into those trees. I had a helmet, but when I hit the trees, all the snow fell on top of me and covered all but like a crescent shape of my helmet about the size of a thumb. Two ladies had seen the accident. One went down to ski patrol. These two ladies did not know each other. The other skate on down to her husband and made a decision to go back up and check on me. And if, you know, coming back of the mountain carrying your skis, that's not the thing that people do. But she did at a very dangerous spot and stayed there. People came by and said, you need to get out of here. This is a dangerous spot to stand. And she said somebody down there and people came up from the ski resort and said, we don't hear anything. She swore she could hear moan every once in a while, but no one else did. When the ski patrol finally found out about it, they had in my direction that left the helicopter, left that hospital, and a great thing happened. A doctor, a retired doctor was riding it with one of the ski patrol people and said, hey, mind if I tag along? He tagged along. They could not find me. The people went off the mountain, snow up past their knees, looking for me and I totally wooded area where you couldn't see anything and obviously, because the snow fell on top of me, there were no tracks. It was just perfect. And the one guy I talked to, he said he had gone down, really didn't believe that this was where the accident was. You know, he had known that she'd climb back up and must have been farther down. As he's walking back up, the sun hits my helmet just right and catches his eye. And for some reason, he decides to walk over there and see what this little black plastic thing, what he thought was sitting in the middle of the snow. And when he reached down, that's when he found my helmet. And I mean, everybody was like, we found him. We found him by at that time, the doctor had arrived at the scene. They dig me out. They have had to use their saws to get branches out. They get me on a tarp and just get me back up to the run. And at that point, because my right arm was not getting blood and that's the first place they check, they thought we think he's dead. And then they check my neck and thought, no, I think I feel something pulse. And then they the doctor was there and noticed that my body was filling up with blood and he decided they were going to normally they put you on a toboggan and take you to the bottom of the mountain. Yet you looked at and then sent you to the hospital. He said he won't make it to the bottom of the mountain.

Mark: They made a split decision. A young girl who's the one that is back at this place talking about finding the landing zone for the helicopter, decided to shut down the run, stop the lift and have the helicopter land on the mountain. Never before has that been done. And I doubt many of you ever see it any run. But she did that when they got there. They took me to the hospital. They pumped in all the blood they had on the on the helicopter into me. And they had run out by the time they got to the hospital. My thinking is, is if you look back on it, the snow fell onto me and that kept me alive for about twenty-eight minutes or so. The key thing to me is my wife, when we first took off, I said, let's go party of three. She paused for a second and told her son gave him a compliment about the last running. Just did. They talked about it and then they joined. She did not see the accident if she had seen the accident right, she would have obviously gone down, grabbed me, pulled me out, and I would have bled out in her arms and it's just knowing that she was didn't see me. And which is so weird because she sees everything I do. We're like breathing bodies that she didn't see me was a saving grace for all of us. To me, everything just looks very good.

Mark: And then I'm obviously did go through everything. Nothing helps you lose the will to live. You think maybe tonight I won't wake up and you're looking for, you know, the hope of, you know, there's some reason and you do think of, OK, I'll make it this week or make it to these two months. And as soon as you make it to that spot, you've had to find somewhere else to make it to. You have to look for something good to. Maybe I can live a little bit longer. And it's been that way for many years. And by luck, I found out about Dr. Katinka. And at first, because you are you're tired and this will fix it. Oh, this will fix it. I'll try this. A spinal stimulator. Oh, these drugs that and of course, nothing fixes that you're thinking in your mind. Maybe it fixed it a little bit, but nothing said Dr. Katinka. Same thing. I'm not going to do this. But I read her first book and everything makes sense. And to me it says, Mark, maybe they don't know how to fix, you know, your pain and your missing arm because it's so rare.

Mark: But the science is there and maybe it will help. And I talked to one of her patients that had left who had had to lose both of her feet. And she said that she understood the phantom pain. It was one of the five pains I felt. But she says she doesn't build it anymore. And I thought, well, it's the same science that stopped hers. So, I'll come here. And they are so good. They tell you in advance you're going to be in pain tonight. You're going to feel like you need to go to the E.R. and your kind of looking at them like, how do you know that? Right. And you're also going to feel very tired. You're going to feel this and they're telling you stuff in the future. And when that does happen, it gets you through. You think, wait, they knew this was going to happen and they're the same people that know they can fix me. So, it gives you hope. It gives you a little bit more. And every day I do get a little bit better.

Mark: But I will also say that the pain increases, but it does go away. And I'm today I'm a very, very low level of pain, thanks to Dr. Katinka and her entire team here.

Dr. Katinka: And thanks to you, Mark, because you had every reason to come in angry. You lost your arm, you survived this horrible accident. You were buried under the snow for twenty-seven, twenty eight minutes. Not only did you lose your arm, but then developed complex regional pain syndrome and an arm that was no longer there. And one of your doctors predicted that when you were excited about amputating the arm, he said it's not going to fix your pain now, but you wanted to hear. But he was right. And yet you kept getting up. And when you walked in with severe pain, you brought an amazing attitude with you. I asked Mark about the accident and he said something so significant, he said everything had to go just right for me to survive the piece of his helmet that stuck up above the snow, smaller than the tip of your thumb, the sun glinting on it, the quality of the snow that had to be just the right amount of powder. So, it would drop from the tree and cover you and help to stop the bleeding for twenty-eight minutes.

Dr. Katinka: But you easily could have said everything had to go just wrong because there were so many factors involved with the accident that could have prevented it at any point. You could have focused on that part. But you're not. Mark is being humble today, but his pain is dropped today to a four out of ten. Everything here is done in pain levels, which is a very big decrease in your pain, enough to give you significant hope. Mark, what is it about you that gives you that attitude?

Mark: To me? I've always look for the good in everything. To me, love is the secret. And to love the simplest way is to look for the good in a person, in a thing, an animal. The trees, if you're constantly focusing on looking for the good win and there is good in everything, I will tell you that there is good in everything. Then to me it's easy knowing that there is a reason there is a purpose. This is it's just happening. Yeah. You I could imagine if I was focusing on the bad because when you're at a nine it's incredibly hard to focus on anything but just let me die.

Mark: So, but you do you find something. And just last night it was the most extreme. But they tell me it and all I could focus on was actually doctor getting his face and her saying it's you're going to have bad the first two weekends can be very bad that they will get better and I just kept focusing on that thinking they. That it would, and after trying to go sleep many times up, I did fall back asleep and when I woke up, the nine was gone.

and just a breath of fresh air just came in to me. I thought, wow, but it worked. And every little success like that builds confidence in the system, in the strength. Everybody here tells you, look, this is what we're doing. They're so informative and they're so smart, they can they search and find this nerve that's way up, far away from the pain. But they go that's the one causing the trouble. And they work on it and you just trust them and they're right every single time. It's amazing.

Dr. Katinka: Thank you. It makes our job so much easier when patients have this type of go getter attitude that you do and you're in our waiting room. I'm sure you can look at some patients and see that mirrored that same attitude. And they see other patients that are maybe not bringing quite the same attitude to the table.

Mark: Yes. And it's very easy to see and you try to help them because they want to just continue talking about their pain and what happened and what didn't work. And this and you just look at them and smile and go, wow, I was lucky. This is what happened to me. And I talk about the good. And it's almost like you see a guilt in their face about that. They didn't have something good. And the next day you're there and they're telling you something good that happened. And you just you think that they're they've switched, they're on the right track. And the second I mean; you can see it in them. The second they as you talked about earlier, when they turn it and they think about something good, they go, I could raise my leg. The one lady I was talking to, all the pain, she goes, I can't raise my leg these hurts. Now I've got Barrass and this and this and my liver and all this. And she's talking about all the bad. Then the next day she says, I've raised my foot. I did. They put me in a Superman pose, which is very tough, but I was able to raise my legs under this pain. She now is looking for the good too.

Dr. Katinka: Not all of you listening will become my patient. The vast majority of you will not. And I'm not trying to turn you into my patient today. I'm trying to reach out to you wherever you are and help you understand how important it is that you change the way you think about your body, that you regain a trust in your body's ability to heal because your body is magnificent. Science tells us that the human body can survive a hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty years if we took care of it under the right circumstances, it was designed to survive with incredible intelligence. And I do not believe for a second that thirty or forty or fifty years in this body will just start failing for no reason. There's always a cause, physical, chemical or emotional stress. And if you can start unraveling it, many patients out there, I see them on the Internet are finding their way. They are bringing together their own tools. They will not give up despite whatever contrary evidence in front of them are telling them that they cannot get there, that they cannot trust their body. You brought up a very important point. Why do you focus on the founder of chiropractic? Didi Poma used to say, be very careful who you went upstairs to.

Dr. Katinka: Meaning, what are your thoughts doing to your body all day long? What is it doing to your energy field? I am active in quite a few support groups online. Just keep my eye on them. Some of my patients are in those groups and with the vast majority of support groups. What I've noticed is that you guys are doing the opposite of supporting each other in healing. You are congregating to talk about negativity. You talk about pain. You know, everybody focuses on the pain. If someone dares to say that they're doing something to get better or they've tried, I think that work for every positive comment, there would be negative comments of people saying, how could you do that? That is stupid. That didn't work for me. As a chronic pain community, we have to get together and support each other's successes rather than the tallest puppy syndrome, you know, where everybody wants to tear down the tall puppy. Why do we not look at patients who are succeeding and know that that also is positive because it foretells of success in our own cases. Mark, what advice do you have for people? You've been in the darkness. You've had these suicidal thoughts. I'm not saying you ever planned it, but death sure looked good.

Mark: Yes. Yes, I would. She was just saying that I thought, yeah, it's because misery loves company. You feel so alone. Nobody understands you. And maybe in a support group, that's your first place to let go. But I created just for myself, just tracker, general tracker where I track my pain, I track what's going on and that's where I share my misery. I write down what's with me and just getting it out, I think helps, but at the same time, you put that down and a tracker and then you can notice later, wait, it's not as bad as your brain thinks it's out to be. If you write it down, it's like it's you taking it out of your brain that's gone. And then you look for those good days and you use the good days to get you through the next bad day. It's incredible when you have a bad day, when you're in that worst that you pull from anywhere and find that this, too, shall pass as soon as like to say and I just tell people you're going to have the bad times muddle through them. And it's not good to share it all with your family or share with people because they can't have the empathy. They don't know it. And you don't want their sympathy, empathy, sympathy. You don't want apathy is the only thing you want. And that's for somebody to understand, someone to know what you're going through. And I think that's maybe why they did the support groups, because they get a little bit of that. But you've got to also know that, as she said, your body is miraculous.

Mark: They couldn't fix my brain going back to my heart. So, I guess all my body did. It developed hundreds of little capillaries that grew from my arm through my chest, back to my heart. So, I mean, that's just amazing to me that your body knows how to go and fix itself. It's incredible.

Dr. Katinka: If you are alive, there is magic inside of your body and that magic is there for you to access. You have the opportunity to do that. You are alive for a reason and a purposeful today and you are meant to fight that moment where things were going wrong, just wrong or just right.

Dr. Katinka: And in your case, Mark, you choose to look at it as just right. Do you think, Mark, that going forward this is going to hold blessings for you, the fact that you lost your arm, the fact that you had this accident?

Mark: Yes. I mean, for me, incredible. It was crazy, but I was working on being humbler. I mean, you know, that was my home for three years. I just ask for more patience. And then I got it. And then I decided I want to work on being humbler and losing your arm. I'm humble. It's so it's great. You think about it. Some people look at it go, you're missing an arm, but it might be missing a tooth or something. It doesn't change the way you live. You still have another arm. You can still do just about anything. It just might take you a little bit longer. But it's to me, I love my life. I will say that I started living honestly because I did think I was going to die. So, you start treating everybody really nice, really good. Your mind is thinking you don't want to leave somebody with a bad daughter or anger or something.

Mark: You know, you're thinking I mean, selfishly, you're going I hope they miss me when I've gone and you do nice things. And it's to me, I'm a humbler, nicer people treat me different even.

Mark: I think they I'm not a threat to anyone. You talked about when you first meet somebody, I think some about you know, you see somebody with one arm, they're not a threat. You almost like care for them immediately. That's what I get from the world. It's amazing how people come to help me.

Mark: I meet a lot of people just saying, can I help you open that bottle, you know, put your bag up in the airplane and they feel good when people feel good when they get to help you and them. As I know people ask, what do you do with a handicapped person? They're going to be at that. We help them. It may be. Some are, but those are rare. Everyone does appreciate your help. They want to be just treated like a person and is just like if you saw lady that had both of her arms filled with bags and you decided to open the door for her. It's the same thing. If you see me and I've got a drink in my hand and I'm coming to the door, hey, go ahead and open the door for me. Right. I don't want to spill my drink everywhere.

Dr. Katinka: Mark, on your iPad, you have an image of Nemo from the movie Finding Nemo and you identify because he has done one thing and the other one is small and because of your own. But Nemo just kept swimming.

Mark: Yes. Yes. And that's that was my motto, obviously, when they told me that they wanted to amputate my arm, I was like, yes. I mean, I was seriously less than ten seconds. And I was not thinking, oh, my poor arm. I was going, oh my gosh, please amputate it, because I was under the impression that the pain would go away then. And they said it had taken a while. But I wanted I didn't want my grandchildren thinking I was weird or anything. And so, I started pushing that the Nemo thing and wearing Nemo shirts and then they could oh Nemo. Oh, you're like Nemo. And it was I think very good. People got a different attitude because everybody loves Nemo and nobody looks at him, goes, oh my gosh, he's missing again, you know. And I'm the same way, you know, I'm missing a fin but I do keep swimming, you know, and continue. I can say that you may be like Dora not as not as ditzy, but you do you do keep us laughing and keep us going.

Dr. Katinka: Thank you so much for doing this today, Mark, I'm leaving you guys with the message that pain is real, but so is hope and then a quote by Bev Moore. I'm better off healed than I ever was unbroken. Thank you for listening today.

Kaylie: Thank you so much for joining us today. We are excited about every new person we are able to reach. It is our most sincere hope that our podcast will bring hope to many. If you are someone you love is suffering from chronic pain. Please don't lose hope. Visit our website at for more information and stories of hope. That's for more information and stories of hope.