On top of the world...
GQ Active feature - first published 1998
In 1995, Clinical Hypnotherapist Bill Frost worked as a UN volunteer aid worker on the Croatian / Bosnian border.
One night, having missed an emergency evacuation convoy as UN troops fled the area in which he was working, he found himself needing to escape from an active combat zone. He was travelling on foot through a desolate, heavily mined mountainous area and without an ally in sight. He had no map, no compass, no food, no water and no torch. Before long it became clear that he was very, very lost: not an enviable situation in the Balkans at that time.
Several hours later he realised that unfriendly troops were up ahead. He came to a bridge and decided to abseil off it, using some cable trailing from a nearby telegraph pole. It was at this juncture that things went from bad to worse. On his way down, the wire snapped and he fell some 50 feet on to a concrete road. He fractured his jaw and cracked a few teeth, but the main damage was to his back. The pain was not immediate, and after fully regaining consciousness, he was able to continue his escape and marched 50KM out of the danger zone back to his base. It was one month later, when he had returned to England, that his entire lower body become paralysed with intense pain.
He had blown a lumbar disc - imagine a balloon being popped - and pressure had built up on his spinal cord and the nerves that lead from the spine to the legs. Over the next year he received chiropractic treatment and acupuncture but the pain grew steadily worse. Perhaps in desperation he turned to hypnotherapy to help him control what was becoming excruciating pain on every movement. As the day and weeks passed he managed the pain and literally got back on his feet. To permanently correct the problem he also opted for lumbar surgery to remove the physical case of the pressure on the spinal cord.
The operation was a relatively new procedure called a lumbar laminectomy, advanced keyhole surgery that involves pliers and scalpels being wielded near a lot of very critical nerves. He awoke up from the operation in unbelievable pain. Tubes were coming out of my back, one of which was carrying diamorphine - a severe painkiller better known as heroin. Once again he turned to hypnotherapy to reduce pain and to promote healing.
Physiotherapists turned up that day and started working on him. It was as if his body had completely forgotten how to walk properly. He was leaning heavily to the left and really had to concentrate on each step. Still, by the end of that first day, he was able to walk with assistance. It took him one month to walk without any discomfort and another to move in a way that didn't look laboured. He used hypnotherapy to visualise the way that he wanted to be different and to help him retrain his body.
Does hypnotherapy work? Well, he had the operation in October 1996; by Christmas Day, he was climbing mountains in Northern Thailand. In 1998 he trekked to the base camp of Annapurna III (5000 M) in Nepal, in 1999 he scaled Kilimanjaro (5,950 M) the highest mountain in Africa and in 2001 he made it to the base camp of Everest 5,450). The power of hypnotherapy very literally allowed Bill to get back on his feet and feeling on top of the world!