Linda LeVier: Recently, our Laughter Yoga session was filmed for the local NBC TV News. After the reporter interviewed me about my heart health story he said, Linda thinks of Laughter Yoga as medicine.
In 2004 I had quintuple bypass surgery. My body rebelled; all the bypasses hyper-clotted; seven stents were inserted and 3 years later I received a heart transplant. Congestive heart failure was the diagnosis when I left the hospital the first time.
I followed a heart healthy diet, exercised and took my pills. I soon realized that I needed something more. Even though 9 weeks in the ICU were medically scary with no guarantee that I would be up and around again, I have wonderful memories of funny incidences that took place. The medical staff quickly picked up on my silly side. Whenever I made the least bit of improvement, we celebrated and laughed!
During the years just before the transplant I found out about Laughter Yoga. I was quickly addicted to the weekly sessions on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Yes, my heart was continuing to weaken, but the rest of my body and my soul were thriving!
After the transplant I became a Laughter Yoga leader. It was time for me to give back to the Universe for my second chance at life. Meeting Dr. Kataria in Chicago for my LY Teacher Training was such a thrill. Now, I spread the importance of getting more laughter in the lives of anyone who will listen to me.
In May of 2011, I was in need of cataract surgery for both of my eyes. As I was preparing for the first surgery date I had no idea that I was going to be spreading my belief that laughing is an amazing stress releaser.
As you might imagine given my medical history, when I was sitting in the pre-op cubicle I got emotional and shed some tears. The nurse asked if I was all right. I replied, I will be. When the anesthesiologist arrived pleasant remarks were exchanged, except that I was told that I would not be put out during the surgery. The surgeon came in. I said, I heard that I will be kept awake during the procedure. May I talk? May I laugh? Yes he said. I giggled as I added, You dont know how big I laugh!
Mission accomplished. The tension was now softened for all of us. As I was walking to the OR I said that I work with Laughter Yoga, a system in which I laugh on purpose, without the need for jokes.
As I was getting on the table someone asked me what I meant about laughing without jokes. At that point I used a phony professor tone and proceeded to give a mock lecture about the doctor from India who founded Laughter Yoga in 1995. The last thing I remember was loudly going, Ho Ho, Ha Ha Ha!
Im pretty sure that they sedated me a bit more than planned just to shut me up! (After reading that sentence, my doctor disagreed, writing we never sedate patients more if they talk a lot!)
Back in the post-op room the atmosphere was lighter than before the surgery. I left in high spirits.
At the post-op appointment the next day, the doctor entered with a big smile. You certainly entertained us yesterday. We learned a lot about laughing! Did I really talk and laugh all through the procedure? I asked. He answered with, Just about!
What was the condition of the eye? Very good! No pain and I was already seeing so much better than before the surgery. I cant wait until the second surgery in two weeks.
The night before the second surgery I decided to take my camera. I tried to get a photo of my doctor at the last appointment, but he was too busy. The atmosphere in the clinic, where the surgery took place, was more relaxed than in the doctors office.
As I sat in the pre-op cubicle I took out my camera and the nurse put it up on a table and assured me that I could get his picture. When the doctor came in he noticed the camera and said, Bring it in with you. In the OR- I wondered.
I havent mentioned that I had one last way-out idea just before I left home. I found my stash of packages of red clown noses. Our Laughter Yoga group had hoped to sell some at a City Fair. I took out one package. I had no idea what I was going to do with that nose. During a moment when I was alone, I took the nose out of the package and hid it in my hand under the sheet. When we were heading to the OR the nurse got a peek at the nose and smiled.
Just as before, I got on the table. There was talk about what they were going to do with the camera. Someone started suggesting where others should stand. As the doctor came by me I pulled out the nose and put it on. Everyone laughed. Funny photos were taken. Later, I saw why the nurses were laughing when the anesthesiologist came close to me. The photo showed him with his hands folded as if he was praying over the poor clown about to have surgery. (Another correction- The nurse later said that he was proposing to me! Ha ha )
Again for me, the tension was lessened. The camera was put away. Everyone scrubbed up and the bandage was put over my eye. This time I was very much awake during the whole procedure. I talked with the doctor. The experience was fascinating. I wasnt as goofy and loud this time. I had had my time for laughing.
After the surgery one nurse talked a lot about the importance of laughter. She said that patients display a variety of emotions. The staff has to be flexible and compassionate in order to handle all situations. During our LY training we talked about how we can laugh inside ourselves at times to release our own tension, so that we can then be strong for someone else.
Lynn, a nurse who was in the OR for both of my surgeries said that as soon as she saw and heard me the first time she knew everything would go well. Patients with a positive attitude make it easier on the medical team. She praised my surgeon for his ability to ease tension by encouraging his patients to talk about whatever pleases them. Wow! I certainly got the right doctor for me!
I doubt that there will be many patients as whimsical as I was. I do know that the doctors and nurses I met at the clinic will be recorded in my memory bank as very special! Laughter Yoga really helped me to learn the tools that have benefited me physically, mentally and spiritually.