'I can walk and I can just about run'
MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:Dame Emily Naper
IT WAS 22 years ago and I was pregnant with my son. Because I was losing him, I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed so I was in hospital for three months.
In the end, he was born in the lift. I was being taken down as an emergency but I never got anywhere. He just appeared. He was a miracle actually because he was so small. He was under three pounds, which was tiny. But he survived and thank goodness he was okay.
I was relieved obviously but then my legs wouldn’t work. One of them didn’t move at all and I had pain in my spine so I really couldn’t do anything. Maybe it was an old injury, but I simply had to get better. It wasn’t so easy with a new baby and two other children but you’ve just got to find a way. My husband was working really hard so I got a male nanny. That was a bit unusual but I needed someone to play with the boys, to drive and they had to look after me as well. The sciatic pain was excruciating.
I had a laminectomy, a kind of a spinal operation three months after the birth. Before the operation I think I was living on vodka and painkillers because the pain was so bad. There was a 50:50 chance I would be able to walk again, so I was relieved it was successful.
But I guess I wasn’t the perfect patient. When you are trying to be a working mum and you’re not well, it’s hard. Maybe I should have done more exercises then – maybe that’s why my back is still not perfect today.
This was all at a time when we managed very cleverly to lose all our money so I had to come up with an ingenious idea to make some back. I’m a gilder by profession and somehow, people wanted me to teach them so I just had to get up and get going and start my gilding school.
It was pretty tough because I couldn’t even sit on a stool. I used to get really tired but I was so grateful that people wanted to be taught. I loved teaching and it gave me the inner confidence that things were okay. I guess I just kept going to this day. I’m still trying to still keep going.
I can’t squat properly nor bend down properly, or jump but I can walk and I can just about run and I get tired but that’s not bad. I’m grateful to have what I have.
I have discovered some amazing treatments, which I have then tried to learn because I was so amazed by them.
I’ve tried this new technology called Scenar, a machine with electro impulses that move up and down the spine. It helps send a message to the brain to heal where you are damaged.
I found somebody in Ireland who did it. I would be on my last legs and I would drive down to Mayo to find him and he’d do this amazing treatment, wrapping me up in this kind of a magnet for about three days. It’s like recharging your batteries, which is great because I suppose when you have a spinal problem, you get doubly tired.
Now I’m going to a doctor in Dublin who uses a resonance machine. It reads your system onto a computer screen so it can actually print out what is the matter with you. He then gives you a homeopathic cure to help build you up inside.
It has worked for me and I’m really grateful for that because I wouldn’t know where else to turn. You can take painkillers but that’s not actually curing you . . . they can take the pain away but to me you have to work it out, you can’t get better otherwise.
I’ve studied shamanism too. It entails seeing your mind and learning to be relaxed enough to see life clearly. Most of us are running around all the time and we don’t stop and feel and see and think.
The mind and the body are completely linked together . . . I really believe that. If the past can get stuck in your brain, I also believe it can get stuck in your limbs – and if it’s stuck in your limbs, then somehow the mind has to work out how to release that.
My father had a spine problem, I’ve had an operation, my sister has had one and my son’s had one so it must be somehow hereditary – so how do you break that genealogy-hereditary pain? Basically you’re stuck so I thought maybe shamanism would help me.
I really do believe it can release some past history in your body if you go with it.
I think for anybody who has a major spine operation, the biggest problem is your mind – mind over matter. I never really realised what that meant but when you’ve had something like this happen, to put one foot in front of the other, to jump off a little wall or anything, you have to talk to your mind all the time – “I’m okay, I can do it.”
That sounds ridiculous but it’s true.
We’ve built an adventure course here at Loughcrew. There’s a climbing wall and a zip wire through the forest, rope courses and games. I’ve zip wired it, I can’t do all the things and I wouldn’t do them, but there we go again, is it my mind? I’m not sure, but I’m not going to do that to myself.
We’ve done the Opera Festival at Loughcrew for 12 years. It’s not huge but it’s different and very enjoyable and people really love it. There is a small orchestra and aerial ballet this year. Come in your jeans or your finery, the music is stunning.
We put on a great performance.
In conversation with Joanne Hunt
Loughcrew Opera, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ takes place on Friday, July 20th and Saturday 21st. Call 049 854 1356 or visit loughcrew.com