PETALUMA, Calif, Aug. 23, 2014 – Perhaps the best thing that will come from Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare being nominated for an Emmy Award is that it will give even more viewers a sense that our country’s troubled healthcare system can actually be saved and that its success depends, not just on the decisions made by insurance companies and hospitals, but by these viewers themselves.
Such was the case for a woman living here in California.
After 15 years of marriage to an abusive husband and entering into a second difficult marriage, she was diagnosed with untreatable stomach cancer. For seven months she continued to struggle, unable to eat most foods or sleep more than an hour a night. In a moment of despair she tried to commit suicide by downing a bottle of sleeping pills.
She was found in a coma and taken to a hospital where she was put on life support with little hope of survival. When she regained consciousness five days later, she realized that her plan had failed. It was then that she did something that probably seemed crazy to those around her: She decided to give up on drugs and rely entirely on a spiritual approach healing.
Within a few days she recovered from the overdose and was released from the hospital. She then contacted a member of her Christian Science church who assured her that her cancer could indeed be healed – not by pleading with an unknown deity to do something miraculous but, as my friend describes it, through a growing appreciation and acceptance of God’s unyielding love for what he created.
After about five months, she knew she was cured. Since that time nearly 25 years ago, she hasn’t experienced a single symptom of cancer and, as a bonus, is very happily married.
In some ways this story parallels another life-threatening account that inspired the title of Escape Fire.
On a hot summer day in 1949, Wag Dodge was leading a group of 15 firefighters in an attack against an intense inferno. Within moments the situation turned from bad to worse, as the fire was suddenly within a couple of hundred yards of them – and moving fast.
It was then that Dodge did something that his cohorts must have thought was just crazy as my friend choosing a spiritual approach to healing. He took a match out of his pocket and set fire to the tall, dry grass surrounding him. Within seconds, he had created a buffer zone where he was able to wait safely while the primary fire burned around him.
Unfortunately, no one else followed his lead.Whether it was because they couldn’t see or hear him or simply refused to take advantage of an obvious if irrational way out of a terrifying situation, all but two of his companions were soon engulfed by fire.
Dodge’s ability to innovate on the spot and under intense pressure, now commonly referred to as an “escape fire,” provides an apt metaphor for what the producers of this groundbreaking documentary describe as healthcare system in dire need of repair – and innovation.
Whether this innovation begins with the exceptional doctors, patients and healthcare systems featured in Escape Fire or by people like my friend who have chosen an increasingly popular if still uncommon path to health, one thing is certain: “The fight to rescue American healthcare” is a battle that can and will be won.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. A version of this column was originally published on The Washington Times Communities in October 2012.