A Fistula

[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by an Ananda devotee)

“You have a serious medical condition called a fistula,” the doctor said to me, “The only remedy is surgery.”

I had come to Italy to visit relatives and take care of some business obligations there. As soon as I arrived, I started feeling something very painful in my lower back. Within three days, it was so bad I couldn’t walk, and I had to go to the hospital. A fistula, I found out, is an abnormal opening or connection between two internal organs, or from an internal organ to the surface of the body. Mine was inside.

“We have to operate as soon as possible,” the doctor said, “otherwise you won’t be able to stand the pain.”

I agreed, and the next day I had the surgery. The fistula, however, was so large and so deep the surgeon was unable to repair it completely.

“You’ll have to wait a few weeks until the first surgery heals,” the doctor said. “Then I’ll operate again and finish the job.”

Oddly enough, the doctor tied one end of a string to the spot where he stopped working, and left the other end dangling outside my body, so he could easily find his way back in. (Shades of Theseus in the labyrinth!) It was disconcerting to see that string hanging there.

After the surgery, I had to stay in the hospital another five days, still in great pain, which the doctor said would continue until after the second operation. Swamiji happened to be visiting Italy at the time, and he sent me a beautiful big bouquet of flowers. It caused quite a stir. In Italy, so many flowers are given only to mothers with newborns.

When I was released from the hospital, I was still gasping with pain and hardly able to move. That very day an Ananda friend called to tell me that in two days, Swamiji was coming to visit me. I couldn’t say no, but I also couldn’t imagine how I'd be able to see anyone.

The next day, I was still in excruciating pain. The day after, however, I woke up feeling quite a bit better. When I got up and started to make the bed, I was horrified to see the surgical string lying there on the sheet. It had fallen out of my body! Immediately, I went to the hospital. The doctor inspected the site of the surgery. He was strangely silent. Then he said, “I see nothing there at all. Everything looks perfect. I can’t find any sign of the fistula.” It was obvious to me, too, that something had changed, for now I had only a little bit of pain.

I was stunned by this sudden turn of events, and delighted that I would be well for Swamiji’s visit. We met at 4pm, and at his suggestion, went for a walk together. The day before, I would have been in too much pain. Now I walked easily. My wife knew about my remarkable healing, but I didn’t mention it to Swamiji, or to anyone else.

Suddenly, without warning, Swamiji stumbled and nearly fell to the ground. For no apparent reason, he suddenly had an intense pain in his hip, and, being unable to put weight on his leg, could hardly walk. Fortunately, we were not far from the home of one of my relatives, and I half-carried, half-dragged him there. Thank God I was well enough to do it!

Swamiji lay down on a bed, and for the next several hours could hardly move because of the pain. Finally, it began to lessen, and I was able to get him back to his hotel. The next day, he was fine.

I thought deeply about what had happened: my mysterious healing, and Swamiji’s sudden collapse. I believe he suffered to protect me from suffering. This is something only a saint can do. I will never forget what Swamiji did for me.

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