Resolving Post Traumatic Stress

A compilation of reflections written by Sharon, Mary, Pamela, Lori, Brea and Shannon combined and adapted to make one narrative. (These people are Masgutova NeuroMotor Reflex Integration Core Specialists, complied by Pamela Curlee)

“We’re a volunteer team of seven MNRI® Specialists going to Newtown, CT to do trauma relief for Sandy Hook families.” Who? When? How? Financed by whom? Details would come later. This was purely a decision of the heart. We were about to embark on a journey to touch people whose very souls had been shaken to the core.

The initiative for this journey had come from Svetlana Masgutova, the creator of MNRI®, Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration, which grew out of her trauma recovery work in Russia. In early January we learned that our colleague, Shannon, had high school friends in Newtown whose two children went to Sandy Hook Elementary. Over Facebook she had reached out to them about our work. When she described her conversation with her friend we decided we must act. We would pay our own way. Pamela Curlee, co-director of SMEI (Svetlana Masgutova Educational Institute) and Dr. Masgutova agreed.

When Shannon contacted her friends, the father, Chris, said that if we came and offered free MNRI®sessions, he and his wife promised to bring themselves and their two kids. They thought that others would be eager to come too.

On the strength of that single invitation, and in ways that seem tinged with magic, the whole expedition materialized almost overnight. We changed plans, canceled appointments. A parent we serve at our Family Conferences found us airline passes, free rooms and meals. Others donated more frequent flyer miles and cash for rental cars and other expenses.

The day before our departure we had only five appointments scheduled and no place to receive people. Nevertheless, on January 29 Svetlana and Brea flew from Florida, Sharon from Texas, Pamela from Colorado, and Lori from Minnesota. Mary drove from DC with two massage tables. Shannon, our link with Sandy Hook, drove from New Hampshire with tables and other supplies. We wondered where we would ever set up the tables and if anyone else would come for treatment.

Good news the evening of our departure: Gene, a friend of Chris and a prominent citizen of Sandy Hook soon adopted by all of us as “Uncle Gene,” offered an empty suite in his office building along with two small tables and chairs for the reception area. We were set to go on Wednesday morning. The space was perfect! We fit six massage tables into four rooms. We added soft blankets, hooked up iPods and turned on soothing music. There was a wonderful sense of lightness and anticipation that we all noticed in each other. Maybe this unlikely project would really work! Meanwhile Chris was getting the word out. Shannon was scheduling more appointments as text messages and phone calls poured in.

We worked in teams of two with the first folks, seeing five adults and four children that afternoon. News spread quickly. Word-of-mouth resulted in sixty-nine sessions for people who had heard there was an opportunity for transformation from a group of total strangers practicing a method they were hearing about for the first time!

The people who walked through the door looked like the pleasant high functioning solid citizens they all are: the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook, children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and others. We saw shallow breathing, drawn faces and less than sparkly eyes, but basically normal children and adults. Fortunately, all had benefitted from the love, support and unity of this remarkable community and otherservices provided after the event. They smiled and welcomed us warmly and gratefully. As we worked with them, we heard about puppies, gymnastics competitions, job responsibilities and future camping trips. Their humanness remained untouched by the trauma.

Life was going on. Yet nothing had penetrated the protective armor built up by their survival brains and the effort to maintain it was wearing them down. They told of sleeplessness, depression, overwhelm, vulnerability in open spaces, reactions to sudden sounds, children afraid to be left alone, confusion, stifled breathing, aching backs and stiff necks. Though outwardly strong, inside, their bodies were still braced against the horror. Our pre-checks revealed a shared pattern, the physiological shadow of their trauma.

In the children with severe challenges that we usually serve, we see the results of chronic stress on basically shaky foundations. Here it was striking to see the results of acute stress in people with basically sound foundations.

With its innate ancient wisdom, a basically sound body can quickly return to its original healthy patterns. The immediate changes we saw in the people at Sandy Hook were amazing! Their bodies learned at lighting speed. We slowly and lovingly worked on their cores, arms, legs, hands and feet, allowing their brains to let go and say, “Now we are safe.” Dr. Masgutova stimulated neurosensorimotor points hundreds of times each day as we worked to integrate the sensory system and primary reflexes. Within an hour and a half symmetry was there, restoring a firm structural foundation. Before and after height measurements showed that improved trunk extension caused the children to “grow” at least half an inch! Arms extended straight for Hands Supporting and signs of trauma diminished or disappeared in auditory systems.

“Go look in a mirror,” we said to many as they left because faces now glowed with regained confidence, inner peace and, in many cases, the joy of laughter.  Stories of children sleeping through the night in their own beds for the first time since December 14, adults experiencing deep restorative sleep, vanishing back aches, pain-free bodies, normalized blood pressure, growing resilience and optimism reached us through phone calls, emails, and unforgettably from a boy in a treatment room lying on a table next to his father saying, “Dad, it’s so good to hear you laugh again.”

The response to the Sandy Hook shootings speaks volumes about what is rarely reported in the news: that for every deed of hatred and violence there are countless untold deeds of love and kindness. In the Newtown town hall, where the thousands upon thousands of cards, banners and patchwork quilts from around the world memorialize those who died on December 14, a grandmother who lost a grandson to Hurricane Sandy heals her pain by volunteering to record every item. The dichotomy of senseless loss and hopeful recovery is held in the work being done there by the grandmother, in the banner that read “Columbine stands with Sandy Hook” and in the thousands of messages from all over the world filling plastic bins piled on and under the tables lining the long corridors of the building. Cracks are where the light shines through.

By their refusal to let their community be defined by the shootings, by bonding together first in grief and now in recovery, and by their capacity for love and kindness, the truly awesome people of Sandy Hook restore the deepest meaning to “awesome”, turning tragedy into many small, simple acts of love and generosity. We experienced this first-hand in their support: Uncle Gene’s office space, morning cannolis from the best Italian bakery in Boston, bagels from the “only place in town to get them,” tubs of soup delivered at noon, our warm welcome from the hotel manager and staff, all the selfless donors and grateful receivers whose gift to us was the possibility to do worthwhile meaningful work. Down to earth practical help, nothing grandiose, just acts of kindness coming from a depth and largeness of spirit that refuses to bow to the darkness that entered their community so tragically. In their being and their deeds, they honor those they remember.

In life’s most unforgettable experiences you remember the sights, the sounds, and the feeling of every moment. Our time in Sandy Hook was like that for every member of our MNRI® team. We went there to give and serve and left having received blessings more bountiful than we ever could have imagined.

Note:  We will be returning to Newtown and we are inviting families to come to our Family Conferences for free. In order to cover costs of airfare, car rental, hotels, and food, we are a “button” on the
homepage (Newtown, Connecticut Donations) for tax-deductible donations.  Our services will always be offered for
free to the community members of Newtown.
The Specialists who went to Newtown were Dr. Svetlana Masgutova, Pamela Curlee, Shannon Desilets, Mary Rentschler, Sharon Heller, Brea Maday and Lori Burgess.

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