Jayapataka Swami in Los Angeles in March.
Doctors have told ISKCON guru and GBC Jayapataka Swami, who suffered two brain hemorrhages on October 23rd 2008, that he is making steady progress in his rehabilitation but will not be able to re-commence his traveling and outreach tours as quickly as he had hoped.
Jayapataka Swami has always shown an incredible dedication to his spiritual mission, flying to ISKCON’s headquarters in Mayapur, India, just four months after his hemorrhage to attend the annual Gaura Purnima festival and GBC meetings there. “I told the doctors that I hadn’t missed any since 1972, so they gave me permission to go for one week,” he said, adding, “I am doing therapy now so that I can be active again in preaching.”
However the staff of the High Hopes Head Injury program in Los Angeles, USA, where Jayapataka Swami has been undergoing rigorous therapy for the past four months, told him at a recent meeting that he is still far from his goal.
The effects of the High Hopes program—the first in many months that has seen Swami focusing on one therapy in one location with one physiotherapist—have not been dramatic, but they have been steady. Jayapataka Swami has been able to swim with a forward stroke, write more clearly with his right hand, stand alone without any support for a longer time, and walk with a lesser need for support.
However the High Hopes staff cautioned that to continue such progress Swami would have to follow his rigorous four-hour-a-day physiotherapy and exercise routine for many years in the future, and possibly for the rest of his life—regardless of his location.
Missing only 48 hours of this routine would see Jayapataka Swami immediately lose much of his progress in regaining his independent abilities. High Hopes Chief Therapist Dr. Mark Desmond, whose personal attention and care Jayapataka Swami greatly appreciated, estimated that if Swami were to leave his therapy routine for just one month to travel, he would require six months of hard work to return to the level he was at when he left.
“Because of this Jayapataka Swami will have to say no to any preaching proposals that would disturb his therapy schedule,” says Dr. Achyutananda Dasa of Mumbai’s Bhaktivedanta Hospital, who has been one of Swami’s carers since his hemorrhage. “If this proper balance of regular rest and exercise is not maintained, there is every chance of a second stroke. So he cannot continue the stressful lifestyle he previously maintained, and will have to stay only in places where a pool and proper medical and physiotherapy facilities are available.”
There is no quick fix—doctors say this stroke rehabilitation will continue for the next twenty years. Overall, their consensus is that it will take Jayapataka Swami a long time of hard effort to become truly, practically and safely independent—until then, he will need closely supervised attention from caretakers and therapists. During this time, they’ve also advised him to stick to one therapist and one style of therapy for many years at a time—switching often could cause setbacks.
This is not to say that during his rehabilitation period Jayapataka Swami will not be able to attend engagements or go on preaching tours—however when he does, he will carefully choose locations that can be set up for his continued physiotherapy routine.
“For now, it is likely that Jayapataka Swami will stay in Los Angeles until the Mayapur GBC meetings next February,” says Dr. Achyutananda Dasa, “Although no plans have been set yet.”