Thursday, June 07, 2012

Integrity - The Life and Values of Mark Palmer

Integrity – The Tool which enables success and prosperity.

                moral soundness; "he expects to find in us the common honesty and integrity of men of business"; "they admired his scrupulous professional integrity"
  1. Integrity as a concept has to do with perceived consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome. People use integrity as a holistic concept, judging the integrity of systems in terms of those systems' ability to achieve their own goals (if any). Wiki
Through our choices we touch the world around us, changing the world through example and through the power of choices lived consistently. This is integrity, a measure of soul, spirit and mind.

Integrity in our choices, living transparently and accountably, allows those around us to know we can be trusted. When we choose to live in this manner we are free to experience ourselves without fear, we see the world differently.

This is the story of Mark Palmer, and how living with integrity allowed him to survive and prosper.

Mark Palmer suffered a brain injury at age15. In late1964 he was nearly killed in a collision with a bus, suffering a nearly fatal brain injury. He and his friends should not have been there, sixty miles from home. Telling their parents they were snow skiing they instead took a trip to downtown Detroit during rush hour. The driverhad been licensed to drive for only three days. They were enjoying a novel sense of freedom from parental oversight.

Mark was an ordinary young man who, in the aftermath of the accident, faced an extraordinary challenge.

Most people with TBI accomplish very little. Facing often-overwhelming problems, little is expected. Many commit suicide or care so little about the life remaining to them they recklessly throw it away, blaming others for their bad luck. Mark chose another way. Taking responsibility for the problems he faced while still in the hospital he began to take control of his own choices.

Even today little is known about traumatic brain injury, the challenges are too diverse and complex for anyone to predict with reliability what the TBI survivor will face.

During the first late night surgery the doctors opted to remove the splinters from Mark's brain, saying he had a 300 to 1 chance of living. Mark was in a deep coma for weeks afterward. He would remember nearly nothing of what had transpired during those weeks and nothing of the accident.

As Mark regained consciousness he became aware his parents wanted him home. Normally happy people, they were clearly distressed. Mark remembers wanting more than anything to see them smile. He was filled with the wish to make up for being someplace he was not supposed to be. He vowed to make up for his lack of responsibility.

Mark decided he would do whatever necessary so they could take him home. To be discharged, Mark had to feed himself, walk, and urinate.

Mark managed to walk by hanging on to his IV holder, pushing it along like a walker, each step a painful struggle. Urinating was the next item on the agenda. Mark discovered he no longer knew how to urinate. Refusing a catheter, he taught himself to go. It was excruciating, the first pain he remembered from the accident, and he had been in a coma for so long. The memory of the pain would remain with Mark for thirty years.

Taking a bite of food on his own also proved to be a challenge. The hospital required Mark manage at least one bite of food for himself. It took many tries for Mark to hit his chin with a spoon still full of oatmeal. His right hand was in a cast, but the left was paralyzed so his right hand did the work. Mark hit his shoulder, then his chest. After many attempts he got the side of his mouth. No oatmeal made it in, but it was enough. Seven people were standing there watching.

When he was carried in to his home the hole in his skull was still covered only by newly healed skin. His parents had shuffled bedrooms so he would not have to climb the stairs. Mark does not remember who fed him at home, but he knows it was not him. Over the next months he slowly taught himself to walk, very badly. Mark overcompensated in every way. Receiving no rehbilitation, he laid down a pattern for misusing his body which would result in years of excruciating pain.

His body had lost the fluid ease of youth and he leaned to one side, as if still expecting the impact of the bus.

Mark then experienced his second crisis. Everyone told Mark he would now live a, normal’ life, he was nearly recovered and had only to return to his old self. But there was no normal, old self in Mark. Instead, Mark now experienced the world through lenses which had changed forever. The hole in his head was healing and the hair on his scalp was beginning to grow again. Inside his mind, he was a different person.
Friends veered off and the new Mark found himself often alone.

During his weeks in the hospital he had received hundreds of cards from the people to whom he delivered the morning paper. Nurses read these to him, beginning before he was conscious. From a great distance he had heard the words. He knew he had been valued for doing a good job, for being reliable and contientious.

Mark was the kind of paperboy who makes sure your paper is close at hand and in good condition when you go out to pick it up. It was his job and he diligently tried to do this job well. Knowing this sustained him, becoming a measure he was to use over and over again.

Mark learned while still in high school it could be worst.

While sitting in his doctor's office, waiting to be seen, another patient, near Mark's age, also a victim of TBI, noticing his Algebra book told him sadly he could no longer do Algebra. Mark had his ability with math, even if his other classes had become much harder. Hearing this, Mark felt a surge of happiness at finding something intact.

Mark's problems were different. It took a long time to relearn the use of his muscles. His failures forced him to identify and work with each small muscle, individually, bringing it under his control. In this way he learned something very valuable. To accomplish the task at hand he had worked tirelessly. First, with help, Mark broke down each task by identifying smaller and smaller groups of the muscles and then learning all over again to control each one and then all of them together.

His body was one set of tasks. His mind was another, even more complex. At first he tried to believe when he was told he was now 'normal,' that his mind was working as it had before the accident.Then he accepted that the people he loved most were lying to him. .

When he returned to school he could see he was not keeping up with his class. What had been easy was now a struggle – but his teachers passed him anyway. He would have liked to believe all would be well but when he started college he knew parents, friends and teachers had lied to him for the kindest reasons. But these were still lies.

When Mark was 17 he began looking for a part-time job. He sought a job processing 100 lb sacks of newspapers but found the supervisor doubted he could do the work.

The papers, produced by the Catholic Weekly, were addressed to all subscribers, according to zip code and delivered to post office. The job was transferring the sacks to the delivery truck, which would then take the papers to the post office. To prove he could do the job Mark offered to work for free for a week. Half way through the day the circulation manager,Doug, said, "Mark, you can expect a check."

The muscle issues were solved first. The full impact of tthe damage hit Mark when he began college. He flunked out. Mark made a pact with himself. He could not discuss this with anyone because the people he loved, and who loved him, would have been shocked and hurt. But he would accept no lies, no matter how kind or hopeful. He would break all learning into smaller and smaller parts until he could understand, learn, and master the task at hand as he had done with his body.

Mark broke every task into smaller and smaller parts until he could understand and master each tiny, incremental bit. Each part would be completely understood, transparent. He would be responsible for making each part work.

The challenges continued to appear.

Grand Mal Seizues started a few months after Mark had returned home. While still in high school and college Mark suffered through seizures so violent every incident brought with it a new injury. Over the next years his seizures caused hundreds of dislocations of his arms, and other injuries almost without number. Working by himself, as usual, he learned to use pressure and gravity to pop the arms back into place.

The pain of urination continued. Mark learned the location of every rest room in any city he visited.

Mark's contined back problems and a ruptured disk, complicated by his seizures, resulted in back surgery. The levels of pain were immense, constantly with him. Despite the unremitting pain, for two years Mark refused mediation for pain. Blood levels for the medication for his seizures were never checked Only years later discovering that his body burned the medication at a rate that rendered it useless.

When Mark began work he automatially applied the same principles which had helped him survive. He ascertained the facts, did not evade the conclusions, and accepted it was up to him to find a way to make things work.

Mark married in 1969 and began to build a professional life for himself and his family. The couple had two sons and the same principles were applied to being a father.

Mark became an ever more observant student of the world around him and of people. Understanding others, what stopped them from successfully, carrying out their jobs, achieving their goals, the strategies they had adopted , received his dispassionate and intense attention.

Mark began categorizing these and determining how he, first as computer operator, a small company executive, to salesman, mnager and executive then consultant, could help them change their personal stragegies to successfully meet their goals.

In 1992 Mark was in Tokyo when both his shoulders went out at the same time. He remembers the taxi driver, who Mark told to pull over. The driver's shock as he watched Mark was palpable.

Mark got out of the taxi, braced himself on the hood of the car, and using gravity, popped both shoulders back in place, one at a time. Returning home, he decided it was time to have them fixed surgically. Before finding a physician Mark became an expert in the tecniques which would be used during his surgery.

Surgery was followed by another year of therapy.

Then Mark discovered how his pain impacted those he loved most.

Mark's wife came home one day and told him she had hired a landscaper. The next week she sold the lawnmower. She could no longer stand watching his struggle to cut the lawn, sleeping on ice, to alleviate the pain. Mark realized, for the first time, he was causing his wife pain.This was unacceptable to Mark.

The search for another physician, untried therapies and techniques, began anew.

The new physician laid out a regimen. X-raying Mark's shoulders the doctor prescribed massage therapy and recommended Mark begin a regimen of Rolfing. Rolfing, a technique to break up the adhesions between muscles and organs caused by trauma, continued weekly for 15 years.“You don't have a shoulder problem,” the doctor said, “you have a compensation problem.”

The physician was the first person who referred to Mark's condition using the words, 'brain injury.' His parents had never told him. Asked about this, Mark's father said harshly, “You didn't deserve it” His parents had concealed the truth out of a wish to protect their son, finally explaining to Mark why they had told him he was 'normal.'

Mark immediately went on line and began reading about brain injury. Again,he became an expert.

In 1996, now 47 years of age, Mark began rehabilitation for the first time. He relearned crawling and walking. His doctor suggested use of more diverse protocols. A Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation ( TENS)Unit became Mark's means to distract him from the pain brought on by the new regimen. Mark wore a TENS unit continuously for three years as his rehabilitation continued.

To force Mark to stand upright his Rolfer would stand on the table and pull his hair, excising old trauma from his body.
Understanding he could change himself gave Mark a wonderful sense of freedom, pride and accomplishment Ever since the accident Mark had stood and sat with a lean to one side. During the rehabilitation process he realized this originated from his attempt to brace for the impact with the bus. His body had remembered the moments he could never recall. Now, the lean was gone. His kids noticed he was standing straighter. Mark did not quit. He could see that, no matter how painful, the new techniques were working.

Pain is no longer a constant distraction in Mark's daily life now. But he has to work hard to keep it that way.
Mark still approaches life in this way today. Using the same techniqueS he had originated for his recovery had brought him far in business. In business, Mark used transparency and accountability, developing protocols to show others how to analyse their plans and practices with uncompromising honesty and transparency. They must, he told them, be accountable.

As a business consultant Mark teaches businesses how to become more profitable. He puts them through a process similar to the one he used on himself. Some find the process exausting. Others, frightening. But the process produces highly positive results.

While waiting for a plane Mark met a young woman when she spilled her coffee on his. She was, she explained, nervous, trying to rehearse her responses for a job she desperately needed. As they talked, Mark explained his approach. She thanked him. Some time later he received this note from her.

Dear Mark,
I wanted to thank you for all your support, after a lengthy and complicated job hunt there were plenty of people suggesting tactics which would not have been me or would have appeared fake.  You encouraged to play to my strengths by simply being me with some thought applied and it has certainly paid off.”

Working with sales staff, management, and company officers, the process forces them to identify the facts which kept them from succeeding. Using carefully designed protocols they hone in on the issues which have prevented or limited their success.

Mark's least successful sales management position left his client's company with 90% revenue growth. His most successful experience was a 400% ncrease in revenue growth.

Today, Mark is a highly successful consultant. He is also pain free for the first time in 50 years and he understands himself and those around him, their motives, their evasions, and their fears.

Each day his own regimen continues. Many normal body functions remain a struggle. If Mark becomes over tired his speech slurs. Over the years he has continued to lose his hearing. Each problem is approached with the same unrelenting tools. Mark still allows himself no excuse. He keeps researching developments in rehabilitation and on TBI, both for himself and for others.

Mark's sons grew up prizing their own self-sufficiency. Five grandchildren brighten Mark's life.

Mark's approach to his brain injury became his career and also a spiritual discipline. Using the same standards in all parts of his life Mark has lived a life founded on integrity, spelled out in action. By so doing Mark has demonstrated to thousands of people the power of these values to our lives.

Robert Frost's, “Two Roads Diverge in a Yellow Wood,” is Mark's favorite poem. Instead of taking the first road, Mark says he took the second. Assuming nothing, Mark has accepted only the facts since the moment he realized transparency was his only path to a life not limited by his injuries. Mark accepted no limitations, instead embracing his own power, something sensed the moment you meet him.

Far too often we ignore the power of the values and ideas we choose to shape both our lives and the future all of us will share. One choice, one value at a time, we are building the future today.

Mark Palmer's consulting site is Mark has also written a book for the victims of traumatic brain injury and their and families titled, “Realistic Hope.” Mark discovered early that all parts of our lives need integrity. Mark serves on the board for Jodi House, a not for profit in Santa Barbara serving the TBI community there.

This series takes real stories and people, using them to illustrate the principles of Integrity.


Steve said...
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Steve said...
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Steve said...

Hi Melinda, I was a regular listener to your show on Ron Paul radio in 2007. Really appreciate your work. What ever happened to Augustus?

Steve M

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster said...

Hi Steve,

August is still around working on his project and selling his microminerals. How have you been?

Steve said...

That was a pretty interesting time. I went to bed every night with headphones on listening to that show and praying Ron Paul would be prez. It was always really interesting especially when August was on. I learned a lot from that. So if it wasn't upsetting enough the Ron Paul was treated and lost in 2008 it was even more upsetting this last go around. So just bracing myself for what's to come.