Thich Nhat Hanh continues to recover from a severe stroke

According to a statement credited to Thich Nhat Hanh collaborator, Sister Chân Không, and posted Feb. 19 on the reputable Lion’s Roar website, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who suffered a severe stroke last November, continues to make progress in recovery in a French hospital.

The 88-year-old spiritual leader was taken ill Nov. 1 and moved from his Plum Village monastery to a hospital in Bordeaux, France. The stroke occurred Nov. 11th while he was in the hospital.

Chân Không’s letter to Nhat Hanh follwers reads as follows:

Dear Beloved Community,

It’s been one month since the last report about our dear teacher’s health. We are happy and blessed to be able to share with you this progress report about the improving health of Thay. Thay has been out of the coma now for 5 weeks and since then he has been relocated to the rehabilitation center in the hospital. Since coming out of the coma, Thay has been able to keep his eyes open, is increasingly alert and able to engage throughout the day with the medical staff and attendants.

Having settled in at the rehab center, we are maintaining the 24/7 rotation of attendants to give Thay constant support. Over the past few months Thay has developed clear means of communicating with the attendants as well as physicians. Before aiding Thay in any tasks, the attendants always give thorough explanation and only proceed when Thay gives consent by nodding his head. At other times when Thay did not wish to do whatever has been requested of him, he would shake his head or he’d signaled with his left arm, of which he has regained much control. Overall, Thay has been quite cooperative even though sometimes the task to be done was uncomfortable for him.

The physical therapists have begun working with Thay to strengthen his muscles after weeks of immobility. One set of therapy includes exercises to strengthen his back so that Thay can sit upright on his own, keeping his neck and head aligned properly. With continued therapy, we are hopeful that Thay will be able to maintain a sitting position without any support.

Thay is also undergoing therapy to strengthen his legs so that he can stand on his own two feet. The 15-minutes sessions are physically challenging, but Thay is highly motivated to regain his capacities and has often continued with these exercises outside of schedule sessions. Thay is very determined to be able to stand again soon!

The physicians in Bordeaux are hopeful that as Thay is able to eat more and gain more weight, he will have the strength needed for the physical therapy. We are happy to share that last week, in addition to the profound care of the hospital’s doctors, Thay was also treated by a dear student of 20 years, who is a physician specializing in oriental acupressure and acupuncture. The treatments, focused on re-establishing Thay’s yin-yang balance and increasing the energy of his liver, pancreas, and kidneys, had enabled Thay to sleep better and have more energy.

The physical therapy augmented with acupuncture and acupressure treatment gave Thay greater energy and boosted his motivation. On one occasion, Thay was able to ‘cycle’ with his legs with the help of his attendants for an entire hour! The attendants can barely keep up with Thay’s continuous requests to practice his physical exercises. On another day, after acupressure and acupuncture treatment, with help Thay had proceeded to ‘cycle’ his legs 318 times!

It is truly elegant and beautiful to see the harmonious fusion of eastern and western medicine through the improvement of Thay’s condition. Particularly, the speech therapist had been helping Thay to strengthen the muscles relating to the pharynx and last week, Thay was able to swallow his pureed potatoes much better.

One of the recent happiest moments for Thay was when he was with the speech therapist and enjoyed a quarter cup of tea! When Thay was finally able to hold his cup of tea upright, we declared, “Now we shall have a tea meditation!” Thay agreed and raised his hand as if about to speak and motioned for one of the attendants to give the therapist a short orientation on how to drink tea mindfully. Then Thay and his speech therapist had a sip of tea. While the therapist observed that Thay was swallowing properly, Thay also looked into his tea and smiled to her. Then he put his hand on his heart and the attendant explained that Thay was encouraging us to bring our mind back to our body and to look more deeply into and really enjoy the taste of tea and people around us.

It has often been said that Thay’s life is his message. We feel incredibly grateful that despite the current circumstances, Thay continues to offer us his profound love, compassion and teaching.

The path of healing for Thay is still long, but we are certain that with the love and the support sent by all of his friends and disciples and with the energy of Avalokiteshvara, Thay will overcome the difficulties.

Thank you so much for all the beautiful emails, prayer services, letters, post cards and adorable drawings by children. Our community also appreciates deeply the donations sent to support us with expenses of housing and food for the monastics and attendants who are caring for Thay.

With joined palms and a deep bow,

Bhiksuni Thích Nữ Chân Không




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