As I flew back earlier this week from two days teaching in Christchurch, New Zealand with Lorimer Moseley and the NOI team, I reflected on courses and teaching over the last 25 years. I must have taught 700 courses in my lifetime, but Christchurch was really special – deeply moving and meaningful – and I tried to analyse it.
The DIM/SIM city
Was it Christchurch the city as a DIM/SIM – still earthquake ravaged, but with pockets of creativity, hope and rebuilding next to despair and sadness. Perhaps it was Lorimer’s presentations on the amazing computational capacity of the spinal cord, immune set points, associated molecular patterns, and his interactive displays of the complexity of nociception and neurotags with the audience. Or maybe it was the audience, all 240 of them, at times just barely hanging on to this complex stuff but working hard as clinicians and therapists to challenge themselves and extend their knowledge.
It struck me that as complex as this new (to most) pain science is, it will be common knowledge in 5 years and we will all be another step closer to better pain treatment outcomes.
Welcome to country
Day two fell on 11 November, Remembrance Day for World War I, a day held dearly for many, and a poignant reminder of Australian and New Zealander bonding with the ANZAC tradition. A shared moment of silence remembering those who had fought, as well as thinking of those who continue to face the ravages of war today was an emotional moment. The entire course was characterised emotion – wonderful emotions – as Lorimer started day 1 with a passionate welcome to country introduction and acknowledgement of the Maori people, which was replied to by two Maōri participants offering to sing a tradition farewell waiata (song) to close day two. The words were simple, but the sound of hundreds voices lifting to the traditional tune tugged at the tear ducts in the most magnificent way
Ehara i te mea
Nō inaianel te aroha
Nō ngā tupuna
I tuku iho
This is not a new thing,
It is handed down from our ancestors
A new generation
There was also joy knowing that modern health professions are realising the power of Explaining Pain and linking the knowledge to movement and active treatment strategies. And there was also hope as participants sought deeper understanding in order to go beyond the Explain Pain Lite so common elsewhere, and engaged with the conceptual change sciences so critical to it all. And then there was seeing and hearing the next generation of teachers, Tim and Hayley bringing their own special contributions, and the entire NOI team working 12 hour days behind the scenes to make sure that everything ran perfectly as we stood in front of the crowd.
Perhaps too, the ability and backing to be able to say that we can treat pain and not just manage it and that for some, a cure can be on the cards.
Finally, and most importantly the crowd – what a crowd! Mostly locals, but many who had to get on planes or take long drives to come from other parts of the country. Quite a few Aussie’s made the trip across the ditch, but others had come just for the course from The USA, China, Japan and Nepal. Friendly, welcoming clever; asking probing questions, laughing at all my old jokes and hanging in there with us, right until the end.
On reflection, I guess the outcome is an emergent phenomenon, fitting given that pain, with its multiple simultaneous and collective contributions also has emergent features, something we try and teach on the course.
Thanks New Zealand and the multi-professional international travellers for contributing to a very special event in the NOI calendar and in my professional life.