Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek war veteran, came to the US in 1943 to seek treatment for a war injury. He ended up staying and got a job as a manual laborer. He married a Greek-American wife and they had 3 children.
In 1976, Moriatis was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid-60s. The doctor told him he had 9 months to live. He didn’t like that answer so he went to 9 other doctors. They all confirmed the diagnosis.
Rather than face aggressive treatment, Stamatis decided to save his money for his wife and children and return to his home town of Ikaria. When he first arrived to his parents’ home, he was weak.
Word got out Stamatis was home, and friends starting coming by for dinner each night, forming community around him. He got stronger. He started attending his childhood church which meant he had to walk up some hills, giving him more exercise. He planted a garden for his wife because he figured even though he wouldn’t live to see the bounty, his wife could have the produce and think about him.
When the bounty came, he was still alive. They started enjoying all the fresh produce from the garden. He felt better and better, so started tending the vineyards on the property that had gone untended. Eventually, he made wine and began exporting.
Thirty years later, Stamatis was 97. He came to the US to go visit those 9 doctors and ask what they thought had happened.
They were all dead.
The long version of this story was published in the NY Times on 10/24/12. I heard the retell in a Hay House interview with Dr. Lissa Rankin who wrote Mind Over Medicine. Dr. Rankin was raised by a western-trained doc, trained at top universities in western medicine (read traditional) herself, and worked as an OBGYN until “her perfect storm,” a series of personal and emotional traumas that forced her to listen to what she calls her “inner pilot light.” She collects much scientific data to show what many of us know intuitively: the mind CAN heal the body and help it reach its optimal health.
But what I thought was most interesting was that when asked by Greg Sherwood if she could isolate one thing that lead to illness she identified loneliness as that culprit. In the story of Stamatis, we see how the sense of community appears to have defied what 9 doctors said was inevitable.
In this world of artificial connections, we must remember the importance of human touch, of face-to-face camaraderie, of sharing a meal together, and of just enjoying each other. It may even save our lives.