We lost a very dear friend recently, and yesterday I went to the funeral – which, as rarely happens, really did seem to bring the dear old chap to life ….
Dr Paul Sherwood was an amazing man … who at some time or other has rescued most of us around here from dire incapacity and pain.
I spoke at the ceremony … a tribute … which may perhaps explain why this man will be so sadly missed, but why we celebrate a great life and legacy.
I have a feeling he will, like many men of genius, become much more famous once he is gone, than he was during his lifetime.
Here is (roughly) what I said.
Dr Paul Sherwood
I feel very inadequate to do justice to such a man in a few words, but having been asked, I’m grateful to be able to pay my respects. I never knew his childhood, his early career struggles, his growth into manhood, and his successful path through the formal channels of medicine. I never knew how he came to develop his own special kind of medicine, a unique synthesis of what he would call conventional medicine, and his own treatments based on years of experience, a sharp and uncommon intuition – and common sense.
What I knew was a man I visited when I needed help, and didn’t know where to turn. Conventional medicine did indeed fail to relieve me of a chronically painful back. So somehow I found myself as a young man, about 35 years ago, in Dr Paul Sherwood’s surgery.
Much of what happened you will already know – so many of us had our own similar experiences with him. He told me that I must look further back than my immediate history, to understand why I was in pain. Probably there had been an accident in my childhood days which, though I had apparently recovered, had put my body in a state of instability, ready to be triggered into spasm by a relatively mild event in later life. Previous to this I’d been told I had slipped discs, pinched nerves, strained muscles, damage to vertebrae … but never this SPASM thing. Dr Sherwood explained things using his wonderfully developed set of analogies, models from every-day life. He talked about an accident happening on the motorway … a car catching fire. And fire engines all speeding to the scene, too many fire engines … so the roads got jammed up, and nobody could get there – to put out the fire. He explained that the body was just like that. Sometimes our body’s responses which were designed to make us better when we are hurt, actually get it wrong, and make us feel worse, and stop the injury getting better. So it was with this SPASM … my body was responding to back pain by a set of muscles contracting, to protect the area from further damage. But in doing so they were producing more pain … and more pain brought more muscles to contraction … like more fire brought more fire engines … so there was a terrible vicious circle going on, and this “SPASM” set in … an immovable vice-like grip on my back.. Sherwood, having diagnosed, and explained the diagnosis in simple terms, now proceeded to work on my body to bring about a cure. He worked with simple machines, and simple medicines, but above all, with his bare hands. And it worked.
I remind you all of this today, because I think this is the essence of Dr Sherwood’s magic which he worked on us all. It was actually a lot more than this. A lot more than a cure. In these days when everything seems to happen above our heads, and we all feel so powerless, especially around doctors, it was actually a wonderful experience to be in Dr Sherwood’s care. So much so, that after a while we tended to go to see him even when we didn’t have a specific complaint. We wanted that feeling of regaining the power over our own bodies, and the calmness of knowing that somebody cared, and was wise enough, and strong enough to fix us. So we went back regularly for maintenance … a top-up, for our bodies and our spirits.
I spent hours in that never-to-be-forgotten room upstairs in Devonshire Place – a very warm and cheerful place – very unlike the cold steel and glass of a hospital, or the plain grim waiting rooms of most GP’s. As he worked on me, we talked of all manner of things … we agreed on many things – many ways in which the modern world had lost touch, had lost its humanity, its common sense. He shared with me his love of music, and he became an appreciator and a very sensitive critic of my own music – he saw it very much in context alongside his classical and romantic favourites, and his keen ears always sought the ultimate sound-system on which to listen to listen to it. We talked of this, and of politics, of art, of religion, of compassion, of empathy and the lack of it in human beings … of cruelty to animals – of making the world a better place. He often shared with me his frustration that the world – the conventional medical world which he had in a sense outgrown – again and again refused to acknowledge his methods … and I was one of a few friends who attempted to rewrite his Magnus Opus paper which would finally put the Paul Sherwood Technique – his unique cocktail of ways to break the cycles of pain … the over-response of the fire engines – on to the map – give him the recognition which he deserved, but sadly never came.
But, as I never tired of telling him … his recognition was in the hordes of people who came to him in pain, and left not only without pain, but feeling they understood the world a little better after sharing Dr Paul Sherwood’s wisdom, and care, and amazing skills. My own son Jimmy, studied under Paul, and Dr Sherwood told me he was his finest pupil. Jimmy has now gone on to very successfully perfect his own bag of tools in Physiotherapy, and, as many of his patients testify, Jimmy carries some of that old magic in him too.
In fact, I think all of us here carry some of Dr Sherwood’s magic forth with us. It lives on in the way we think a little more carefully and deeply about things … and try to find logical, simple explanations for seemingly complex problems in life. Dr Sherwood never solved all his own problems – that is the nature of life – but he made all our problems seem a little smaller, and easier to cope with, and this special feeling will stay with us all.
Dr Sherwood I only wish that you were here to see all the love and respect that all your patients and friends – the two mostly indistinguishable – have in their hearts for you.
In some ways, of course, I think he is here, now he is finally released from Earthly cares, and so I wish him a speedy and stimulating passage to the next place, in which I know his great, inventive, creative mind will be able to make some improvements !
I think we all want to say THANK YOU Dr Sherwood for enriching our lives. It’s perhaps an over-used expression, but you were truly one of a kind – perhaps the last of a kind. We won’t see your kind again. God Speed. RIP.
This is the website for Dr Sherwood .. which will be updated in the next few weeks, to form a permanent reference site.
See Dr Sherwood in action here
and, if your back is really killing you right now … here is where to reach Jimmy May …
Physiojim – that’s at gmail.com