Dr. Martine Rothblatt started a company called United Therapeutics to save the life of one of her daughters who had a rare disease. Before that she founded and led Sirius XM radio which has over 34 million subscribers and she is also a leader in transgender rights. When I listened to her recently on The Tim Ferriss Show, my eyes were opened in so many ways.
She mentioned that the nervous system touches every cell in the body. And that the vagus nerve, the largest nerve, wraps around our brain and heart and gut and comes out to the skin in two places, in the left and right ear. She mentioned that we have the sympathetic nervous system which is fight or flight and the parasympathetic nervous system which is rest and digest. And that all disease comes from the fight or flight overtaking the rest and digest. Stimulating the vagus nerve can support the rest and digest side of things (which can be done by breathing deeply and from the belly for example).
I have heard this concept before, but the simplicity of the explanation stood out to me.
She also spoke about a technology she uses to refurbish donated organs. Often organs that are donated after a tragic death are unusable due to damage (heavy mucous in the lungs). Her company flies the organ out of the hospital and puts it into a machine that simulates a healthy body with oxygen and blood-like fluid. The damage can often be cleared, and surgeons can watch online and ask for cameras to be put into certain areas of the organ to ensure it would work for their patient.
One hundred and fifty lives have been saved by organs her company refurbished. The organs would have been thrown out, and instead 150 people walked out of the hospital.
I find this fascinating. When asked what we can all do to think outside the box she mentioned that earlier generations may have been travelling in challenging environments and giving birth in fields and struggling to eat and living every day with one thought in mind… that maybe the children will have things a little bit easier than they did. Fast forward to today. Although there is a lot of suffering in the world, there are many people who have access to endless knowledge (through smartphones) and we have far more comfort than our ancestors.
What will we do to ensure the generations before us can live on through our lives? What problem might we solve? What pain might we decrease for others? What path might we blaze?
We can be curious. We can think differently. We can take action. We can find solutions.
In the smallest sense, we can promise ourselves that we will strengthen our vagus nerve and help shut down that old fight or flight part of the brain that our ancestors needed to survive. Letting us rest long enough to change the world in their name. Who will join me?