Shock Waves


“I can’t!” was her mantra.

A shocking and unexpected end-of-life story
with extraordinary improvement
after four years of  steady decline and deterioration.


Thanks to the hands of a cranial osteopath…
within eight months: 
April 30 – December 13, 1982.



Harriette Vicars Cooper Coker

was my mother… the life of the party, entertaining everyone with her piano playing.

Bowling, golfing, dancing, bridge parties…  she was a vivacious personality with lots of friends
until her unexpected ‘collapse’ after the death of her third husband.

Within three months, she was nonfunctional — 
refusing to eat, go out of her house, drive a car, accept or seek help.

1978-1982…  four years of seeking help with no improvement. My mother returned to old friends in Tennessee for six weeks; everyone was stunned to see her sudden and rapid decline. When in-home living assistance failed, she was moved to assisted living during these years. Counseling and psychiatric intervention with medications eventually culminated in hospitalization and electro-shock therapy. The psychiatrist suggested that the death of her mother and sister during childbirth when she was six years old could have relevancy to this grief reaction and collapse.  She would not communicate with me, her friends or a therapist. My phone calls, cards, letters received no response. Personal visits or visits with my husband and children were most difficult.

Nothing helped.

My mother was my only family except for my husband and two children.  I was an only child and my father died when I was 16.  I had leaned heavily on my mother during the past three years, dealing with chronic pain from two failed back surgeries after the birth of my second child. My daughter, as an infant and a toddler, knew her “Mimi” as much or maybe even more than her own mother.

During the third year of dealing not only with back and craniofacial pain [courtesy of dental trauma] but also ‘Mother’,  a referral from a physical therapist landed me in the office of a cranial osteopath.  My pain – and my life – began to steadily improve from this unusual hands-on treatment. Fourteen months of treatment with the osteopath and  I tossed my dental splint into the garbage along with several bottles of medication. My back pain  was improving.  Most importantly, my hope was restored.

Thus, I decided to take my mother to this osteopath.

When I asked him if he could help her, his response was:

“I can’t tell unless I treat her.”

We had tried everything else. 

What was there to lose?

The progress that unfolded under the care of the osteopath
from April 30 – December 13, 1982 was shocking.


Central Nervous System shock is not surprising.

The interrelationship between structure and function is paramount in a cranial osteopathic treatment.
What effect does ‘shock’ have on structural and functional efficiency?
– the shock of death,
– the shock of medications,
– the shock of ‘electroconvulsive shock treatment’? 

Office notes illustrate a structural/functional orientation revealed
through palpation:
left hemisphere no motion; weight in pelvis released; occipital twist;
no inherent sacral motion, T12, SBS no inherent motion.

A different perspective

She was not a willing patient.  She refused to go. My determination was stronger than her resistance. I had to pull her into the car as well as into the doctor’s  office.  She was hostile and argumentative. After her first treatment on April 30, 1982, I was afraid the osteopath would tell both of us to never return!

All of us persevered through these beginning appointments, and at the beginning of September, after only three months of cranial treatment and homeopathic remedies, my mother called me on the phone.  She had not called me since her collapse in the early months of 1978.  And, what was even more surprising, she asked me to bring her a lipstick the same color as mine and wanted to borrow the blouse  that I was wearing at our last visit. Always the height of fashion, the neglect of her appearance had been very distressing.  Her most amazing request: bring her piano music on my next visit.  She wanted to play the piano!  This was the Mother that I knew. 

From September to December, she began entertaining the residents in the assisted living center! The staff was in shock with this amazing change. We began going to lunch before her appointments with the osteopath.  Laughter and meaningful conversations, even talking about finding a new place for her to live if she continued to improve, are memories that I treasure dearly.

Her last visit with the osteopath was December 13.  His office notes say “had a regular conversation with patient for the first time“. 


I was surprised when the doctor called to suggest that I make an appointment for my mother with a cardiologist; he was concerned she had a heart problem. This was the week before Christmas.  I booked  an appointment for her in early January; the osteopath was not working during the holiday.

Another unexpected call came on January 6 at 2:00 am. 

I was informed that my mother had passed
that morning after complaining of indigestion.  

My gratitude is boundless for these memorable last months of my mothers life.