02 January 2024

Ruth’s Back Pain, Long COVID and Recovery. Part 2 – Long COVID begins

Many people endure back pain; for some it is severe back pain. As Ruth explained in the previous post, her experience was quite severe - as it has been for many others - but for Ruth, the back pain was then overlaid with Long COVID. 

While the illness nearly did kill her, she is now recovered and is keen to continue her story to add to the record and open more enquiry around this emerging and perplexing condition called Long COVID. 

Also, read on below for outlines of the meditation retreat and meditation teacher trainings Ian and Ruth will present in 2024, but first

   Thought for the day

       I am being driven forward

       Into an unknown land.

      The pass grows steeper,

      The air colder and sharper.

      A wind from my unknown goal

      Stirs the strings of expectation.

      Still the question:
Shall I ever get there?

      There where life resounds,

      A clear pure note

      In the silence.

                     Dag Hammarskjöld

Ruth continues to recount her story:

Having COVID itself was relatively minor for me. In June 2022, six months prior to the successful back surgery, I contracted a moderate COVID 19 infection which seemed straight forward enough at the time; a flu-like illness that lasted 9 days with quite a bit of coughing. Although debilitated by what had been by then a year of excruciating back pain, I was not worried by COVID and believed I would recover fully. I had been vaccinated three times as recommended and indeed, I recovered uneventfully. 

However, trouble was brewing. 

Since my third booster vaccination back in January 2022, things had been changing significantly. 

Visceral anxiety had begun to fill my days and this was really odd; I had been a daily meditator for decades. I was often described as a “very calm person”. 

Yet at the same time, I was becoming more and more fearful; abnormally fearful of just about everything. 

Quite soon, insomnia emerged as another major issue; getting to sleep became harder and harder.

Self-doubt and loss of faith was also on the rise; it was hard for me to know how many of these difficulties were coming from living the past year with major, chronic pain, the 14 acre property we lived on needing regular attention, or how much it could be attributed to my sensitive nature and all the upheavals associated with the COVID lockdowns?

At first, I did not imagine the vaccinations had contributed to all this, even though the rise in anxiety and sleep disorders clearly started straight after that third vaccination. Also, about a week after that third and most recent vaccination in January 2022, I had woken up at 3am with an almost over-whelming surge of anxiety in my stomach, and the urge to empty my bowels. Very odd, I thought at the time... 

But there was a lot more to come. Two weeks after recovering from the actual COVID infection, Ian and I were sharing a delightful meal together at a restaurant near Gundagai - Nimbo Fork Lodge, a sort of half-way stop over to Sydney. We ate the same food and really appreciated it; delicious! We were enjoying ourselves on the first evening after leaving home on one of our road trips. Ian was fine; but suddenly, I was not. 

A very strong wave surged over me with tingling sensations racing through my head and down into my hands, leaving me feeling like I would faint. 

It was so dramatic, I actually wondered if I had been poisoned, and my mind flashed to images of Russian dissidents being done away with. 

Ian watched on as I could do nothing else but slide to the restaurant floor. 

As I lay prone in the middle of the restaurant, and with his eyes wide in disbelief Ian asked 

"How are you feeling? You have gone as white as a sheet”. 

I replied, “I feel like someone has injected me intravenously with a bolus of atropine”.

I asked, “What was that drug they gave Putin’s competition, that nerve drug?” 

My whole body was now alive with pins and needles and I was very lightheaded. All very suddenly. 

Being a doctor, my mind soon turned to more logical explanations… maybe a Transient Ischaemic Attack (mini-stroke) I thought, as I lay on the floor. Maybe I had been so stressed by a year of severe backpain and now this travel, that I had simply overdone it? But then I had felt OK all day! My mind continued to search for an explanation.

Not only was I fully conscious this whole time but I could think and communicate, even problem-solve. 

I was trying to understand why my cardiovascular system was responding so abnormally. 

My heart rate was very low, around 50 beats per minute and yet my Blood Pressure was also very low. 

This was really odd. 

For a healthy person, if your blood pressure drops, your heart rate will speed up to compensate. 

My heart was doing the opposite; I had low blood pressure and a low heart rate. Very odd.

With me collapsed on their floor, naturally the restaurant staff were quite concerned. Also, not surprisingly, all the customers at their tables in the small restaurant were now staring at me. Being in a remote area, the manager wanted to call the air ambulance, but I said I was a doctor and I would prefer to remain on the floor and see if I recovered.  Ian reassured them, and eventually, after about half an hour, the sensations and light-headedness diminished. Slowly I sat up and then scrambled back on to my chair. We skipped dessert!

Returning to our accommodation, it took me another 4 hours to recover fully; then I slept uneventfully. The next day I was feeling fine with no trace of the drama that had occurred the night before. Weird…

So on we continued with our journey to Sydney; then ten days later it started again. This time it was mid-morning when I felt the light-headedness coming on. More slowly this time, but with the same tingling sensations. Fearfully, I told Ian, “It’s happening again”. 

We consulted with a medical specialist friend and on his advice, high-tailed it to Accident and Emergency. The rest of the day was spent with me on a hospital trolley bed in one of those open-at-the-back hospital gowns while I was examined periodically, and a huge battery of tests were performed; all of which came back normal. 

Come the evening, a diagnosis: “Post-Covid Syncope”.  I was told they knew very little about it, but to rest and drink lots of fluids. Not particularly re-assuring, but later in the evening I had recovered well enough to leave the hospital. Next day, feeling fine again!

We had bookings to honour; people were expecting us, and we did not want to let the team down, so we kept going with our “Travelling Roadshow” (as we called our multi-city tour of meditation workshops and organisational meetings for our Buddhist Community - Rigpa).

A week later we were in Adelaide where I was in the front row listening to Ian giving an evening talk on meditation. 

Feeling happy to be sitting with two long-term cancer survivors who had come to our groups many years before, my mood changed quickly when the same symptoms recurred yet again. 

Quite quickly, I realised I could no longer remain upright on my chair and eased myself slowly onto the floor, trying not to disturb the rest of the audience. 

Ian could see I was basically OK and kept talking as if nothing was happening.

This time my mind quickly began to wonder if I had something major going on, like an endocrine tumour, a major brain problem, or something even worse. In a helpful synchronicity, a kind friend who had seen me collapse and who had joined in comforting and supporting me, offered me his own Endocrinology appointment for the next day. 

Again, the symptoms improved quite quickly and then cleared within four hours. However, next day I did meet with the Endocrinologist; a wonderful old-style physician who asked me questions and examined me thoroughly. His conclusion? 

“I think it’s probably one of those Post-COVID syndromes”. He suggested a series of blood tests for when we returned to Melbourne, “to exclude any other rare causes”. This I did, but again, everything measured – and that was a lot - came back normal. Reassuring in one way, but still leaving a mystery unsolved.

We had one more commitment to fulfill, so with some trepidation, next we flew to Brisbane. By now what had started out as an episodic condition was becoming chronic. I was feeling worse and worse. 

The dysautonomia was becoming constant – the low heart rate accompanied by low blood pressure, and with this came feelings of fainting, nausea, a severe disinterest in food and ghastly sensations throughout my body. 

At the same time, sleep was becoming more and more elusive.

I was exhausted yet “wired”, I was unable to relax physically or mentally, and perhaps worst of all, I could not meditate. 

I felt so bad, I said to Ian “I feel like I am dying”. 

We just made it home, and I knew I would not be able to travel again until I had recovered.

So now, I was doing my best to manage my ongoing continuous and debilitating back pain, while feeling increasingly miserable with this little recognised or understood syndrome more recently described as Long COVID. 

And unhappily, it was about to get even worse…

In the next and final episode, Ruth recounts her darkest days with Long COVID, describes the many things she attempted in her efforts to recover, and then what finally made the difference, leading her back to good health.


Ruth's Story Part 1 - Back Pain

ADVANCE NOTICE – save the dates; full details including bookings available soon… 

Meditation Teacher Training in 2024

With Ian and Ruth Gawler

supported by Murray Paterson and Sandy Clinton

                     Aspiring to teach meditation? 

        Or keen to expand and deepen your skills?

Are you applying for registration with Meditation Australia and need an approved course?

Ian and Ruth Gawler have been teaching teachers of meditation for decades.

The two trainings for 2024 will both be manual based, be sound in theory and be highly experiential. 

There will be many practice sessions where you will be encouraged to experiment with your delivery style and to hone it. 

You will be guided and supported to develop confidence and competency.

All programs will be in-person only, fully residential, at the Yarra Valley Living Centre.



Would you trust a surgeon to operate on your brain that had only trained online?

Enough said...

Meditation Teacher Training – Part 1: Mindfulness-based Stillness Meditation

Monday 6th to Friday 10th May, 2024

This is a basic yet thorough training in how to present a meditation course, whether in-person or online.

A comprehensive approach to meditation that covers preparation, relaxation, concentration and mindfulness plus stillness. An approach to meditation that goes to the very essence…

Theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more…

Developed for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further.

Meditation Teacher Training – Part 2: Contemplation

Saturday 2nd to Wednesday 6th November, 2024 

- including Melbourne Cup holiday for Victorians

So many people in so many domains recommend the benefits of contemplation.

Yet who is teaching how to do it? Very few it seems…

This training will position you to be able to offer your community something of great value – a reliable way to practice contemplation. This training is also manual based and will enable you to deliver a much-needed program.

Of great personal value, this training is also suitable for those new to teaching meditation, and for those wanting to go further. It too will be highly experiential, as well as delving into theory, delivery, session structures, promotion, finances, the special challenges and needs of online courses, and more. 

Criteria to join these Meditation Teacher Trainings

Both trainings are broad. They are both specifically designed to be accessible and valuable to beginners and the more experienced teachers. In past trainings, this mix of participants has made for a very engaging cohort.

It is recommended applicants need at least 2 years of regular meditation practice and some experience with speaking in public. All applicants will be requested to discuss the suitability of the trainings for their needs and situation with our training manager.

MEDITATION IN THE FOREST – 7 day Meditation Retreat

Saturday 22nd to Friday 28th June, 2024

With Ian and Ruth Gawler

supported by Melissa Borich and Sandy Clinton

It is back! 

After COVID, lock downs, so many ups and downs, join us for this 7-day retreat.

Relax.     Let go. 

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Yarra Valley. 

Be cared for with delicious plant-based food and plenty of free time.

Be reminded of the theory and practice around meditation as Ian teaches in depth on mindfulness, awareness and stillness. Experience the inherent joy and love that flows from the depths of meditation; those depths that can be reliably reached when we take time out, let go of day-to-day activity, and rest in deep, natural peace.







  1. Can’t wait for part 3!

  2. Wow Ruth, what a story. I am hearing more and more 'post vaccination' stories where people have become very ill - (or have died). Thank you for sharing. Hopefully your message will alert others to what their 'illness' could be caused by, or perhaps encourage them to do some more research on the side-effects of the vaccines. There is a lot of information out there. Blessings, Adrian

    1. Thanks Adrian, yes Ruth's story is one of many and in the next Part, she asks the questions... Happy New year :)

  3. Why post vaccination and not post covid?
    Is this an anti-vax story?

    1. Ruth will describe what happened more fully in the next Part, and then pose questions about what happened to her, and what is being reported by others :)

  4. Better alive than one of the 4 million dead. I wasn't an anti-vaxer either until I ended up with a vax injury 16 years ago - the gift that keeps on giving unfortunately.

  5. Sorry to hear that Ruth became ill after her vaccinations l.
    What was the vaccination regime did Ruth have ? What vacs and time frames ? Just curious

  6. I’ve been unwell for over a year and while no diagnosis has happened, am sure it’s long covid after two bouts in that time and five vac. Thank you for sharing

  7. Oh poor Ruth
    I am so sorry you have had this awful period of bad and worrying ill health
    My heart and prayers are with you
    This is such a terrible virus released into our world
    It has changed everything !!!!
    Take care and I know you will be fully well
    Gerry Frith