Audrey Bocek is delighted to have met Sue Deutschlander -- or Reiki Sue, as she likes to be called. Audrey would say their meeting changed her life.
For seven years, Audrey couldn't sleep in her bed, tie her shoes or walk short distances. The pain was too severe. The only good thing you could say was she had survived spinal meningitis.
Audrey's odyssey into living with pain began one exhausting night in 1994 when she began vomiting. Thinking it was stomach flu, she resigned herself to a night in the bathroom, but excruciating pain followed.
The Toronto, Ohio, resident's husband, Joseph, called the family doctor and then took Audrey to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"I screamed the whole time, but I don't even remember any of it," she said.
Was sent home: The emergency room incorrectly diagnosed muscle spasms and sent her home. Audrey's doctor phoned in a prescription. "Now I'm screaming 24 hours and shivering in July," she said.
By the time she went to Steubenville's Ohio Valley Hospital (where she had worked for 18 years) -- three days since the onset of symptoms -- she was delirious.
The hospital ordered a spinal tap, transferred Audrey to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and told her husband to prepare for her death.
But Audrey survived -- more or less.
"My feet and right leg felt on fire," she said. "They told my family to send me to a nursing home." She stayed home, however, underwent rehabilitation, pushed herself, used and then went beyond needing a potty chair and walker. But the pain never left.
"I started living with it. I slept in a tilt-back chair," Audrey explained. "I went to clinic after clinic to get rid of the pain in my feet and tailbone ... but nothing helped."
Change comes: But then she met Sue. Last year, Audrey's son, a massage therapist, recommended that Joseph see Sue after the removal of his lung. Frequently uncomfortable and out of breath, he went.
After four treatments -- during which Deutschlander held her hands over affected parts of his body -- Joe saw "dramatic improvement."
Reiki is an ancient art, often done without any actual touch. A person trained in Reiki, a master like Sue, envisions energy coming from outside the body, through the top of the head, then exiting through the hands.
It now was Audrey's turn. "I couldn't even climb up on her [treatment] table," she said. Sue held her hands over Audrey.
"Before she started, I was hurting and couldn't get comfortable," she said. "Then she started, and each place she passed over felt like a weight being taken off and then I felt hot head to toes. She never touched me."
Pain gone: At the end, Audrey got off the table by herself. "I felt fine," she said. "All the pain was gone." She slept in her own bed that night.
Today, Audrey walks three miles a day, and says, "I don't have no pain." Her doctors call it amazing, she said.
Both Sue and Audrey attribute the miraculous change to God. "A gift of God," said Audrey.
Sue learned Reiki because she also was in constant pain. A workplace accident so severely injured her back, she underwent two operations. Her pain continued to be so intense "it took me 15 minutes just to stand up. I crawled around to get around my home."
Her days consisted of lying on the couch. She imagined suicide to end the "razor blade" pain.
A friend then took her to a Reiki master, who suggested Sue learn Reiki and treat herself. Within three months -- during which time she placed her hands over her vertebrae -- she was "almost back to normal."
What Sue calls the "universal life force energy from God" transformed her, and she has been transforming others at her Bodies in Balance center in North Lima ever since.
Just ask the Boceks.