It was an icy morning in Chicago on December 27, 1996 when Suzann Hollis arrived at her construction site. A snowstorm had blown through the city and the wind chill was 40 degrees below zero. As a crane operator, she kept a clean floor and was meticulous about protocol in spite of the fact that her crane was very old and had a habit of breaking down. With just a few days left until the new year, the company had taken the safety equipment off the crane in order to keep it operable — delaying costly repairs. “They just wanted to get the job done and finish up the year,” Hollis recalls.
Going through her routine checks that morning, she was at the fuel outrigger when one of the outriggers punched through the ice, throwing her into the machine’s gears. Her left hand was pulled in. “The first thing that happened was my fingers started popping off,” Hollis recalls. “There were welders and generators going off so no one could hear me, and I kept getting pulled under.” As the machine ground away at her left arm, she braced against the side of it with her right arm and both of her legs, fighting for her life and trying to keep her head from being pulled in too. “I thought I was going to die. I kept picturing myself headless in a coffin.”
Then, an idea flashed to mind that would save her life. “I managed to kick my boot off, knowing that somebody would see it and realize something was wrong,” Hollis says. At that moment, the pressure of the machine punctured her lung and she let out a scream. “I don’t know if I was screaming all along, but I definitely screamed then and two kids found me. They ran in different directions to get help.”
Hollis lost five pints of blood and suffered cardiac arrest. Her left arm was de-gloved, meaning all the muscles and tendons were stripped from the bone, and stretched more than six feet. She was extracted from the machine and intubated with her arm still attached and transferred to Loyola University’s teaching hospital where the head of trauma oversaw her recovery. “Thank God for that,” she says of her doctor’s commitment. During that initial surgery, she flatlined four times and was given a grim prognosis of only 10 percent chance of survival. She underwent 22 surgeries over the course of five years. In the end, Hollis’ arm was amputated, and she suffers from short-term memory loss due to a brain injury to her frontal lobe. But she survived.
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Salt of Life
Approaching life with gratitude, a fighting spirit and connecting with the community has gotten Hollis through excruciatingly painful times. During the three years of rehabilitation immediately after her accident, it was others in the rehab unit that inspired her to keep fighting. “We can overcome anything,” she says. “I became like a cheerleader for my group. There were kids with spinal injuries that were never going to drive or go to prom, and I just thought, girl, get off your pity pot. It could always be worse.”
Hollis first discovered salt therapy in 2013 at Delray Beach’s The Salt Suite after being diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Unbeknownst to her, the Cape Coral home she had moved to was infested with mold, rendering her already compromised lungs practically ineffective. Soon after, she was delivered yet another debilitating diagnosis: emphysema. Her doctors had her on a heavy dose of steroids just so she could breathe, but the medications left her feeling as incapacitated as the ailments she was trying to fight.
When a friend recommended she try salt therapy, she figured she had nothing to lose. Hollis says she felt the results after a single session. “I started coughing and could feel it drying out my lungs,” she says. “I made the commitment of going two to three times a week for at least a month.”
The healing powers of salt have a long-standing history. They were first officially recorded in Poland in the 1800s when Dr. Felix Boczkowski observed salt miners living healthier lives than the general public. Through the release of negative ions and its antibacterial properties, salt has a healing effect on those suffering from both respiratory and skin conditions, including asthma, allergies, post nasal drip, sinusitis, sleep apnea, eczema and psoriasis. It can also address more serious health issues like emphysema and COPD. Salt has even been reported to help people going through smoking cessation or recovering from addiction.
Nearly 20 years after her death-defying accident, Hollis is not just healthy, she is the proud owner of her own salt therapy center: Salt This Way, a halotherapy wellness center and spa, which opened last August. “This is something that saved my life,” she says.
Inside Salt This Way’s 3,500-square-foot space, therapy rooms are lined with pink and white Himalayan salt. The relaxation room has three comfortable reclining chairs resting on a white salt-tiled floor with glowing salt lining the back wall. During the 45-minute treatment, medical grade dry saline air is pumped into the room through a halogenerator, encouraging deep relaxation and healing.
The center also has its own salt chamber — a clear glass case that resembles a transparent tanning bed. The chamber offers a more concentrated 20-minute session for those who need stronger treatments. The yoga room, which is lined with pink Himalayan salt tiles, is also outfitted with LED lights that change the tiles’ colors to enhance the group’s mood each session. A children’s room is covered in loose salt so as to resemble an enclosed sandbox; child-size beach chairs, fun books and bright toys make the room feel inviting and keep the youngest clients entertained as they receive their therapy. A community salt room that seats up to eight and a massage room with a special bed designed to hold salt round out the offerings at a center that continues to grow.
From the Heart
It goes further than physical healing. “I’ve experienced three emotional shifts in my salt therapy,” says Hollis. And that’s why Salt This Way offers a number of psychologically healing therapies, like meditation, life coaching, grief therapy, support groups and reiki energy healing that complement the physical healing that takes place. Some of the newer services offered include an IonCleanse® detox foot bath, brain wave therapy and a chakra aligning crystal bath promoted by Brazilian healer John of God. “I thought if I could help just one other person feel better, it would all be worth it. I wanted to pay it forward.”
It’s this sense of peace, perseverance and healing that she hopes to share with her clients at Salt This Way. Today, Hollis is in the salt chamber three times a week and practices two to three hours of salt yoga. And she’s feeling good. “Something brings you here,” she says. “I don’t know if the salt found me or if I found the salt.” But that connection has made all the difference.
For more details and information visit saltthisway.com.