Dr. Omalu’s new book “ Truth Doesn’t Have a Side”
can be found here at zondervan.com/truthdoesn-t-have-a-side
He persevered, wrote a book that became a best-seller, and saw himself portrayed in a movie by Will Smith. Yes, he was in news, but the push back grew stronger. His work is prompting changes in organized sports and is still inviting organized opposition.
His first conflicts came from lethargy in the sports and entertainment industries. His next challenges were the opposition of immense economic interests. His recent struggles have been in the spiritual realm. As a professional, a husband, and a father, he has experienced, and continues to, great emotional stress. There are forces intent on breaking his spirit and damaging his reputation. The lifelong faith of this good doctor that has always sustained him is being tested again, and his current message to America is about that faith. Faith and medicine, faith and health.
For the second time in a year, now on a new angle to his remarkable life, he has talked exclusively to Innovative Health Magazine.
Dr. Bennet Omalu identified, named and fights the brain injury CTE— Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the neuro-degenerative brain disease most often caused by trauma. His work upset the applecarts of the National Football League and network television because people have become acutely aware of the virtual certainty of long-term, debilitating effects of concussions. His bestselling testimony was the basis of a popular motion picture, “Concussion,” where he was portrayed by Will Smith in a pitch-perfect Nigerian accent.
His discoveries have rung true and the truth, as well as his effective advocacy, made enemies of Big Money, Big Sports and American
Business…and in many cases the enmity of average citizens whose favorite pastimes are jeopardized.
Anyone can have an opinion, but if they keep it to themselves, they will be of no consequence in life. You can spot a fire, but if you do not raise an alarm or help extinguish it, you are complicit when a structure burns down. If you have faith, but hide it under a bushel, as the Bible painted the picture, you betray the gifts God has bestowed; that is the view that Dr. Omalu tells people about his current message.
His latest battle is not medical but spiritual. It is the theme of his new book, “Truth Doesn’t Have a Side.”
This is not a departure for Bennet Omalu, because he has been a committed Christian all his life. “I believe I was led to diagnose CTE by my faith. When I examined Mike Webster [the Pittsburgh Steeler player whose last years exhibited bizarre behavior], I saw me on that table.” Dr. Omalu believes that we are all made in the image of God and that he, given other circumstances and life choices, could have been a similar victim.
Omalu was motivated to dig deeper into “sports injuries” that were once the subject of jokes… but represent serious dangers. Football. Boxing. Rugby, Hockey. And lifelong conditions in the military and construction. Veterans and retired workers who were “punch drunk,” had “shell shock,” “took one too many to the head.” These phrases were not jokes to Dr. Omalu. He saw serious problems, ruined lives, grieving families and tragedy, for instance, the recent suicide of convicted murderer ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.
Possibly needless tragedy, Omalu began to think. Spurred and sustained by his faith, he knew that naming the brain-trauma condition and conducting further research might lead him to conclude that some sports simply are not safe, no matter how many rules on the field are tweaked. Some games are not safe, no matter how many bionic helmets and industrial shoulder pads are invented.
And that many parents, first unknowingly but now—given the publicity of Dr. Omalu’s discoveries—face hard choices, being aware that some consider allowing their children to participate in many contact sports to being virtual child abuse.
We return again to Bennet Omalu’s faith, because he had to proceed in faith; and his faith has gotten him and his family though the tsunami of organized opposition and the multi-billion-dollar defensive playbook of the sports industry and entertainment colossus. For a while, he was practically a lone voice.
But the truth does not depend on the opinion of those who receive it. Dr. Omalu’s research, tenacity, and struggles in his profession, career path and home life were documented in “Concussion.” But the story of his faith—tested, tried and triumphant—is brilliantly shared in “Truth Doesn’t Have a Side.”
“My spirit is like a boat on the sea,” he says humbly, acknowledging that he invites and trusts God’s guidance. The maturity of his faith is illustrated in his favorite Psalm, 27, an inspiring combination of humility and boldness upon which a believer can draw. I asked about coping with the pressures arrayed against him these days. “It is not easier now, no. But I have the elixir of daily faith exercises. I pray every morning, certainly every day. I read the Bible daily; the Spirit leads me to two chapters or passages that always speak to me in a special way.”
Dr. Omalu does not speak in clichés. His message, like his whole story, is heartfelt, sincere and passionate. He chokes back tears when sharing letters he has received from people—often mothers—who have been touched by his message. And his conversation is frequently interrupted by unrestrained laughter that mirrors a joy only the believer can know.
I asked if he had an inkling, as a boy in Nigeria, that in some way or other he would grow up and change the world, even in a field he could not then know. I expected a rote answer about premonitions or ambition. He laughed and said, “No! Not an inkling! I never imagined where I’d be!”
The world cannot imagine either where Dr. Bennet Omalu might be in another 10 years. His intellectual and moral vision continuously survey the horizons of life. “But ‘not my will, but Thine’ is how I have lived,” he says. “My middle name, given back in Africa, means ‘Life Is the Greatest Gift of All,’ and the Spirit reminds me of that every moment. “I am not afraid to let people know I am a man of God.
These days I speak to all sorts of groups. Faith itself is not a religion! And so I am led to share. We must do everything we can.” And everything in Dr. Bennet Omalu’s case means in science, medicine, healthy life choices and spirituality. For all of his crises and trials, and what the rest of us behold as a journey of boldness and bravery, he makes it all seem so logical.
“I follow the example of Jesus, who reminded us that He came for the sick, not so much the healthy!” And he let loose another irrepressible laugh, this doctor who also ministers to the soul, the unlikely preacher who does not preach but who lives his spiritual message.
Luke the Apostle, one of the writers of the Gospels, reportedly was a doctor. So, in the end, Dr. Bennet Omalu is not alone. In his inspiring new book, it is obvious that he always feels surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” cheering him on, like fans in a stadium