Friday, August 08, 2008

Amazing People

I decided to go down to Royal Talbot yesterday for my clinical placement despite my illness. I felt terribly sick after, but i'm still glad that i went because i got to meet 3 very special people. Janice and I were scheduled to be down at the Spinal department. For the sake of confidentiality, i won't be using the real names of these 3 very special patients.

The first person I met was Amy. She's ~45 yrs old and was admitted to the hospital after an unfortunate incident that severed her spine completely at L5. She was out in the forest gathering firewood with her brother. There was some miscommunication that took place. I wasn't too sure what happened, but i think her brother was meant to call out to her to make way before he felled a tree.Well, she didn't hear him this time and before she knew it the tree crushed her. She's now paraplegic with no control of her muscles from her waist down.

I say that she's special because she was very optismistic. She wasn't angry with her brother. She didn't hate God. Instead, she was telling Janice and I about her desire to get back to normal life in a wheelchair. She told us that she used to deliver letters for Australia Post AND fight fires for the Regional Fire Brigade! That's a very noble profession because they DON'T GET PAID! After she recovers she'll be doing a desk job for Australia Post and the Regional Fire Brigade. It was a pleasure talking to her about her past experiences working on a farm; milking cows and all.

The 2nd special person is James. He had a rather intimidating appearance - young (~early 30's), ear rings on each ear, blonde hair gelled back, and a rather rugged face that boasted many tough years. He was working in a steel manufacturing factory when a machine malfunctioned and crushed his spine at the C5 level. This means that he's lost control of both his legs and he's got minimal control of his arms.

James turned out to be a very funny and entertaining. Sure, he never once dwelt on his inabilities. He kept cracking funny jokes to lighten the mood. He would try extremely hard to do all the exercises that Theresa (the physio) prescribed. Again, he never expressed anger at the machine that crushed him or his employer. In fact, he's looking forward to going back to work with the same company to take on a teaching/mentoring role.

I think the 3rd person, Tim, is the most optimistic of the lot. He is the ultimate epitome of optimism; i've never seen anyone like him - ever. He's 35yrs old, works as a high-level manager for NAB, and trains as an elite athlete. He used to be an AFL referee till 2000, and he came in the top 20 in last year's Ironman competition. Cool eh? Who'd think that he would end up being a quadriplegic (paralysis in his legs and arms).

His story? A truck knocked him off his bicycle and sent him flying straight into a parked car; resulting in deep lacerations in his right arm and an incomplete fracture at the C3 region. He had a collar brace to protect another fracture at the base of the skull. He never once expressed a HINT of anger towards the truck driver. Instead, he was truly grateful that he was still alive; the fracture at the base of his skull was very close to his brain stem. He would have died almost instantaneously if his brain stem was damaged.

Tim remained optimistic about his situation. I asked him how long he'd been in rehab. He replied, "36 days". He'd been counting. He said that he was still in spinal shock and there was still a high chance that he would regain control of his limbs. (see, the fracture in his spine wasn't complete. The spine takes about 8-9 months before it is able to fully recover. Hence, Tim still had 7 months to regain control of his limbs; 7 months of hope).

Tim said that he was still young and had a lot to live for:
"I've got a wife and a daughter. I've got a good job. You know I used to be left-handed before this accident. And now i've got to use my right hand to do everything! How many people actually get to use one hand for half their life, and then their other hand for the 2nd half?"

Amazing. He had just regained control of his right foot and his right thumb the day before; and he was telling us all about it. THEN, he said something that pierced straight through my intellect right into my heart.

"You really have to care to be a Physio. I don't know many people who would do such a job."

I really wished then that God had unleashed gifts of healing. I really wanted to pray for him, and beg God to heal him. I wish God gave me healing hands. I wish I had a heart of true compassion.

These people have changed the way I look at life:

Am I optimistic? Or do I constantly drag others down pesimism with me?

Why am I complaining about my insufficiencies?

An accident could happen to me at ANY TIME. How would I deal with it?

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