The Mourning of Hope; the Dawn of Numbness; the Creeping light of Anger; Seeking Accommodation of light and darkness, as the Sunrise of a new reflection of Self begin to take shape, and finally, Acceptance of Fear, Pain, and yes, the co-mingling of Joie de Vivre, joy of life.
While the above might sound like a somewhat poetic roller-coaster, a weird fun-house mirror room, these feelings of being a Pin-ball flung from one spot with harsh sounds and lights to another, is the alternate existence of one who painfully discovers that his or her “old life” is over and a new one has begun. This shocking birth of a new reality, an alternate world, is in its foundation the same as a normal birth, a very lonely and personal “rude” awakening.
Without warning, the first awareness of an onset of a serious accident or illness brings with it a dawn of a new world, complete, as it were, with its own natural laws that are not always clear to the uninitiated. This leaves both the “newbie” and his or her family, feeling that they have landed in a strange new world without a passport or travel guide.
So, how does one navigate this? There is a new language to learn, a new culture to study, new foods to eat, new inhabitants to share space with and new professionals to deal with. And there is loss, the greatest of which is that of Self and Privacy – both of which relate to independence. For some, this is an insurmountable loss, and can also be felt as defeat; others see it as a mountain to be climbed – with challenges, for sure, but also with choice and effort.
So it has been for Chaim K., who as many of you may remember was just a lad of 14 when he was run over on a dark Jerusalem street while returning home from baking matzah on Taanit Esther. Twelve years have passed since that day and Chaim has shared much with you over the years. Here is his latest contribution.
“One morning I woke up and it wasn’t like every other morning. I was lying in a bed that wasn’t mine, my whole body wasn’t mine, every orifice had tubes coming in and out of it. I couldn’t speak. I tried to move, I couldn’t. I heard beeping sounds. It took me a few moments – maybe more, time has a weird definition in these parts – to acknowledge to myself that I was in a hospital.
“Then I heard someone say: ‘He’s awake,’ and begin to shine a light in my eyes to see if I was conscious and aware.
“Since that morning my life hasn‘t been the same. I lost the ability to move, to breathe on my own, and also my privacy. You see, since that morning there hasn’t been a moment that I have been totally alone.
“It was very hard for me to understand my extreme dependence on others. When I had an itch I had to ask someone to scratch it, no matter where it was.
“A person generally touches his face hundreds of times over the course of the day. But in my situation I learned to ask for help only when I really, and I mean really need it.
“Until today, twelve and a half years after the accident, I haven’t become used to it, that is used to asking others for help. One never gets used to the fact that the original you has died.
“At the beginning there were hours on end during which I didn’t drink. It wasn’t in me to ask for a drink. If something itched I didn’t ask for help until I was going out of my mind from the itching. This was almost always in regards to my face, as I have no feeling from the neck down, with some exceptions, like on my right side, but even there, sensory feelings are very sporadic.