Dr Stan also shared this story with the kind permission of the patient. Photo credits Dr Stan.
“Last June when I was here, I posted one of the most horrific experiences that I had heard in my clinical work. On the day of the earthquake, a family of three were sleeping in their fourth floor apartment when the entire building collapsed. Fourteen people died and one man survived. He was a 32 year old man who had been married for 7 years and had one son, age 5. The patient sustained an incomplete L1 spinal cord injury and was buried under a pile of rubble. Next to him, his wife lie dead and a few feet away his son was gasping for breath and in the process of dying.
Being paralyzed and trapped, he could not reach his son and was forced to watch him die. For an extended period of time after the death, he had no choice but to look at his son’s body while he waited for help to arrive.
Back in June when he was admitted, this man was devastated and saw no purpose in living. He joined one of our early support groups but at that time could say very little. He was tearful throughout the meetings. Over the next months, he took advantage of available counseling services and worked hard in rehabilitation.
Yesterday when I initially returned, he had a smile on his face and gave me a hug. He. looked proud. Finally, he was on the brink of discharge and he had a new plan in place.
The patient does not feel ready to return to his village and face the painful memories of the trauma and the deaths. He feels that he needs more time for himself and must seek a purpose for his altered life.
For the present time, he wants to “give back” to the Center for the help and care that he received. It is his hope to work as a recreation leader in a new indoor playground being developed from a hospital tent no longer used for SCI patients. This will be a playground for pediatric SCI patients and the children of caregivers who are often here for months at a time. By working with kids, this former school teacher feels that he is keeping the memory of his son alive. He has a long way to go but for now it gives him a reason to live. Hopefully, in time the emotional wounds will begin to heal.
This is an example of human resilience at its finest. It is something that people who work in this field see every day. It is what drives us. It is absolutely amazing.”