Human resilience at it’s finest

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.

Playground man with Stan

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.

The soon-to-be playground at SIRC

The soon-to-be playground at SIRC

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.”

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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