Against All Odds
Last night, I had dinner with an old friend and colleague. That may not sound special, but it was. Very special.
Let’s call her Sarah. Two years ago, when I was still making my temporary home in India, Sarah was helping me out on my business in the U.S. Late one afternoon, she left the office for her usual run with friends, and she never returned. During that fateful run, she suffered a massive, debilitating stroke – one that she blames on her “very bad” genes.
I remember calling from India, worried like anything and speaking with her husband while she was in the hospital. The prognosis was extremely poor. She had barely survived and that was only because one of her running buddies was a nurse who recognized what was happening and got her to the hospital pronto. She was certainly not in any condition to speak with me.
When I returned to the US, I touched base with her again. She was at home by then, better but rather depressed about her overall health situation. ‘Better’ only because she wasn’t spending hours on end simply sitting in one place and bawling her eyes out anymore. She told me that life as she had known it was over for her. She could never work again. Forget that, her doctors had told her that she could never read, write, drive or do much of anything that is a natural part of living for most of us.
This was her new normal.
Last week, after waiting much too long (we always have excuses, don’t we?) I got in touch with her again to see how she was doing. I had thought about her many times over the months but was always a bit “too busy” to call and say hello. I’m so glad I finally un-busied myself enough to call! 😦
As we talked, I was thrilled because it felt like I was speaking to my old friend Sarah again. As she approaches the second anniversary of her stroke, she was looking at life anew and fighting everything that was in her way to achieve what her doctors had told her she wouldn’t ever do. She was well enough for us to be able to meet for dinner.
In the months since I had spoken to her, she had taught herself how to walk, and to read and write again. She was driving! And she had started going back to the gym. She told me that she really wanted to participate in a triathalon again (she had completed one before this setback). What??! I said. Well, may be just the 5K next year – I really want to do it, she said.
And you know what? I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if she accomplishes it!
What a wonderful triumph for her. This was not some miraculous medical recovery.
She has a condition called “left-neglect” that doesn’t allow her brain to process anything that she sees with her left eye. Interestingly, she has used technology to her benefit. An e-book reader allows her to read in spite of this condition (she cannot process the left side of a physical book but an e-reader overcomes that problem because there is no left page). And very interestingly, using Lumosity has helped her re-train her brain.
So what she accomplished didn’t happen because of anything but the fact that she was determined to get her life back, and decided to work for it. I would guess that the high-achiever persona that I knew from years of working with her was awakened. Once that happened it was obviously undaunted by the huge handicap she faced.
Her attitude is simply fabulous. Rightfully proud of how far she has come, she is not done yet. She knows it won’t be easy but she has set her objectives for the next hour and tomorrow, for the coming weeks and months, and the year to follow.
I couldn’t be happier for you, my friend.
And as I came away from our meeting last night, I was wishing that some of those traits of yours – your strength of mind as you face those odds, your tenacity that doesn’t allow you to give up and that overall awesome attitude you have – well, I wish all of that could rub off on me. Even just a tiny, little bit.