This past weekend after recovering from a mild fever and catching up on sleep, I went to the gym to do some circuit training. Believe me when I share with you that I really don’t enjoy doing strength training exercises. Give me a road to run and hills and mountains and I wouldn’t mind running them hour after hour. Alas, I cannot deny that strength training is as equally important than running because running is not enough to develop all of the muscles. Plus, it is an accepted truth that the body gets used to a certain training level that it no longer becomes efficient in burning fat anymore. This is something that most people know for a fact and yet refuse to accept as a reality.
Anyway, I had a conversation with one of my gymmates in Gold’s Gym. Let’s name him Buddy. This guy has an amazing come back story that I am just amazed. One, he had a stroke five years ago and that more than half his body he could not move at all. He had to go through intensive daily occupational and physical therapy. He underwent therapies here and in the US. I was even more amazed that he suffered a stroke while driving. He shared with me that he felt something and then called for an ambulance to pick him up from a nearby hospital. The first thing that I thought when he said this was that he knows the numbers of the nearby hospitals and they are in his phone directory. I find this amazing because I know that the average Filipino would scramble for the digits of the local police and hospital in such an emergency.
He shared with me that he completely blacked out and was unconscious when the paramedics arrived on the scene. The next thing is something that is commonly seen in movies that involves hospital scenes. He woke up in as blinding light and was trying to figure out where he was. I didn’t ask him anymore how long was he out. He did share with me that he knew that he could not move his arms and legs and that he knew that something was wrong. As mentioned earlier, he underwent two years of therapy. That meant two years of no work at all. I asked him who supported him during that period and paid for all the expenditures for the therapy? He informed me that his wife took care of everything. Wow, talk about sacrificial love.
As he was narrating his experience and as I was just listening, he shared with me that his physical therapist was amazed at his recovery. I then injected and told him that he probably was very determined to recover and get back into shape. I then began to share with him my own story, my accident and how I ended up with titanium implants on my right knee and how I was determined to get back on track and back to running. I told him… “You must be a very determined person.”
This made me think. What is it that motivates us to really bounce back? There are many situations in life when we are thrown into that we do not like. All we can do is react to the circumstances. Then there are events that are born out of one’s wrong decisions and the consequences affect more than just ourselves but our families, friends and even our very work and source of lifelihood. For this man, his main motivation was very simple. He just wanted to walk again and be able to use hands. He was motivated because he was a father. He was also a husband. I met someone whose main motivation from bouncing back from getting a stroke was that he did not wish to burden his family being a paraplegic for life. He was much too proud of himself because he was known to be an athletic individual.
Looking back, I had several reasons why I wanted to bounce back from my accident and undergo a knee operation. One, I have not run a full marathon yet in 2002. Even as young kid I have always enjoyed running around the house, running around with my friends around the neighborhood and even in school this was the one sport that I actually excelled in. And so, the thought that I could not be able to run or even do a full marathon really was a show stopper for me. It just would not do. Two, I felt that I was just too young! I was just fresh out of college and just starting on my second job at that time.
As I try to recall the operation and the physical therapy I had to go through, I realize now that I was ill prepared for the post surgery and physical rehabilitation. One, it was painful…. Extremely painful to go through physical rehabilitation when one had to extend the leg and do exercises in order to stretch the muscles, stretch the skin and stretch everything in between. And yet I was still determined to see it through. I knew that the pain was only temporary and that the pain is all part of the road to recovery. It makes realize right now, I’ve already gone through such an event in my life and yet why is it that I find the things that life throws at me overwhelming?
Two, I was out of the job at the time when I underwent physical rehabilitation. I still had to pay for my share of the monthly rent. My meager savings was completely drained because of the event and the physical rehab. And yet I had a choice of either having a perceptible limp for the rest of my life or go through the grueling sessions to get my legs back into shape and have an “imperceptible limp” instead? Oh yes, I do have a limp which is hardly noticeable. Only those who knew me before my titanium implants came into existence could see the difference. Either that or you would have been looking at the way I walk keenly to notice it these days.
Three, I just felt devastated at that time. Oh yes, I felt that it was the end of the world for me. I keep sharing this with my friends and my family that I am eternally indebted to a good friend, Timothy James Ayson. He basically took care of me during the time that I was brought out of the hospital until I was able to get up on my knees. For the first time in my adult life, I finally understood what compassion really felt in the form of brotherly love. For a good two weeks, I was mostly just lying there on the mat inside my room in the apartment and staring at the ceiling. I developed a few back sores since it was a pain to move.
These days undergoing a knee operation like mine is less painful. Doctors prescribe more painkillers to numb the pain and people can return to walking normally after a month of physical therapy. I did not have the luxury to spend on expensive pain killers so I just learned to accept the pain that accompanied with it. The physical rehab alone was expensive at 500 pesos a session way back in 2002! I can only imagine how much such a therapy session would cost these days.
All these thoughts came like a flood to me while talking with this man, Buddy – who has been through hell and back as the expression goes. I wish that I had more time to talk to the guy. I would have asked more questions. Oh well. Still, I realized a few things here. One, not everything is about willpower. Willpower is only the beginning. The decision to make a change, the decision to rise about the pain and get back to life is a decision that a person has to make on his own regardless of the positive support of family and friends. Two, one just can’t make it alone. Buddy had to rely on his family to pay for the bills to get him and his entire body to “feel” again and “move”. I relied on the kindness of churchmates and also of a very good and dear friend who took care of me during the entire time that I was jobless, I was incapacitated and I was feeling low. Indeed, I dare say that though things become rough, God will provide a way and will provide people who will help us. Three, a sense of gratitude is important.
Lately, life has been rough for me. But for these details, they would deserve a separate blog entry.