Disabled


Clerkship Day 212
Rehabilitation Medicine Day 11/14


There are so many things in our daily life that we often take for granted. Take for example the ability to walk. Or the ability to hold things with our hands. And what is so unbelievable is that we never really recognize their importance, until we lose them. Yes, a cliché statement but nevertheless real.

I only had two patients during my 2-week stay in Rehab Medicine, and both of them taught me a lot of things. Here I will talk first about Riza (not her real name).

Riza is a 22 year old female diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) for almost 10 years now and due to her chronic use of steroids and her lack of follow-ups, she ended up developing Avascular Necrosis (AVN, means cellular death due to lack of blood supply) of her hips one year ago. She had difficulty moving due to severe pain and she slowly lost her ability to walk. Last month she underwent a surgical procedure called Total Hip Arthroplasty (THA) of her right hip. To put it simply, a part of her pelvic bone and the head of her right humerus were removed and replaced with either an inert metal or a high-density polyethelene material. Yes, exactly like having a metal part in your body as we see in anime or movies. Cool, right? But it’s not as cool when she had to be admitted in the hospital to train how to walk again. All these while being careful not to put too much weight on her affected side for a few weeks. Her left hip would also need the same procedure but we need to let her heal and train her hip muscles (and a lot of other muscles) first for her to ambulate freely with some assistance. There’s also this problem with the expenses. So before then, her second THA will have to wait.

What THA looks like. Photo owned by orthoinfo.org

Since day one of her admission, she’d been undergoing her physical therapy sessions with her PT on ambulation and balance. She started with using her walker, then just yesterday we moved on to using crouches. She’s getting better each day of her sessions. Which is really good.

For a 22 year old female who actually lost the ability to walk because of a condition she herself did not chose to have, one would think all hope would be lost. One would think that a young woman like her would end up becoming depressed, saddened by the mere sad state she is in. To be labelled as “DISABLED” for the rest of your life is indeed not a joke.

But what I saw in her was none of that. Each day as I accompany her to the PT gym, she would walk with great determination and hope in every step she take. Yes there were painful steps (I could see her face wince with pain once in a while for each misstep she take), but in her eyes was that undying determination to go on, to do better, to go beyond what her condition had limited her to do. I was amazed. Humbled in fact, to see how one person could overcome all these trials and face each day with a determined smile. That she may be limited and challenged on one of the most basic and easily neglected functions of our body (walking), but it won’t mean that all hopes are lost.


Indeed life gives us so many wonderful things but we often miss their importance. Indeed, there is just so much in life we owe to be thankful of. Say, Alhamdulillah! (All praise is due to God!) For giving us these simple gifts… Simple gifts that is yet so important that just losing one of them, would mean a very devastating change in our lives.

Be thankful. And never lose hope. For all hope will be lost, only when you give up and stopped trying. Let us learn from Riza: That it is indeed nothing to be ashamed of for having disabilities, so long as you never allow your heart to be “disabled” as well.


Salam kasilasa!

-Ahmad

(My other patient in Rehab, Andrew, also taught me a lot about life. Hopefully I could share that to you some day )


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