Our bodies: do we rent or own ?

May 12, 2007

in Guillain-Barre

My Dad once told me that we are all TABs — Temporarily Able-Bodied.

Being young and invincible, I dismissed his statement as a middle-aged mope.

Years later, I finally see what he means.

Eleven weeks ago, my sister’s husband complained of numbness in the hands and feet. He got on to WebMD and self-diagnosed before he went to his doctor. The doctor said surely he didn’t have Guillain-Barre Syndrome — it was much too rare. Gino whipped out the WebMD printout and the doctor disappeared for a few moments. When he came back, he ordered Gino to get to the hospital — now.

Over the next two weeks, Gino lost function of everything south of his eyeballs. In went a trache tube. In went a feeding tube. In went a catheter. In went two central lines. Lost was the ability to move, to speak, to swallow, to breathe. His immune system had attacked his nerve system — quite effectively.

The advance of the syndrome finally stopped, and Gino was able to move from intensive care to a rehab facility. He has spent the last two months getting reacquainted with his body. As his nervous system reconnects, he is experiencing both great pain and small gains. It’s a cause for celebration when he can hold a cheese sandwich and almost reach his mouth.

Hospital staff love visiting Gino’s room to see his latest tricks. You see, Gino is in a rehab hospital dedicated to spinal and brain injuries. Most of the people we meet there are NOT getting better — they are merely learning how to live in their new normal.

People at this hospital are proof that we are all TABs. An ATV accident changes everything for the man with a 3 year old. A stroke from birth-control pills can turn a 32 year-old woman’s life — and that of her partner — 180 degrees. The trucker who didn’t wear his seat belt will not be able to hold his wife’s hand when she gives birth to their first child this summer.

Gino will be released next month, and is expected to regain most (or all) function over the coming years. He will be once again be Temporarily Able-Bodied.

I am so grateful that I can walk hand-in-hand with my husband. That I can scratch my nose. That I can take in a deep, delicious breath of Colorado air. That I can hold my children and swing them around.

I am not owed my body, I do not own my body. Taking good care of it doesn’t guarantee continued use of it. Made from the stuff of stars and inspiration of the Divine, my body is on loan from the Universe. I am thankful for the small and large things I can do.

I am temporarily able-bodied and I finally get that fact — as much as a TAB can.

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