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Standing Up Again

I went to rehab last month.

I was not the patient though. I accompanied a friend close to my heart and her father to the rehab facility thrice a week in the afternoons. Her father had a stroke that initially paralyzed the left side of his body. Yet by only after a week from the stroke, his condition remarkably improved right before our eyes. But he had to have some form of rehabilitation done in order to make sure that everything goes back to normal. So even though he would do his best to show all the nurses and therapists that he was back in perfect condition, he had to go through it from the start and without exception.

The rehab facility was nothing like what one would see in the movies. It was a plain lime green area filled with decades-old excercise machines. In the middle was an inclined ramp with rails on the sides and beside it was a platform with stairs on its opposite ends. At the wider part of the facility by the windows lay a few low beds. The only color that stood out was that of the absurdly orange gym ball that had been masked over by packing tape in order, I assume, to patch up its holes. Occupational and speech therapy were found by the side rooms. This was the environment which I absorbed for quite a while.

And of course there are the patients. They were "running around," filling the rehab area with each one having a therapist by the side and a nurse or companion as well. There were other stroke patients trying their best to walk straight, side to side and backwards. There were sports-related injuries that were tended to by ultrasound machines. There were accident victims supported by walkers and canes playing catch with their therapists. There were others whose sicknesses I did not get to know anymore. One thin man whose arm seemed paralyzed would cry and moan indecernible tones as he was forced into what seemed like a rectangular box which was open on the top and on the bottom. Squeezed in by pillows to leave no gap between his body and the wooden column, the man was forced to stand up straight. Because, perhaps, he couldn't anymore.

Being the companion of a companion, I didn't know what to do at first for the first few times we were there. My friend would always reprimand me lightly as she would catch me staring at the other patients. It was true. It was because I wanted to see in their faces what they were feeling--pain, difficulty, hopelessness or bordedom. To have to be lifted from a chair and be held by a belt around the waist as you learned how to walk again would have to be frustrating, I thought. Yet some showed determination in their eyes, fully giving themselves to the effort of learning anew how to do things that came naturally before.They just didn't go through the motions of walking the ramp or climbing the stairs. You knew that they also wanted to do it--and that oddly enough, they were somewhat enjoying it. They were enjoying everything as if it were the first time.

Yet what didn't show in their eyes but could be seen in the way they held onto the therapist or the way their heads were tilted was something more than mere determination. They showed a certain kind of humilty that came with the acceptance that they needed the steady hand of another. Hidden beneath the pain and groans was a word of gratitude that they were not doing this on their own. And like the child learning to take its first few steps, I could also imagine a smile on their faces, thankful for the chance to even walk again.

My friend's father is recovering amazingly and will eventually go back to his everyday routine of going back to work, sleeping in his room on the second floor, planning to go play golf as soon as possible. I am not as lucky as he is. It's still going to take some time.

I envy some of the patients I saw in the rehabilitation facility. They knew what they were being treated for. They knew what it would take and mean to be better someday. They knew why they were there while I don't know why I am here.


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