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By Nina S. Custodio


Sunday, February 23, 2014

EARLY this week, as I stood for a doctor friend at a University clinic, I witnessed the delivery of a pair of crutches. It was made of polished wood and was neatly encased in cling wrap. I watched as the nurses, Con and Alex, tried to use them. I was surprisingly amused, just looking at them. Now why is that?

I have had my run in with crutches. Over the course of my getting sick, I have used quite a few. There was that time when I had to undergo laparoscopic surgery for a meniscal tear in my right knee. I had slipped and fell in the bathroom and just endured the pain until I could hardly bend my knees, much less, walk. It was difficult and painful since I had been a resident physician at that time and as expected, training required a lot of standing and walking through the hospital, checking on patients, negotiating flights of stairs that were torture for the hefty me, even without the injury! Suffice it to say, I did end up with crutches to help me get around. There is a proper way of using them. There is a technique on how to go up and down the stairs. You had to take note of these otherwise, you would end up quite exhausted from lugging them around. I have used the traditional ones as well as the newer ones, those made of lighter material but as sturdy. I also started with two crutches and as I got better, adapted to using only one.

I find myself quite amused now, with my experiences with these assistive devices. I remember the time when I would protest having to be wheeled through the hospital on a wheelchair. I used to think that it was only for old and really sick people. Well, how was I to know that I would be diagnosed with Colon Cancer and that wheelchairs would be such a good friend to me because I would be too weak to even stand up after each chemotherapy session? I thought that I had totally gotten rid of it after I finished my chemo sessions but somehow I still kept getting sick. Suffice to say, at this point, I have used wheelchairs (the regular and the motor type), crutches (wood, metal, aluminum, paired or singular), walkers (with wheels and without) and canes. Whew! So why am I talking about these? Hmm.


I see wheelchairs, crutches and canes as definite markers of my journey towards a better, healthier life. They are milestones that remind me that although I have been through a lot, I have also learned a lot. See in the crutches after a long time has made me realize that there are painful wounds in life that do not leave a scar, but memories that make you appreciate life even more.

We all have experiences in our lives that are painful. The pain can either be physical or worse, psychological. I am more inclined to prefer physical pain than the latter because the former is temporary (I hope). Psychological pain lingers and I really hate that. Don’t we all? It’s those snippets of memories that makes you wince and then your face contorts because of the mental anguish. Yes, that kind. Arghh, right? My medical challenges have put me in very humbling situations. I had to surrender to unbelievable physical pain AND the anguish that I had to acknowledge it and give in to its demands. It took some time for me to get used to being on a wheelchair. Much as I hate to admit it, I associated it with weakness and I did not want to be labelled as such. It felt weird to be wheeled around the hospital in it especially because I am a doctor and somehow people think doctors can’t/don’t get sick. Well, I am living proof that doctors are human--we are susceptible to the same viruses and bacteria; maybe even more than an average person would be. Hehe.

The crutches, walkers and canes, too became my usual companions. When I was finally able to stand up and walk after months on a wheelchair, the crutches made me feel safer whenever I was in a public place, among ‘normal’ people rushing past me, doing. Walking in the mall terrified me but I had to do it despite .my disconcerting visions of falling flat on my face because someone had knocked me off my feet (in an unromantic sort of way). Sigh. These assistive devices made me feel stable and confident that nothing awful would happen. That being said, I guess we are all aware that all of us have wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and canes that help us survive challenges.

Human versions.

These people have been there for us, ready to help us; they cheer us on and encourage us to keep going, letting us know that we are not alone. When we feel weakened by defeat, they give us strength and hope that things will get better--we just have ti keep the faith that it will. Sometimes we are not too happy to have them around simply because they give us the non-sugarcoated truth that hurts so t we can deal with it rather than deny that it exists. They snap us back to our senses either by kind words or with a forceful kick in the butt--all for our own good!

There is a point where we kinda resent their presence but in the end, we realize their worth. They have unselfishly lent a hand, a shoulder; given us comfort, encouragement and the unabashedly painful truth so that we can find some form of resolution or closure so that we can get up from where we fell and continue on with our lives with smiles in our faces, good thoughts in our minds and a heart renewed and ready to face the future bravely. They deserve our heartfelt thanks, don’t you think? So, say it!

Thank you.
Very much.
From the bottom of my heart.

(Recite with all your heart and soul to all your human assistive devices).

Happy Sunday Everyone! :)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2014.


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