Paralysis

by John Thuko

The sounds of laughter in the hall wake him up. Soft, happy....amused.

Janitors, he thinks, or nurses with their medicine carts, or late night visitors . Maybe family members who sit by the bedside the whole night long. Some, unlike his, do.

He has heightened senses. He registers acutely-David Letterman's voice on the tv next door, the hearty laughter of the nurse, miss Powell, as she walks past the door, the sounds of traffic outside, a jeep cruises past. He smiles vaguely, he can still tell the sounds of a particular model. Awesome. He feels an itch on his forehead. Instinctively he reaches up and scratches.

He freezes. His left hand scratching his forehead.

He brings his hand close to his face. He wiggles his fingers, first the thumb, then the ring finger then in a flurry his whole hand and arm. He tries the rest of his limbs.Nothing. He cannot move any other limb. He is happy nevertheless.

He blinks in the dim light. He wants to shout in joy but his voice is dry. He is lying on his back with a heavy blanket draped over him. He is hooked up to a respirator that breathes for him, there is catheter and a colostomy. There is an abdomen binder wrapped around him to hold together his abdomen muscles and special stockings on his legs to prevent blood-clots. He is a mess.

He doesn't feel much but for now he savors the moment of ambulation. He scratches his head some more, feels his shaggy hair. He touches his soft but cracked lips and his pointed nose. He lets his fingers travel the length of reachable parts of his body. He can't feel anything from his neck down but the touch feels good nevertheless. The joy is a welcome feeling from the deep depression he has had since the accident.

He raises his head carefully and watches his hand trace its way down his body. He feels the colostomy bag. It's full, it needs emptying. He feels his manhood and the catheter. He is shrivelled badly. He is not the way he used to be.

He squints at the clock on the bedside. It is midnight. Shift change was two hours ago. He could have been working as a nurse at this time , third shift, at the nursing home down the street. He always loved working third. The work was easy and he loved the familiarity of working at the same place for years. The company of the female nurses was also welcoming. He smiles. Those were the days.

There is a screech of tires. He instictively tenses the few muscles he can flex. He holds his breathe waiting for a crush.Nothing, just curses from an irate driver. It's winter, there has been an ice storm. Everybody curses after an ice storm.

He exhales and realises he has been squeezing the colostomy bag. His hand feels wet and there is a foul smell. He closes his eyes and he goes back in time. Back to the time he got behind the wheel of his BMW two years ago. It was a night much like this. There had been a severe ice storm. The roads were treacherous, the weather-man asked everyone to stay indoors if they didn't have to go anywhere. He had a few errands to run and the shopping center was but a few blocks away. he had new snow tires and a powerful, reliable car. He was, by all means, a good driver. He could take a winter storm for a few blocks.

He remembers driving up Hillside.The night was dark, windy and rainy- a perfect bad winter night in Kansas.The road was slippery and slushy. Traffic was sparse yet the road felt crowded. Everyone drove slow and kept a good distance.

The wipers were not working right despite the fact that he had just replaced them. They were cheap but still they ought to have worked right those first weeks.

He remembers the car start slipping and him instinctively stomping on the brakes. He had anti-lock brakes yet it continued spinning out. He wrestled with the steering wheel but the car still spun onto the oncoming lane. The semi-truck coming down the hill, braking yet unable to stop. He remembers seeing the ashen face of the driver, locked in a scream, light in the glare of his headlights.

Then the crashing sounds and the screams and the blood everywhere, turning the black leather seats into a deep red. And then the darkness, all consuming and suffocating. Him unable to breathe, unable to feel pain yet knowing that his body had taken a traumatic beating and his life forever changed.

The news of his paralysis were a shock. He could not fathom a life as an invalid. It was a way of life he had never dreamed. Yet the doctors said there was nothing they could do. That he was going to spend the rest of his days bed-ridden or in a wheelchair.

He stares off into empty space.

He has lived this life for the past two years. He has tried to understand the reasons behind the accident. To believe that God has a hand in all this, that, like his pastor says, He has a plan for him. He didn't want to think that he would live his life as an example but as an inspiration to everyone. That one day God intended to show his triumph through him.

He has prayed. He has cried and praised God and shim. He has willed his limbs to move yet his body would not obey.

A long time ago, after all his pleas had gone unheard, he had decided to take his life. To end the torture once and for all. He had decided there wasn't much to the bible. That if there really was a God then he would have been healed. He didn't ask for much back then, just to be able to move. to be able to do a simple task. His pleas had been met with an ever deteriorating body. He had not been healed therefore there was no God. All the bible stuff was what he liked to call bullshit.

Bullshit. He likes the sound of that.

He has waited for a chance to do himself in since no one is willing to do him the favor. They think he is crazy. He hates them all and the stupid looks they give him when he asks them to pull the plug. That is part of the reason why his family does not show up anymore. They are exhausted with his 'crazy' pleadings to get off life support. They are tired of the pathetic looks he gives them, of his crazy demands , of his dont-care attitude, of his foul mouth, of his transgressions and especially of his laughing during prayers.

He can't blame them. He is tired of himself too.

Is he insane? He laughs. Hell, few people know what sanity itself is. He knows what insanity is. Insanity is lying in bed for thirty or forty more years staring at the ceiling. Insanity is not pulling the plug. Insanity is not cussing at his luck. Insanity is having a working limb, and the desire and ability to end ones life and not taking the chance.

It is cowardice too and stupid and selfish.

He reaches up, way over his head, as far as his hand can reach and pulls the plug. He just hopes the nurses-especially the overzealous Miss powell- won't revive him. It sucks to come back to this same life.

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