I worked for almost two decades with people paralysed by trauma and accident and during that time I never once heard the question
" Will I ever walk again?"
In my experience, most patients already know the answer to that question but the reality, and its a truly massive reality, of the whole trauma thing has to be put so deeply behind every coping mechanism going that the conscious mind reminds me of that time I found my feet standing on the shoreline of an icy lake. The painful total emersion is buffered by fearful tiny steps away from that frozen water.
I once had the privilege of watching the spinal injury consultant, Mr Ganapatiraju Ravichandran ( know to all as Just " Ravi") at his very best. During a ward round, where a gaggle of professionals , medics, physiotherapists , occupational therapists and nurses surrounded a patient in a bed, he caught my eye that the patient and his mother needed a one to one moment.
As the others moved off, I pulled the curtains around the bed, and Ravi, who was a tiny whippet of a man, stood quietly at the bedhead in silence. The patient was a man in his twenties who had broken his neck in a diving accident on holiday a month before He had no movement or sensations below his nipple line and was single with his dark eyed mother who had sat at his bedside for the duration
They were exhausted and both looked at Ravi very carefully.
" Nothing has improved has it?" the man asked eventually, as his mother covered her mouth with a fist and Ravi paused giving the question the dignity of some thought.
"No it hasn't !" he said his eyes filling with tears.
It was the first time I had ever seen him emotional in the clinical situation.
I sort of held my breath
" Can we still hope?" the mother eventually asked, her face crumpled and grey and Ravi lifted his hand to where there was a thin chink in the curtain surrounding the bed which let the thinnest sliver of sunshine to catch on his brown hand.
He and they looked at the light for a moment
" Let's hope together" he said gently, and he sat down to talk
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