Doctor, heal thyself
My life took a 180-degree turn months ago, and it was one unforgettable journey. Who would have thought, that in the blink of an eye, I’d go from full-time pediatric resident to full-time bedridden patient? I had Guillain Barre Syndrome, and this is my superhero story.
I had always thought of myself as a superhuman. Doctors often think that way. We have 36 hours of hospital duty, then go on call the next day. Rinse and repeat. As for me, I inserted my workout into my on-call days: I hit my 1.5-kilometer laps in the pool or lifted a few weights before going home. Every day I told myself: “One never stops when he’s tired, one only stops when he’s dead.” And so I was unstoppable, or so I thought.
It didn’t take Death to stop me, though; it only took one awful day when I started losing my motor functions. I couldn’t write, then I couldn’t walk. I could neither eat nor bathe on my own. One by one, I lost them all … It was terrifying!
We call it Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare disease in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nerves, causing various degrees of weakness. I knew what it was, but at that moment I wasn’t a doctor or a superhuman. I was an ordinary patient and, like everyone else, I was bound to my steel-and-leather wheelchair like a female Franklin D. Roosevelt.
People didn’t need my help anymore; I needed theirs. In those darkest moments, I saw a different breed of superhumans—no capes, no spandex costumes, no dark masks. They were equipped only with their sincerest smiles and caring hands—sparing a few hours to show their support, bringing gifts to cheer me up, and offering their warmest embrace when I cried.
I learned three things from them and from what I have gone through this past few months:
- It is important to be surrounded by people who keep you whole when you are all broken inside and out. Some take it for granted, but a strong support system really goes a long way. I realized that every visitor I had seemed to have brought an imaginary glue stick with them, helping me piece myself together.
- Sometimes, it’s okay to need something from someone. When your hospital bill skyrockets or your faith is shaken by your current condition, it’s time to tell yourself: You can’t do it on your own. So you welcome any form of help—financial, spiritual, psychological—with a thankful heart.
- It was only when the illness destroyed a part of me that I understood myself more. My strength was never measured by the weights I lifted or the number of laps I completed, but I was strong because in my brokenness, I fixed myself. In the process, I found out that I am not the only superhero in my story but that I had a team to be thankful for, and they helped me fight my demons and rise from my lowest.
Now I walk with a cane. I can eat and bathe without help. Soon I’ll be walking on my own, then I can go back to my residency training. I am happy. Better. I have survived Guillain Barre Syndrome, and a new chapter in my superhero story waits.
Dr. Jerrymae R. Blasurca, 27, is with the West Visayas State University Medical Center in Iloilo City.
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