Tuesday, August 25, 2009

“Life is what you make of it”

There was a very inspiring story in this month’s Reader’s Digest. Unfortunately couldn’t find an online article, so I thought I’d do a summary of it.

Her name is Daniela Garcia, born in Santiago, Chile. Both her parents are doctors and she is also an excellent student who was accepted to one of Chile’s toughest medical schools. Not only was she good at studies, she was also a good soccer player.

In October of 2002, at the age of 22, she was in her final month of the fourth year of studies, and some of her friends had wanted her to go to another city to participate in some inter university games. Although she had agreed, she had a persisting uneasiness about the trip. Those feelings were even stronger as she got on the trains, especially since the train carriages were not in the best of condition. Her gut feeling told her that something was wrong. It’s funny that most of us dismiss gut feelings as silly, but sometimes it pays to listen to it. Is it intuition? sixth sense?, psychic phenomena?, guardian angels?, who knows? But whatever it is, I think it should be paid attention.

The carriage was in a dilapidated state and apparently the floor of the section connecting two carriages was broken. For those who haven’t been on trains, there is a gangway to go from one carriage to the other when two carriages are connected. It’s basically two steel parts from each carriage resting on each other, not fixed together. She was trying to cross from one carriage to the other when she fell from this gap. Apparently the gangplank was not there, it was night and the inside lights were not working properly, and the train was taking a bend, which, unfortunately for her, made the gap wider. As fate would have it, three determining factors became true at the exact same time she decided cross the carriages. As a frequent traveler by train, this is a scary. I sometimes even stand on this gangplank when the train is crowded. Yikes…

Anyway, she fell through the gap, but survived. She even regained conscious after awhile. It was then she realized that the train had gone over her limbs and amputated them. Both her forearms and hands had been severed, her right leg below and knee, and her left leg from above the knee. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must have felt. The shock of that must have been immense. Even with her injuries, she managed to lift herself up and roll away from the tracks, and managed to lie in the gap between the up and down tracks. Luck then played another part, because a farm worker was close by having a smoke, since his wife didn’t allow him to smoke inside the house. He heard Daniela’s yelling and came to her rescue.

As for her friends in the train, they had raised the alarm, but the crew had refused to believe that anyone could fall from the gap and had refused to stop the train. Unbelievable. She later sued the train company, but had settled out of court.

Given the nature of the injuries the paramedics didn’t give much hope that she would still be alive when they came, but to their surprise, not only was she alive, she was conscious and coherent. She managed to give all details about herself and her parents. At the hospital, during a three hour operations, the surgeons cleaned the wounds to give them the best chance of healing. Because of the crushing done by the wheels, it was impossible to reattach her limbs.

The inspirational part about her is that she didn’t give up, and spend the time moping about what she had lost. After her wounds were healed, she spent nearly a year in physical therapy and mastering prosthetic limbs. By the end of the year she was even able to drive a car and ride a bicycle. Also as part of her therapeutic process, she took to writing and eventually wrote a book about her accident and the process of physical therapy, which became a best seller in Chile. Within a year of the accident she entered medical school again. Long story short, she is the world’s first quadrilateral amputee physician. Her specialty is rehabilitation, like the doctors who helped her get back her life after the accident.

There are many people who overcome great adversity, especially physical disabilities to succeed in life. I choose this story because I came across it recently, and for the fact that it was a crazy accident. It is amazing what the human mind can endure, and the strength it has to overcome adversity. Comparatively, the problems we “normal” people have seem pretty inconsequential, and our whining silly.

Given half the chance, disable people can be totally independent, especially with the proper support from the society. Unfortunately, we are still lagging behind in this regards, but I think we will improve. IMO It’s more important in here because of our war heroes. Most supermarket chains do offer wheelchair ramps, but sometimes the insides are so cramped that there’s no room for even normal people to move, let alone a wheelchair. Wheelchair access means not just entering the building, but movement inside as well. I saw one small roadside cafe that not only had wheelchair ramps, but had done their inside layout with enough space for movement. It’s simply not about spending big bucks, but about putting thought into it. Things can’t change overnight, but hopefully they will.




Daniela in the middle with the Doctor's from the rehab clinic
Pic courtesy of Reader's Digest - http://www.rdselecciones.cl/contenido/a411_La-historia-de-una-chica-que-elegió-vivir

9 comments:

Angel said...

I was similarly touched when I read this story last week... and just the week before DeeCee had a post on how a guy in a wheelchair had to wait outside while his friend entered a donut shop alone.

There is legislation in place for equal opportunities for access and movement - and it looks wonderful on paper, a thick booklet with lots of illustrations on how things "should be" but as usual, implementation is abysmal.

One positive thing is now in Colombo UC at least for a public building plan to be passed, you need to have ramps/wide doors and an elevator.

Chavie said...

that's a very inspirational story... thanks for sharing Az! and like Angel mentioned, hopefully equal access opportunities are implemented going forward...

santhoshi said...

Thanks for putting this up.. Its making me less scared of my pain...

tara said...

My husband fears losing his leg and restriction to this arm. This story has shed hope.

Anonymous said...

I was really moved by this story especially the tragic accident and was surprised at how she was able to recover from that shock and start her life with renewed happiness....i wish i could speak to her.....

Anonymous said...

I am reading this article second time today, you have to be more careful with content leakers. If I will fount it again I will send you a link

Anonymous said...

You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view

vinit said...

its not a story while denelia has done brilliantly really all our best wishes are with her always.

Being Differently- Abled said...

Its an amazing inspiration for those who give up easily in life. It makes me realize I should never regret who I am!!!!