If you knew him you wouldn't recognize him. His body is still and silent. Only the constant beep of the heart monitor and rasp of the breathing machine filling his lungs with oxygen signal he's alive. A 21-year old Mr. Scabs is comatose, breathing in a rhythmic slow motion echoing in the small hospital room on an island in Southeast Asia.
For almost 2 weeks the doctors struggle to bring him to life. During this time, Mr. Scab gets a gigantic staph infection in a bedsore on his head, they discover Dengue Fever in his blood stream, his liver and kidneys fail and he begins a rudimentary version of dialysis. This is the moment they call his mother and speak the unspeakable news, "We don't expect him to live through the night."
But, Mr. Scabs has more lives than a tore up alley cat.
His eyes open. They can't focus but they are open. He can't hear well but he's aware of muffled sounds. His body doesn't respond to his brain telling it to move and it takes and everlastingly, frustrating 15 minutes just to give a thumbs up. And, the most maddening thing of all, his mind works clearly, quickly, acutely. Captive in his vegetable state!
After a month they load his weakened, slow moving body into wheelchair (he can give 2 thumbs up now) and he flies across the Pacific Ocean heading home to local doctors, medicine and his mom.
Thinking back, his memory is fuzzy at best. He recalls waking up one night ill, vomiting and then nothing. Two weeks gone, just a mish-mash of stories, second-hand accounts and sketchy hospital records at best. It's the biggest mystery of Mr. Scabs life.
If you knew me, you'd probably recognize me but see that something is terribly wrong.
My son was two and still in diapers. My daughter was in school. Mr. Scabs had tentatively moved into the spare room to care for me and my paralyzed legs. But this particular morning, Mr. Scabs had left early for work and my sons good-morning diaper was full to the brim.
My body wasn't working, my legs wouldn't allow me to get out of bed, to stand, to pick up my son and change his diaper. I tried and crumpled to the floor in the most excruciating pain. This is when one of my best old friends came to the door with some muffins. I hadn't seen her in months and she didn't know about my legs.
She saw me and gasped.
She changed my boys diaper. Helped me to the sofa. Fed me and cleaned my house. But most of all she held my hand as I told my story.
Sometimes things happen for a reason. When I think of Mr. Scabs in 1998 not able to walk or even breath on his own, I think of myself crumpled on the floor with no hope of walking or standing. It's as if I was able to walk in his shoes and he was able to walk in mine. We share in a new sense of empathy. Is this how lives are woven together? In parallels?