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August 20, 2010

Beaten And Bloodied We Crawl Forward

Filed under: General — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 12:40 pm

Most people have annual days of reflection. Whether religious, cultural, sporting or personal these days allow individuals to take stock of their circumstances, reassure themselves that everything will be OK, take a deep breath and keep moving forward with life. People often come unstuck however, if they don’t stop to reflect at all or spend so much time reflecting they can’t get going again – getting stuck and not moving forward is something we’ll explore another day – i.e. the notion of depression.

For me, the important days of reflection can be quite disastrous, especially if I don’t plan and work towards them. My days of reflection are all anniversaries associated with PTSD events, occur throughout the year and are quite numerous. The 20th August is the biggest of these, as its the day I physically died in 1991.

2010 therefore marks 19 years since the medical profession, family and friends gave up on me walking out of one of Brisbane’s most decrepit hospitals – the old P.A. (pre-renovations). Needless to say, virtually all the people from that period of my life have now been excised. I’ve come to believe that people who give up on you, don’t deserve to be included in your life.

Due to a genetic condition, that was finally diagnosed in 2000, I’ve always been predisposed to excessive blood clotting. At that time, August 1991, I had developed so many clots in the left lung that the lung appeared as one giant clot on all the M.R.I.s and X-Rays. Though placed on IV anticoagulants, the expectation was that some of the clots would break away from the lung and travel to the heart or brain – at which point I would die.

Ironically, none of the clots ever did break away. Instead, my near death experience was brought on by the incompetence of a Queensland Health junior doctor. This gentleman caused a massive bleed in my throat, by shoving a tube down my oesophagus far too violently. The loss of blood caused my blood pressure to drop to nothing, my heart to stop and the resuscitation team to move into overdrive.

10 minutes after my body shut down, they succeeded in reviving me. The first thing I heard as I came to was an elderly and senior doctor reassuring me that I would be OK now (– I never did get to thank this man for saving my life). In addition to the resuscitation team, the main thing that drove me to stay alive was fear and anger. Fear and anger that if I died, the real reasons as to how I ended up alone and in hospital would never be told. If I died, family and friends – who had abandoned me – would conveniently make up stories that painted themselves in a good light while describing my misfortune as some random and freak event. The fact that their actions had directly left me homeless, forced me to live out of my car while suffering extreme Ulcerative Colitis and ignored my malnutrition brought on by internal haemorrhaging and a lack of food – well, none of that mattered, even though my living conditions were later identified as having greatly contributed to what brought on the clotting. In their hands, these facts would never have seen the light of day. Admittedly, I over did it when I was finally released from hospital – telling everyone and anyone who would listen, as to how the actions of certain people (whom I had trusted) had almost cost me my life.

Since the 20th August 1991, much of my existence has felt like a scene from the movie “Gandhi” i.e. I’ve run a passive resistance campaign against the advances of the Grim Reaper and any obstructions life could toss at me. Just like Gandhi’s documented process of burning racial passes in South Africa i.e. where participants were beaten by police but continued to crawl towards the fire and toss in their passes; I’ve continued to crawl forward, no matter how slow life became and no matter how many things obstructed life’s path. Beaten and bloodied – sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically – movement forward was often so slow it was non-existent. If nothing else, the process did prove that standing one’s ground against both the visible and invisible forces of nature is possible.

My message then, on this anniversary of reflection – i.e. what I now call my life day – is this: We all have it within ourselves to keep going no matter how difficult the circumstances get. Stubbornness (and the will to live) appears to be our evolutionary advantage as a species and raises its glorious head on both a personal and communal level as long as we allow it. I should also add, occasionally asking God to intercede on our behalf doesn’t go astray either. ;)

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2010

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