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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Changed Life, Strewn Wreckage and Compassion

“All I knew was that I had walked out of [the lounge room] at Christmas for a few days up north and here I was returning in a wheelchair five months later, another person.”

~Rosalie Leaney, Whose Hand Is This?

Having suffered an almost life-ending stroke, Rosalie Leaney had had the fight of her life—miraculously she had clung to it, against all medical odds. Now, imagine for a moment “wheeling” into a room in your home, and considering strangely, the last time you were there you had no idea of the impending change you’d be just about to go through!

In her book, Whose Hand Is This?, Rosalie and her husband Gordon detail but snapshots of what it was like to adjust in those early days of massive upheaval. We’d expect a person like Rosalie to be irrevocably affected, but we don’t often think of the wider ramifications on family, neighbours, friends, work colleagues etc.

Yet, the wreckage of these events is vast and incalculable.

Major life change in one single life affects everyone close—and even those not-so-close—in so many ways, as the ripples of effect ever-widen, time extrapolating the often deplorable and southwardly depressing meaning of the change.

The effects are so often hard to describe and quantify in tangible terms, let alone predict. Recalling Charlie Moorcraft—a “famous” burns victim who was seriously burned over more than 50 percent of his body—and massive changes that he underwent, the ripples do indeed widen over the succeeding months and years—a life forever changed. He suffered the collapse of his marriage, the death of his father he blamed himself for, not to mention the drastically shocking reduced quality of life; all of which seemed to be as an indirect, and in some cases, a direct result of his life-changing workplace accident.

Charlie’s story is poignantly illustrative. No one seeing his video presentation could twenty minutes later walk out unaffected.

And the point I’m trying to reinforce here is?

Not one of us truly appreciates the costs of this magnitude of change. The human costs are massive and certainly incomprehensible, especially where major disability and permanent impairment are concerned.

We can expect something of the momentous emotional waves of change—those that sweep us completely off our axis of composure. Forever life is changed, and yet, somehow, life must go on!

No matter the change that’s staring you down right now, find the feeble strength to hold on. I hope you’ll have much family and friend support and love; you’ll need it.

For those who’re fortunate enough not to yet be dealt such a hand, don’t take your life—and your quality of life—for granted!

Look around you and find some compassion for those who’re grappling with their ‘new reality,’ and not just the one in the ‘hot seat’ either. And be thankful for the legacy of the Leaney story to stir within us the compassion and understanding needed to help the next victim(s) of tragedy.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Reference: Rosalie Leaney (with Gordon Leaney & Geraldine Mellet), Whose Hand Is This? – Our Story of Stroke, Recovery and Love (Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1999), p. 167.

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