Home Australia My father was left paralyzed after suddenly fainting on holiday, now life has changed for my entire family – read SACHIN KURESHI’s relentlessly honest account of the trauma

My father was left paralyzed after suddenly fainting on holiday, now life has changed for my entire family – read SACHIN KURESHI’s relentlessly honest account of the trauma

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Hanif (second from right) before the fall, with, from left, his sons Carlo, Kier and Sachin.

Everyone asks the question with the same eyes. Anxious, yes. Nice, yes. They would rather not ask, but they know they have to.

They’ve seen me now. It’s time for a difficult conversation.

It’s been over a year since my father’s trip to Rome to spend Christmas with his girlfriend. It was on Boxing Day when he fainted and fell, hurt his neck and became paralyzed from the head down. After countless hospitals, operations, doctors, flights and interviews, he is finally home in west London, albeit transformed.

Today, as we prepare to leave the house, we talk about the same things as always. But now he tells me about the friendly bicycle thieves he watches from her window while her caregiver prepares a bath for him in bed. We talk about our favorite vaping flavors as a robotic arm lifts him out of his bed, cradles him in a blanket while transporting him across the room to his wheelchair like a stork.

We gossip about our golden retriever’s weight while I stuff a Pret crab sandwich into his mouth. Then I brush his teeth and put on his coat, hat, and mittens, just like he would do for me when I was a baby. After gathering his essentials into a bag, we finally set out on the long journey through Shepherd’s Bush to get a haircut, the first proper haircut in a year.

Hanif (second from right) before the fall, with, from left, his sons Carlo, Kier and Sachin.

When my father’s girlfriend, Isabella, called on Boxing Day to tell me, my twin brother, and my mother about the accident, she tried so hard to downplay it, to protect us from the distress, that I wasn’t sure if maybe it had been twisted. his ankle.

Two days later I was on a plane to Rome with my younger brother, Kier, to see him in the hospital. My father cannot remember this visit because he was very high. I wish it could have been. What do you say to someone who just woke up and realizes that he can no longer move his body? Jesus would know, although I can’t say the huge crucified image of him on my father’s bed was exactly reassuring.

In the weeks and months that followed, some things became clearer, others more confusing. He had become quadriplegic, which stripped him of voluntary control over his upper and lower body. He had some movement, the way one has some movement in a straitjacket: his arms dangled listlessly, his legs flailed, and he couldn’t support his body.

The inability to move your hands is a particularly diabolical affliction: you are forced to endure punishment without distraction, unable to pick up a book or respond to messages. When he was not in the company of friends or family, he simply stared at the ceiling, awaiting the next arrival. A new twitch of his finger was celebrated as if he had won the Nobel Prize.

After a successful operation to relieve pressure on his upper spine, we began to see an improvement in his mobility. But it was slow, Sisyphus. Due to the severity of his accident and an excellent rehabilitation clinic in Rome, we decided to keep him there until he regained enough strength to travel back.

Periodically, my brothers, my mother and I, who has always been close to him, traveled in shifts to visit him. Isabella was by his side all day, every day.

Sachin shaves his father Hanif

Sachin shaves his father Hanif

On another of my visits to Rome, months later, we saw our beloved Manchester United play against Liverpool at Anfield, a match we lost 7-0. I spent the game distracting myself with my phone. My father, paralyzed helplessly, was forced to witness all this, a torture of medieval cruelty.

Now, as I walk alongside him to cut his hair, he in his wheelchair moving along the unstable pavement, steering with his slowly recovering hand, he vibrates with excitement at being home and the ecstasy of going to Tesco.

He wasn’t always so optimistic. The initial euphoria after the accident, his gratitude for having survived, gave way to a deep melancholy that consumed him for weeks without speaking much. Returning to London to continue his rehabilitation, he was forced to remain temporarily in a dementia ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. One night there, he was startled awake by a creepy presence at his bedside, a plaintive specter dragging a torn catheter bag.

“How did that make you feel?” the hospital therapist asked him the next day. Dad was speechless.

We all did our best to lift his spirits. During those summer months our family followed a strict schedule, ensuring that one of us was with him from dawn to dusk. He was also visited daily by a procession of devoted followers. People of all kinds: writers, musicians, directors, philosophers, chefs, psychiatrists, artists. They came with chocolates and candy, and ideas they had had about how to remedy my father’s situation.

Some would bring special state-of-the-art voice-operated computers and immersive virtual reality equipment. Others came with literature on hypnotherapy, neurotherapy, psychedelic therapy, and sound healing. My aunts were calling from Pakistan to reassure us with the news that they had ceremoniously released a flock of pigeons and slaughtered a goat.

In those gloomy hospital rooms, my father’s large circle of friends, often strangers to each other, met for the first time. On one occasion, the room was occupied by a sex therapist, a psychoanalyst who had recently written a book on sex, and a chef. The conversation led to a deep analytical discussion about the sandwich: the slices of bread represented different bodies, the hidden fillings symbolized the intimate exchange of bodily fluids and primary instincts.

Months later, when Dad was moved to a specialist rehabilitation clinic in north London, he was surrounded by people who had experienced similar accidents. Some had fallen on a bicycle, others while climbing rocks, another had tripped over a rake in his garden. Everyone had been paralyzed.

When I visited on weekends, I would sit in the large, airy garden room outside the main hospital with a group of patients during arts and crafts sessions. The energetic young woman who led the class had been paralyzed by an infection that destroyed her nervous system. She was barely 20 years old and now she was teaching others the difficult craft of mouth painting.

Some enthusiastically accepted these arts and crafts exercises. Others, like my father, couldn’t believe it had come to this. A friend he met in the room was trying to cheer him up by telling him about his meticulously devised suicide plan, how he was planning to strip naked, go out into the garden and freeze to death.

We stop in front of the hair salon. I’m worried that the step at the entrance to the store will be too high for Dad’s wheelchair. And I know it is humiliating for him, to find himself on this modest step, this mountain, at the mercy of such a seemingly insignificant obstacle. Just then, a chatty addict in a wheelchair approaches to admire Dad’s upgraded wheels, another unwanted encounter that my dad can’t avoid. With great effort, I manage to take dad to the store.

It’s a beautiful, sunny winter day. I can see that Dad is happy to be back here. My brothers, my father and I have been coming to this hair salon, often together, for 15 years. While our barber sharpens his tools, my father has the same conversation with him as always.

After asking him about the business, to which our barber laments the challenges of Brexit and the increasing cost he bears for the mountains of garbage bags full of hair he throws away, my father utters the well-known refrain, so it must be the thousandth time. , ‘You must be a billionaire now!’

Despite his difficulties, our barber has opened another shop and a new restaurant nearby. He embodies the would-be immigrant, but seems exhausted by work.

In those 15 years, I finished school and college, became a screenwriter, and moved out of the area. But like most men, with a loyalty that is not even reserved for their lovers, I always return. And it’s always the same. Time has a way of moving forward while remaining perfectly still.

I look at those same portraits of celebrities on the walls, sporting stylish haircuts, who must have stopped by to get a cut. George Clooney smiles at me, as if to say, ‘So, how’s your dad?’

Well, he’s good and he’s bad, he’s happy and he’s sad, just like the rest of us.

  • This piece originally appeared on Fence Magazine.

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