“Respira profundo!” (take a deep breath). Again??? I was hardly able to breath. Let alone profoundly. Every time the Colombian nurses would say those two words to me I knew it meant one thing: PAIN.
Pain made me go insane. It made me lose my appetite, my sleep, my temper, my dignity and my independence. Within two weeks, I had transformed into a bedridden Skeletor. One with poor muscle formation covered in a bunch of bandages that had to be changed every other day. This was no holiday. This was a boot camp.
Little did I know that the worst pain was yet to come. I had no clue that the burn scars required movement! By now the hope of a holiday had worn off. The medical staff used every chance they had to make sure I exercised, to avoid stiffness of the skin and joints. Once my condition stabilised a bit the nurses put me in a wheelchair. Physiotherapist M. - bless her heart - showed no mercy. I cried all the way to the therapy gym not only because I had to go through the physical pain but also because I felt no need to socialize with others who had been through the same. Entering the room physiotherapist M. introduced me to the group and said I spoke little Spanish. A lot of nodding was going on and the group welcomed me. It was my first time being conscious outside of my room since I had arrived. I wanted to go back to my bed. Physiotherapist M. parked my wheelchair with my back towards the group and instructed me to use the pull down machine for my arms. Occasionally a group of doctors would come by for check ups or tours. I tried to focus as much as I could on the machine to avoid interactions in Spanish.
All of a sudden a doctor said: “Who would like to share their story?” Seeing that no one volunteered she turned to me and said: Oh Renata maybe you?” Really??...my arms even had difficulty using the machine without weights being attached to it ...Really doctor??...you want my emaciated non-Spanish speaking a** to share my story? I quickly waved my hand and said in my best telenovela Spanish: “Eh, no quiero!” (I don't want to).
‘‘Doctor her name is Renata and she got burned by a candle.’’ Before I knew it, one of the other patients started telling the group my story better than I could have done myself. Wait what…? With my weak arms, it took me a while to make a dramatic slow motion turn with the wheelchair. Plus I had to get it off the lock first. When I finally managed to turn, this patient’s eyes met mine and he nodded at me as if to say: ‘‘I got you Skeletor.’’ He then continued the story where he left off. Hey...but that is my story…
Now, the others started to engage and filled in the gaps. Yeah, I know my story Fulano! They were about to be done, there was no point in interrupting. My emotions were messed up anyway. I did not know whether to cry or to laugh, which did not matter cause both would hurt anyway. Pain and stress had not only caused me depression, but my isolation had made me believe I was alone in all of this. When the others applauded the patient who told my story, I first felt insulted, but it quickly changed into embarrassment. Shouldn’t I be grateful that I apparently had a little entourage to help me out? Realising there was really no need to act petty, I cracked a painful smile and mumbled “gracias” to my spokesperson. Then I turned towards the back of the room to roll out, in a roll of shame.
** Do you remember a time when isolation made you think you were truly alone? How do you overcome loneliness?? How do you react when you are embarrassed? Comment below**