‘”If Schumacher survives he will not be Schumacher. He will be (Mr.) Bloggs. And his rehabilitation will only be effective if he comes to terms with being Bloggs – and fulfils what Bloggs can do,” said Richard Greenwood, a consultant neurologist at London’s Homerton Hospital and at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.’ (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/15/us-brain-injury-idUSBREA0E1JQ20140115)
When I read this headline my blood ran cold. It brought me back to the café in a Dublin Hospital in July of 2006. For days I hadn’t eaten anything but chocolate, I hadn’t slept and I spent every possible moment with my husband Steve who could not walk, talk, think or swallow following a sudden stroke. I kept asking for fact and figures to help me calculate his potential for recovery but what I really wanted was reassurance. I needed someone to tell me that there was hope, that it would be alright or at least that it would not be the worst possible outcome.
I remember asking the spouse of a stroke survivor to tell me if his wife had changed much after her stroke, he said: “my wife died 11 years ago!” I had been holding it together, I hadn’t cried, I had been focusing on everything that we could do, on the expertise of the doctors, on the hope that filled my waking hours. At that moment I felt myself physically falling as though I was in a black dream tumbling through endless night. I have no memory of how the rest of that conversation went, I don’t know if or how I replied but I know that it was the worst thing that I could have heard at that moment.
Reflecting on that conversation 8 years later I still believe that he was wrong on every level. Steve did not die that day; he has improved more than any doctor thought possible. He has defied every negative prognosis and fought against every limit that conventional wisdom tried to impose upon him. No doctor has no right to steal the hope from Schumacher’s family or other families who are sitting in hospital café’s and waiting rooms all around the world.
Building a life on hope
We have built our new life on hope; we hoped that we could find therapies and treatments that could help Steve, we hoped that he could walk again, that he could come home, that he could play with our children and that we could re-build our lives …and we have. My message to Richard Greenwood is this: without hope it is impossible to reach your potential.