Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Right and Left (07/31/14)
By Gary Ritter
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It didn’t happen at birth. My mother delivered me as a healthy baby, the second of five children. I progressed normally until at the age of nine months I got a cold. Instead of moving elsewhere in my body, the infection attacked my brain. The doctors put me on antibiotics and did all they could to arrest the illness, but the harm was done. The infection targeted the soft spot of my brain, which hadn’t yet hardened and become resistant. It left me damaged. In the language of the day, I was retarded.
From that time onward I was different. Before, I was happy and an easy child to care for. After, nothing could please me. I became difficult because I could no longer learn and adapt. My mental acuity slowed down; everything frustrated me. My behavior worsened. I became more than my parents could handle. They didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
By the time I was five they decided I needed to be institutionalized. That’s what families did with people like me in those days. With great reluctance and many tears my parents put me in a place where broken children grew into stunted adults; where the long, antiseptic, green hallways became my playpen; the constant screams and yells became my lullabies; and the workers did their jobs with little concern for the underdeveloped human beings in their care. My parents visited me periodically, but because I couldn’t bond, my speech was limited, and my abilities minimal, their visits meant little to me.
There came a day after several years when my parents removed me from that home. We drove a couple days to arrive at a medical clinic where doctors in their white lab coats began testing me in a variety of ways. When they had completed their studies, we drove back. I was given a bedroom in my parents’ house, and they began working with me.
The theory the doctors had was that having me recreate the movements of an infant could repair the cells in my brain. Babies as they grow crawl on their bellies, then creep on their hands and knees. They experience tactile sensations and have a world of stimulating inputs that cause them to develop. My parents and my siblings old enough to help began this regimen.
They patterned me five times a day. Taking three to five people they replicated the crawling motion moving my head, hands, and legs five minutes at a time, alternating my limbs right and left. They made me crawl two hours a day, and creep another two hours. My mother and many volunteers spent hours working through mental stimulation exercises. This was my life, and that of my family every single day for three years. Their devotion and perseverance helped me significantly. Their love and sacrifice knew no bounds, especially that of my mother. But my mental capacity grew to no more than that of a five-year-old, which continues to be my limitation.
Following these years of intense effort, my parents were able to enroll me in a specialized school. Because my physical abilities had improved, believe it or not, I learned to drive a tractor. In my later years I had the good fortune of living in a group home with companions similar to me, and terrific houseparents. To this day that is where I reside.
My parents are quite elderly now and my housemother drives me to their apartment every week. I watch out for them.
One time my brother was talking with my parents. They were talking about faith and religion. I always liked going to church, so I listened. Although I comprehend more than people think, I can’t communicate well. One thing I know is that Jesus died for me, and He loves me.
My brother asked my parents about how they had dealt with me when it came to prayer. They told him they had prayed for me regularly, and I was glad for that.
There was a question my brother asked. Their answer stunned him. As you can tell, I’m a simple person. I wish I understood the implication. I don’t.
At one point they took me to a renowned faith healer. Nothing happened. I was unchanged. Why did they go? A friend suggested it. But as my mother told my brother: “We didn’t believe he’d be healed.”
I wish I knew: would faith have made the difference?
Note: Written fictionally; true story.
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