Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ordinary Heroes

Watching HBO's documentary COMA was a moving experience. It chronicles the lives of four patients emerging from coma. You learn what it distinguishes a "minimally conscious" state from a "vegetative" one in medical terms. You learn when to feel hopeful that the patient may emerge from the twilight zone of seeming to in the here and now but not in a way that is comforting or tangible to their loved ones.

The interactions between adult patients and their parents is heartbreaking. Many of us parents whose kids are no longer young, vulnerable and innocent remember their childhood with a tinge of nostalgia. We wish our recalcitrant teen would be the utterly adorable toddler she once was.

These parents are actually confronted with their adult children reverting to infancy against their will and control. Every baby step on the road to recovery is applauded just like it must have been when this child took his first step or spoke the first word. The only difference is how joy is overlaid with immense sorrow they hide behind a brave, optimistic face. With a child there is abundant hope for the future, with these patients there is little to none.

While the documentary is about coma and people coming out of it to an uncertain future, it also shows how adversity makes super-heroes out of ordinary people. You feel humbled by the parents of the victims who work tirelessly to make life after coma worth living.

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