From paralysis to prose

From The Independent:

JessicaJonesbyJDKelleher-smaller-199x3001987 – I was twenty-five years old and holed up in the intensive care unit at the National Neurological Hospital in London, stricken from head to toe with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Symptoms: total paralysis. Prognosis: uncertain. Guillain Barré Syndrome is a bizarre illness. It attacks the myelin sheath that transmits messages along one’s peripheral nerves. One day my toes went numb. A week later I found myself in hospital, unable to move, breathe or speak. An unscratchable itch on my leg could propel me to the brink of insanity. Dust fell into my eyes and I couldn’t blink or wipe it away. I could not call out for assistance. Upon learning of my perilous condition, my mother had dropped everything, packed a suitcase and flown from Sydney. Now she sat by my bedside for twelve hours a day, every day. Each night mum grabbed a few hours sleep at her friends’ house; Chrissy and Ralph were devotees of an Indian guru by the name of Swamiji. When Swamiji heard of my situation he began to call my mother and tell her of his visions for me. ‘I see yellow,’ spake the guru. The next day mum arrived at the hospital laden with armfuls of daffodils and yellow tulips. She filled all the vases in the room with them. Two days later, Swamiji called again: ‘I see purple.’ Out went the daffodils, replaced by swathes of irises. Mum herself was dressed in a purple silk kimono that she’d borrowed from Chrissy. Then Swamiji made a personal appearance at the ICU, without shoes. Through his flowing grey beard he blew into my chakras. Matron tried to hustle him from the room but Swamiji resisted her. At that point Sister Mary entered the scene.

Sister Mary had been hospitalised for an acute attack of Multiple Sclerosis but was now on the bounce back. She busied herself by ambling from ward to ward with her walking stick, rescuing the souls of fellow patients. Some of those ingrates did not wish to be saved but in me she found a compliant mark. Being fully paralysed I didn’t have much choice in the matter.

More here.