Quadriplegic but Smiling

With that kind of smile on his face, I didn’t have the slightest clue that the man I was speaking with was quadriplegic (paralyzed on both arms and both legs). He kept us chatting with him at his emergency room bedside for 20 minutes, and that’s saying a lot in a fast paced environment where a doctor sees 20-25 patients a day to keep up.

I work in the emergency room of a diverse hospital, where I see a wide range of patients, some crying hysterically for having a nausea and vomiting virus, and some powering through near death illnesses (Tweet this). Some like this 88-year-old hero who has withstood a total loss of all four limbs for more than 50 years, caused by an accident that occurred when he sat on a broken chair, hit his head, but then proceeded to finish the business for which he was miles away from home for. His paralysis then contaminated his body, slowly and painstakingly.

But that’s not the point of sharing his story. The point is, he was in the ER that day for an emergent complaint, but wasn’t complaining at all. Rather, he smiled and pleasurably conversed with those around him. He gave us something to take away from Room 18 that day. A lesson on endless courage, something we easily forget in our fast-paced and jumbled lifestyle (Tweet this).

On the same day, in the very next bed lay a woman about 25 years younger than him. She yelled at the nurses, yelled at the doctors, and cried for her life’s disasters. There was no way of obtaining her story from her and no way of calming her; just pain medication and rest was her cure.

How many of us lose focus of the temporary state of this life, of the truth that this life is a short test for us to pass and proceed to meet our Creator? (Tweet this) How many of us lose sight of this when we are hit with a catastrophe in our life, however small or large? If this hero was even a little weaker, he may have questioned why this happened to him, or consumed himself in anger towards the person who gave him that chair, or even fallen into depression due to going from a successful professor giving a keynote speech at a university across the world to suddenly lacking the ability to do simple tasks on his own. If this woman contemplated that her pain was short-term and patience was key, Allah would unquestionably put further patience in her heart and help her deal with her miseries.

Undoubtedly, I am in no position to make claims on her condition, or his condition. However, I can learn from these individuals, come to realizations, and share with others. I can deduce that the state of our mental health has a lot to do with our own cultivation of it. It depends on how we allow ourselves to keep our mind and psyche “fit” as we do our body. Guaranteed, every one of us has heard it somewhere – whether it’s via a family member, an article, or a teacher – that working out will increase our energy, happiness, and long-term, our life span. But we hear about our mental health less frequently. That to increase everything listed above, we also need to workout our minds, to tone our way of thinking, and to strengthen our emotional being through training. By doing this, we set ourselves up for success during tests and difficult situations.

The Messenger of Allah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him” .

As easy as this hadeeth sounds, enduring adversity patiently might be the most arduous part of the adversity itself. We know that all we need to do is behave with patience and Allah will take care of us, but at the height of the test, that is near impossible (Tweet this). The more we workout our mind however, the easier it will be for us to express gratitude at times of prosperity and to practice patience at times of adversity.

There’s no doubt, life gets hard sometimes – for some people, all the time. But the point this man is making, and that Allah makes countless times in the Qur’an, and that our Prophet (peace be upon him) inculcates through his hadeeth, is that we don’t need to focus on the hard part. What we can do with that mind power and emotional energy instead is practice patience and work on our relationship with Allah, because He is the only One who can guide us through adversity.

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