“How are you feeling?” asked my friendly neurosurgeon Dr. Alex Gol as I lay in my hospital bed in the rehab hospital at 3:30 P.M. after a torturous day in therapy. I could not yet utter a single word after sustaining a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) at the age of 19. So I nodded as if to say, “OK.” Dr. Gol then calmly replied, “That’s nice,” and quickly left the room with a smile.
As he was leaving I thought to myself, “Dr. Gol…so nice…so calm…so peaceful.” I tried to reposition myself in my bed as the door closed behind him in order to get more comfortable, but something was not “right” in the hospital hallway as I heard a great commotion coming from there. (True, I could not yet speak; however, nothing was wrong with my hearing and there was plenty of screaming coming from the hall.) I wondered, “What was the problem?”
I soon found out the cause of the chaos: it was sweet, serene and calm Dr. Gol who was causing it.
As soon as he left my room he erupted: “WHO’S THE NURSE TAKING CARE OF MIKE? WHAT’S HE DOING IN BED SO EARLY? HE’S A 19 YEAR OLD VICTIM OF TBI, NOT A 95 YEAR OLD STROKE VICTIM! GET HIM OUT OF THAT BED, AND I DON’T WANT HIM BACK IN BED UNTIL HE GOES TO SLEEP!”
The nurses had never seen Dr. Gol act like that. In fact, they had never heard him raise his voice. They quickly got me out of bed and put me in my wheelchair until 9 P.M.
I was miserable. I wanted to get back into my comfortable bed – well, it was not so comfortable but it was much less uncomfortable than my wheelchair or any kind of chair, for that matter.
As I said, after therapy was over at 3 P.M. I wanted to get straight back in bed; however, throughout the following weeks and months the nurses did not want to face “the wrath of Dr. Gol.” Therefore, after therapy I remained in my wheelchair in my room until I went to sleep. Being in the wheelchair for so long was agonizing!
I hated Dr. Gol after that eventful day when he asked me that seemingly simple question while I was trying to relax in bed. However, years later I loved him as I realized Dr. Gol was only doing what was in my best interest.
When I returned to college after being out for so long, my professors, after learning what had happened to me and realizing that I could no longer read as quickly as before I was hurt, were more than happy to say, “Mike, it’s ok. Just read what you can and we’ll test you on that material.” However, one professor did not say that. Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, a sociology professor, said, “Mike, I understand you have difficulty reading. I’ve had many students with many visual problems. For those students, I refer them to “Recording for the Blind.” They have access to many textbooks on cassettes. Here’s the phone number…”
I “hated” that statement as I wanted to take the “easy way out.” (My feelings of “hate” were very similar to those I had for Dr. Gol on that eventful afternoon in the hospital.) However, I have since learned that the “easy way” is quite often the “wrong way.”
Sometimes everyone needs a “push.” Even I, recently, had to be reminded to push myself as I had gotten “lazy” at the gym. However, a “stranger” reminded me to use my right hand. Even though it was difficult, I thanked him for the reminder.
I have learned that the difficult things in life are often the sweet things in life. One cannot experience “beauty” without experiencing “bitterness.” Remember, “push” yourself to “get through the thorns of the rose bush, to experience the beautiful flower of the rose.”
Every time I think of some difficult thing in life, I close my eyes, see Dr. Gol, and smile.