People tend to think about the future while still living in the present. We attempt to be successful and independent, we are afraid of losing our earnings and savings and make plans for the future
because we do not know what to expect tomorrow. However, everything changes when we face an accident, an illness, loss of our relatives or apprehension of death. Those are followed by despair, pain and indifference towards the things we had once considered our top priorities. We have to face problems we had never anticipated. We stop dreaming and planning our lives because we encounter a burning question, “What to do with it and how to live on?”
Victor had an accident over ten years ago, and he had to live a life of a less able person for over a decade. It happened near Slutsk on a warm summer day, when Victor, like most of the people who love to spend time in the countryside, entered the woods in order to have rest from the hustle and bustle of city life. A bite of an insect is a common thing, especially in the forest: some people have swells, some have itches, some don’t feel anything and do not even pay attention to it. However, all insects are different and there are some dangerous species among them.
Victor did not pay much attention to the bite but it resulted in high temperature and swelling. These and other symptoms showed that it was not a simple insect bite. It was a tick bite. A tick is a dangerous insect whose bite may cause a wide range of complications, from heart diseases to locomotive system disorders.
Victor extracted the tick, although it is generally recommended to use spirits so that the tick goes out because its head may be left behind in the tissues. Victor says that he felt better on the third day but later he still had to seek medical assistance. They made several injections and wanted to send him to hospital but he managed to return home. But then… In autumn, he fell ill with Reiter’s Syndrome. It is a disease of unknown aetiology. He could not even walk, he was unable to raise his arm or turn his head, it was painful for him to lie and impossible to stand.
Finally, Victor found himself in municipal hospital No. 10 in Minsk. According to him, successful treatment mostly depends on the doctor and on the surrounding people, and one needs a good example to follow in his struggle against the disease. The female doctor who treated Victor had only three years of work experience but she persuaded her patient that everything would be alright. The rest of people around him, including other doctors, advised him to learn to ride a wheelchair and their predictions left little hope.
“When I was thinking that I would never be able to walk again, I was terrified,” Victor recalls. “One suddenly begins to see the life differently and notices things he had never thought of. For example, how steep the stairs in a bus or at the porch of one’s house are. It is so hard to climb them! I walk with difficulty but here are those stairs… Same with clothes: I could not move one hand, and it was difficult to do anything with the other one. Plus all those restrictions: no smoking, no drinking, no hot showers. The situation was getting even worse because of the tears and compassion of my relatives. I wanted to believe that anything could change to the better but no one of my relatives and friends shared my hope.” Thus, Victor had to overcome both physical and spiritual pain.
At that time, several doctors from Germany visited the hospital where Victor stayed. They shared their experience in treatment of similar diseases. Reiter’s Syndrome affects both visceral organs and bones. The Germans used their own methods of treatment, according to which the treatment was to last for at least three months.
The doctor who was in charge of Victor was very enthusiastic about their method and made her patient believe that he would be cured. He wanted to believe in her words, the words of a young and inexperienced doctor, with all his heart, in spite of those experts who said that his disease was incurable.
It took just about a month for Victor to be able to drive a wheelchair, and he started walking with a stick in half a year. He still remembers his first steps, when the doctor ordered him to stand up and walk three steps. Notwithstanding the predictions of other doctors, he was capable of walking at last. This miracle happened not only because of the method used by the German doctors but also thanks to Victor’s own willpower. There was a retired officer in the ward together with Victor. He had been rescued from Reiter’s syndrome. He had artificial limbs and a prosthetic valve in his heart. It was him who suggested to Victor to learn to walk. “If you don’t move,” he said, “you will be like those guys who are glued to their beds.” The patients in the ward were indeed glued to their beds and desperate.
“The local doctors disapproved of our method because it was risky,” Victor says. “In spite of their prohibition, we crawled around the ward and my movements were more and more confident day by day. I went through all the stages of “growing up,” like children do: first you crawl, then you rise up, then you stand and then you walk… If there is a person around you who motivates you to practice all the time, it is possible; otherwise, it is difficult and maybe even boring.”
Victor walked with a stick for more than a year. The doctors said that it was a lucky coincidence; however, it is said that people who believe in coincidences do not believe in themselves and in God. Naturally, it is better for an individual to walk with a stick than to sit in a wheelchair. It turned out that Victor had difficulty finding a job. Who hires an invalid, when there are enough unemployed among the fit and healthy? Victor’s applications were always turned down so finally, he hid his stick somewhere near the main entrance to the building where he was to have a job interview and walked in without it. As a result, he landed a job of a welder at an metalwork production enterprise. Due to his illness, Victor had to keep a strict diet and it caused many questions from his colleagues. He either ignored them or gave a vague answer. Victor spent a year and a half working at that enterprise. Later, he would find jobs at many other enterprises, even abroad. Today Victor works in St Elisabeth Convent and when you look at him it is difficult to tell that one day this man was, so to say, on the verge of an abyss. It must be noted that the dreadful accident could not do away with his love of nature. In his opinion, phobias are dangerous and one should not give in to them because they may grab the person and then… Like in the past, Victor likes strolling in the park or in the woods and relax in the wild.
Victor says, “The problems I had to endure brought certain changes into my life and my worldview. I realized that one should ask not only men but also the Lord for help. Perhaps, if I had realized it ten years ago, things would be different now. Maybe the Lord allowed this to happen in order to teach and save me. If we compare life to a chess game, He is the Grand Master and we are pawns that have to stick to the rules of the game. It seems to me that God wanted me to discover faith and to work in this holy place. I am not sure that I would be here without having endured the troubles I had to face…”
There are many less able people among us today. Some of them reconcile with their disabilities, some attempt to struggle with them and some fall in despair. According to Victor, the latter is the worst because despair causes infirmity of soul, which is hard to beat; that is why one has to wage war against despair, and as soon as one overcomes it, one is able to overcome his physical infirmity because every victory begins with a victory over oneself.
P.S. Victor urged us not to publish his surname or his obedience at the Convent.