Saturday, 7 May 2011

Chapter 9 - "Can I . . . get married?" II

Hospital life at Nagoya Health University Hospital

In April, 1980, I finished my doctoral thesis at Nagoya University. I moved to take up a new post at Nagoya
Health University Hospital - now called Fujita Health University Hospital - in Toyoake, Aichi Prefecture.
By then Aya required the use of an electric wheelchair, and she could only travel to the hospital by car.
Because Toyoake was closer to her home than Nagoya, she moved to the same hospital where I was now posted.
As I examined Aya in the consulting room at the new hospital, I compared her condition to the day when I
had first met her in Nagoya. Her cheeks had been much fuller then, and I had been able to understand
what she said much better. Even though she had claimed she was swaying, she was walking quite
normally to other person's eyes . . . After just five years, however, she needed someone to push her around
in a wheelchair, she couldn't utter words quickly even though she tried hard, she could only speak by twisting
and stretching her thin neck, and her way of speaking was hard to understand for someone not accustomed to
it . . . I was shocked by her deterioration.
After leaving the school for the handicapped, Aya stayed at home while the other members of her family were
out at work or school. She had lunch on her own and looked after herself. Her mother was worried about
possible accidents while the others were out; Aya often fell over inside the house even if she was holding
on to something. In fact, every time she came to the Outpatients' Department, she had injuries from falls
which had caused internal bleeding on her face, arms and legs. There were more of them than before and they
were becoming more serious.
She entered the internal medicine ward on the eighths floor of Building #2 of the hospital in order to have
treatment and rehabilitation for the second time. She was the first spinocerebellar degeneration patient
in that ward.
There were seven or eight other patients there that I was in charge of, plus some others, all with heart
or blood disorders. Many of the nurses were young and some of them were younger than Aya. I had gotten
into the habit of calling her 'Little Aya'. It sounded funny to hear the nurses who were younger than her
calling her 'Little Aya' as well. But it shows the affection everyone had for her.
Aya operated her wheelchair herself. She washed her face using her disabled hands, went to the toilet, and
cleaned the table for meals. She went for rehabilitation without fail, and read books sitting on a chair
or on her bed during the daytime. She got interested in handicrafts and the origami that the other patients
in her ward were teaching each other. But she was distressed at not being able to do as she wanted. The
head nurse was touched when she quietly watched her at those times.
More than anyone else in the same part of the hospital, it was the older patients who were moved by Aya.
They were paralyzed on one side because they had had strokes - their blood vessels had suddenly become
restricted or broken. They couldn't move their hands and legs as they wished. They got very annoyed and
sometimes skipped rehabilitation sessions. Some of them had almost lost their desire not only for
exercising but for life itself. However, when they saw the serious efforts made by Aya, who could have
been their granddaughter, they were encouraged to do their own training again. They started bending and
stretching their arms and legs on their beds.
Both their families and the nurses were pleased. As their doctor, I couldn't ask for more. I had explained
the benefits of rehabilitation over and over every time I made a round of visits. I had tried to say
various things to motivate them. But I realized that what I said had less effect than the way Aya looked
as she pushed herself as hard as she could in her wheelchair.

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