October 5, 2020
by David Beyda, MD
She wasn’t sure how it happened, but it happened. The sun had set, the rain had started, and the roads were slick, with cars moving slower than usual and drivers being vigilant. She didn’t see it but felt it as her car was hit. The night was going to be a long one.
Twelve-year-old Jason hit his head on the dash. His seat belt had been loose, worn that way as he always did, not liking the tightness on his chest. Unconscious at the scene, the paramedics carefully extricated him and rushed him to the hospital. He and I met for the first time that night. We started a relationship that would last several weeks, granted one sided, with me doing all the talking. Lots of bad news, some good. Jason was unconscious for almost three weeks, hooked up to machines, his breathing assisted by a monotonous bellows device. He had sustained a severe traumatic brain injury with multiple other organs injured, some more serious than others. He would survive, but with some significant disabilities.
I am amazed at the resilience of children and how they adapt to the cards they have been dealt. They innocently accept the cards, play them, making adjustments in their lives and move forward, very different from adults who, when dealt a bad hand, either throw the cards down and fold, or ask for different cards from the dealer: God. The Dealer doesn’t always do so, suggesting that the hand dealt has meaning behind it. Jason would recover from his coma, open his eyes and see what his world had become. He would shrug his shoulders, say little and press on with what he was told to do. I watched it all happen, as did his mother. Jason was brave, she not so much.
There is a difference between just being alive and having a meaningful life. For some, disabilities hinder a meaningful life and one just lives waiting for the end. Jason went beyond. He not only lived but also found meaning in his life, centered on his disabilities and restrictions. Over the years he grew up as a representative of those with disabilities, sharing his limitations and how he got around them. He attended college and got his degree in social sciences. His mother went to college with him, helping him with taking notes, studying and more. She began to accept all that had been given to Jason and to her. She also found meaning in life, and together, she and Jason grew in their appreciation for the cards they had been dealt. By Him.
We may find ourselves in situations where we didn’t plan on playing cards but were dealt a hand all the same. Look at the cards, see what you have and play them to the best of your ability. They have meaning. The Dealer never deals you anything that you can’t handle.