Sunday, June 3, 2012

Finding Will

After my three year accident anniversary, I decided to message a friend of mine. He was my roommate in the hospital and we occasionally exchanged Facebook messages and kept in touch about what was going on in each other’s lives. I had been caught up with med school and I hadn’t heard from him in a while, so I decided to send him a message saying, “It’s been threen years for us. How do you feel?”

Whenever someone says something nice to me, I am so thankful and I am not sure how to respond. I have thought about writing posts about the people who have had a positive influence on me. Let’s start with Will Archibald. Some of you who visited me in the hospital may remember him.

I spent two weeks in the traumatic brain injury (TBI) unit of the Shepherd Center before they decided that I seemed competent enough to be moved one floor up to the dual traumatic brain injury/spinal cord injury (TBI/SCI) unit, provided that I continue seeing a neuropsychologist and speech therapist.  I went from having my own room on the TBI floor to sharing a room with someone else on the TBI/SCI floor.  My friends and family weren’t too happy about this at first, but we were greeted by a big smile by a blonde-haired guy just a couple of years older than me.

Those first couple of weeks of having to wake up early every morning, realizing this is isn’t all just a dream, and then going down the hall for a long day of physical/occupational/speech therapy were rough.  But Will never stopped smiling.  I was lazy at first when it came to therapy. I would just go through the motions and look forward for it to be over so I could go back to my room and hang out with any visitors that came by. I always had many visitors every day, including my mom and my two best friends who were there almost 24/7, but Will was from up north, so he didn’t have any visitors while I was there—not even his family members. So he talked to me.

I was surprised to see how hard Will worked in therapy.  My best friends were shocked too and told me I should be more like him, for I had no desire to do anything except lie in bed and talk to friends or nap with a blanket over my head (sometimes at the same time, as seen here). But Will pushed himself. When he was doing certain exercises with weights, I saw him ask the therapist to add more weight. I can’t exactly remember the inspiring things he would say to me, but my two best friends did and they would repeat it back to me whenever they wanted me to push harder. He soon got movement back in one of his toes, so this was proof that anything was possible.

Will was in an accident just a little while before I arrived there. He was riding his motorcycle with his backpack on and one of the straps from his backpack somehow got caught on a stop sign as he was riding by, lifting him up and slamming him. He too had to he wear a neck brace and chest brace for a while to stabilize the cervical and thoracic vertebrae, respectively, and prevent further damage to the spinal cord. But those had been removed by the time I met him. He told me how even after they remove the chest brace, the digging pain will still be there for a while.  I stayed in the hospital for another two months after he was discharged and then continued coming back there from home for some time afterwards, so Will and I kept in touch with occasional Facebook messages.

My friends and I considered him like an experienced older brother or teacher to me, so I always questioned him with different things. I said something to him once when I went back to therapy and his reply showed me that no matter how hard something seems, other people have it worse, so we have to do the absolute best we can with what we are blessed with:  I know what you mean about the attitude you show on the outside versus what you are really feeling on the inside. As we both know the situation we are in plain sucks, but the thing that kept me going was seeing quads (quadriplegics). We have it hard don't get me wrong, but imagine being in there shoes with no use of arms or hands sheesh. When I looked around and saw they were working hard and the attitudes they showed I thought to myself. I can do it if they can. It wont be easy, but I will work hard and be positive.

Will didn’t stop working hard. Eventually, he got leg braces and learned how to ambulate with those using whatever muscles he could use. He told me how incredibly hard that was, but of course was always positive:  Nothing has changed with me, but this other patient who goes to therapy when I go just started to be able to move his leg and he is a year out. Its hard not to compare yourself to others because every injury is so different, but it sorta gives me some hope of movement. At the same time too it makes me think that everyday that goes by something will change. When I wake up every morning I still try and see if anything is different and it never is. I still try though. Who knows if things ever will. I'm not stuck on beleiving things will, but I still try and put a good effort towards trying.

I went from being lazy for a little while in the hospital to pushing myself to the limit, thanks to Will and my family and best friends. When Will complimented me and was proud of me for going to med school, that meant more than the compliments from my other friends. Will and I went through almost the same things. He kept up with my blog and told me it was “awesome” and it seemed like he even looked up to me. Words can’t describe how it feels when someone who was your hero starts admiring/complimenting you.

Will sent me this message one time with his frustrations upon making the decision to go back to school too:  I have just come to this feeling about being so overwhelmed I don't even know where to begin. I don't know what it is but the smallest things I have such a hard time dealing with now and it drives me mad. I try and not blame it on the brain injury, but is it the problem? What are your thoughts on this. I mean I did follow up neuro psych testing and everything was normal so it should not be an issue

“You’re the man for going through with med school. Congrats again and all the power to you,” he said to me in a recent message.When I read that, I did feel like the man.

I just got on Facebook and noticed that I received a reply from him. I smiled. I knew I had to study but it would be good to hear from an old friend of mine. 

It wasn’t Will. It was his sister. Will passed away a few months ago, she told me, unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. My hero was gone. The person who greatly inspired me to work hard at a time when I was the weakest and most vulnerable was gone. We had shared the same experiences, and he was gone.

My best friends joke that I’m abnormal in that I do not cry. I have been through a lot of things since my accident, as can be expected, but I actually never really cried. The last time I remember crying was when I was a little kid. I had accepted the fact that I was unable to cry, and I kept this as a secret so people wouldn’t think I was insane or mentally unstable.

For the first time in a long, long time, I cried tonight.

Update #1:  I just remembered I posted this note and this awesome video of Will back in March 2010. It's well worth the few minutes to watch:
Update #2:  I just watched a little bit of the video again and I realize I got some of the facts in this post wrong. Oh, and I forgot that Will got into an accident while on his way home on Mother's Day.


  1. Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon...I'm sure he was a great role model for you in this rough time, but just think about what a great role model YOU can be for others now. If you feel like "the man" now, help someone else feel the same way.

  2. I'm so sorry Hammed. You were so blessed to get to know him. And he, you... I lost someone very dear to me and although it pains me that Allah broke our hearts, I am very thankful and very blessed he was in our lives. We are heartbroken because we were blessed with someone we loved so much.

  3. I'm a friend and Endicott classmate of Will's. I am inspired by your courage, as I am by his. Just so you know, I got goosebumps reading your sincere and thoughtful reflections. (As for myself, I was born prematurely. My twin and I both use wheelchairs and have CP.)

    Thoughts are with you.
    I've been thinking of ^Will^ a lot recently myself...


  4. Salaams, I am sorry to hear about your loss. Losing someone we care about is always very difficult. Your story, and Will's story are very inspirational. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  5. Anonymous #1 - Indeed, he was a great model. I will do my best to live up to that. Thank you.

    Anonymous #2 - Thank you. You're right. Alhamdulillah.

    Snee - Thank you very much. That means a lot to me. Will was a great guy.

    Anonymous #3 - Thank you for the kind words, thoughts, and prayers.

  6. Salaam Alaikum Hammmad,
    Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un. Really sorry for your loss and his family's loss. I'm proud of you Hammad, you always have something inspirational to write and it's a great reminder to take charge of the time we are given. Jazak Allah Khair!