“While I breathe, I hope”
I can’t get her out of my head, a woman who displayed fortitude to a degree I cannot even imagine. How does the heart measure the desire to carry on? A couple of nights ago I was transfixed by a documentary about a woman who had been dealt the most terrible hand of misfortune. In the attempt to help a friend of hers recapture a fully grown domesticated chimpanzee, this woman underwent a horrific assault wherein the chimpanzee – fully grown 15year old with the strength of four to five men- ripped off her face and both hands. It was eventually shot to prevent further attack and the victim rushed to hospital . This woman lived. Blinded, and without any facial features, she went on to recover , endured two years of pain and rehabitulation and was given a new face from a donor. Her new hands had to be removed because of complications after the transplant process. Throughout this process her resilience was more than remarkable, wanting to see the next day, and the next. She had a teenage daughter, who was remarkable in her own way, dealing with the enormous emotional upheaval of seeing a mother move from capable, industrious, independant woman to being unable to perform the smallest of tasks. Her task was to survive. The support from the family and the hospital was incredibly moving, and awakened a sense of our humanity in me. I watched awestruck by the dedication, skill and care of the professionals, and the commitment of the brother and daughter. The very best qualities were brought out in these people, and I cannot get this lady out of my mind. I am sometimes sceptical about this sort of programme, wondering whether it is morally acceptable to be viewing such private matter, but in this instance I believe this documentary maker pulled off a remarkable feat. It didn’t feel voyeuristic, in that ‘freak’ encounter way. It told a horrific story but it did so while maintaing the dignity and the heroic nature of the victim, maintaining a sensible attitude to the terrible accident. The owner wasn’t demonised, she was allowed to appear, and was clearly appalled by the tragedy. The feelings I have been left with are amazement at the resilience of the victim, I am not certain I would have been as strong as that. I am fairly certain the attack would have left me dead at the time, and if not dead , then unable to find the strength to endure the subsequent treatment and difficulties of being blind and disfigured to the degree she was. The other legacy of watching the film was observing the depth and strength of familial love, and its power to elevate the human spirit, added to which was the depth and compassion of the nursing staff and doctors who showed amazing skill, perseverance and commitment to her. Wonderful to see ordinary lives transformed into apparently divine restorative power giving potential. I apologise for not linking any footage but it would not be fair to show a portion of this documentary, it would have to be seen in its entirety, which I doubt is available on You tube.