I was cranky. Cranky in an irritated, frustrated and annoyed kind of way. Here I was travelling the world--wanting to experience life and work in places other than home--and I was stuck in a strange country, shovelling snow, living in a basement, and chopping wood for heat.
It seemed that half my day was spent getting dressed, only to slip and slide my way to and from work over the ice. The other half of the day, I was buried under mounds of bureaucracy when all I wanted to do was treat patients. At least, treat the pleasant ones.
I stomped my way through the hospital, thinking less than congenial thoughts about God and my fellow man. I was stuck on the unfairness of petty rules--length of showers, washing clothes on certain days and the correct way to crush juice bottles for recycling. I had come looking for peace, fulfilment and my place in the world. Instead, this world felt like chaos and currently, I hated it.
By the time my last patient arrived--15 minutes late--I had convinced myself that my life had been a long, exhausting sequence of depressing links. Entrenched in a cycle of work, eat and sleep, I felt I had no time for my family and friends, let alone God. How did someone dare keep me waiting? I determined that if the patient did arrive, the treatment time would be adjusted according to how late they were.
Right on cue, in walked a woman carrying a little boy with so many bandages wrapped around him it was difficult to see more than his eyes. He was only three years old.
Six weeks before, a fire had started in Jaycen's lounge room and quickly spread through the house. By the time the fire brigade arrived, nothing could be done. The small house was an inferno-- so hot that the firemen couldn't even get near it. They managed to prevent the fire spreading to nearby homes and finally got it under control in the early hours of the morning. As the last fireman rolled up his hose, he heard a little cry. He
didn't think anything of it and continued rolling the hose. But as the noise came again and again, the fireman's curiosity got the better of him and he went to investigate.
What he found was Jaycen, lying curled up in the snow. His father had punched out a bedroom window and thrown Jaycen to safety.
When the emergency teams arrived the next morning, there was nothing left. Just the smouldering ashes of the house were left, and the charcoal remains of Jaycen's father, mother and two sisters.
Jaycen spent five weeks in intensive care. What wasn't burnt by fire was frost-bitten from lying in the snow. He lost most of his fingers and toes. All the muscles in one forearm had been burnt away. So had his eyebrows, ears, eyelashes, lips and all of his hair. He couldn't walk, and he couldn't bend his arms or legs. He hadn't spoken since the fire--probably because he remembered exactly what had happened. He had survived--but only just.
When Jaycen arrived in the physiotherapy department-- frightened, hurting and scarred--I wanted to shake my fist at God. I wanted to tell God exactly what I thought of His compassion. But Jaycen's treatment taught me just as much as it taught him.
While Jaycen learnt to walk again, I learnt to pray again. I discovered that sometimes there is no answer to "why." Sometimes, the world collapses around the helpless and there are no reasons. Some scars may last for life but that doesn't mean they have to rule your life.
A three year old taught me that despite losing everything, you can still smile. And even though your arm won't bend and you don't have all your fingers, you can still give high fives. Even though you trip over your swollen feet, you can still run to find the prize. And a hug still means "I love you," even if you can't squeeze tight.
I learned that sometimes it really hurts to be stretched. Sometimes you don't want to do what you should--even when you know it's going to make you better. Sometimes it's easier to just turn away and pretend the pain doesn't even exist. But it's there and, when Denise Krklec is a physiotherapist who works in Brisbane, Queensland.