On the Hospital Bed: a Lesson on Love and Sacrifice

I slept on the bed connected to an IV. He slept on the floor.

“Hang in there, Che! We’re almost there.”

Two of my teammates on the Thai national wrestling team accompany me in the back of a pickup truck as I am being rushed to the hospital (this is legal in certain parts of Thailand). My entire body cramps. Searing pain shoots out of my right eye down my entire body, and moving in any direction takes a herculean effort. Unable to hold anything in my stomach, I throw up in the back of the pickup truck for the second time. One of the emergency staff carts me off to the intensive care waiting room, where my coach explains the situation. All I have are my ears. Searing pain returns whenever I try to use my eyes, so I keep them shut. For the next day and a half, I would be, more or less, blind.

Moments earlier, I was the victim of my own freak accident. I had slipped in a pool of sweat while firing off an attack to my training partner’s legs. Because of the slip, I fell into my partner’s knee, which forcefully struck me right in the eye socket. I fell straight down to the mat. At the time, I thought I was fine. My coach had seen the whole thing and told me to sit to the side and to put some ice on it. We both thought it was just a bruise. Within minutes, I was unable to get off the floor, and felt cramps throughout my entire body. The knee did not only bruise me- it had damaged my eye muscles at just the right angle. With the exception of memory loss, I had displayed just about every other symptom of a concussion. Clearly, I needed medical attention.

Practice had finished by that point, and another teammate of mine joins me while the original group of people return to camp in order to shower. His nickname is Jack, but everyone affectionately called him Superjack or Super. Eventually, they cart me off into a hospital room, put me into a hospital gown, and attach me to an IV next to my bed. Superjack massages my temples.

“Hang in there, Che. It’s gonna be alright.”

For the next day and a half, I would be blind and bedridden. A nurse walks in with a tray of hospital food, which is when I realize that I can’t even see food in front of me. “Great,” I think to myself. “I have no idea what I’m eating and how to eat it.”

Seeing that I was clearly struggling, Superjack picks up the spoon and starts feeding me.

“Well, this is embarrassing.”

“We inevitably come across hardship at some point in our lives. Don’t worry about it. Friends take care of each other.”

I clear the food from the tray. As Superjack puts the tray aside, I hear familiar music… in English? Superjack had brought my phone to the hospital with him. Without any knowledge of the English language, he plays music and logs into his own Facebook account to keep himself entertained.

Without ever leaving my side,Superjack stays with me in the hospital. He ends up staying for several days, with occasional visits from other teammates.

One day, he receives a Facebook message in English and asks me to read it for him. My eyesight had been slowly recovering, so I take a phone and strain my eyes to read the message. To say the message surprised me was an understatement.

“Happy birthday!” It reads.

“Jack, it says happy birthday. Is it your birthday today?”

“Yes, it is!”

“How old are you now?”

“22.”

“I’m so sorry you spent your 22nd birthday taking care of me. This is terrible.”

“Don’t worry about it, Che. Whenever a friend needed help, it’s never made much sense for me to celebrate my birthday.”

Tears ran down my face. This was a rare act of true kindness, and I was blessed enough to be on the receiving end of it. “What a wonderful human being,” I thought to myself.

From that moment, I knew that Superjack was the kind of person that I wanted to be. The kind of person that, as a mutual friend of ours had articulated so well, “treats his friends like his beloved brothers and sisters.”

That day, regardless of situation, I promised myself that I would treat my friends with love and appreciation. The same kind of undying love that Superjack expresses to his friends without hesitation.

Even on his own birthday. Even when he could have asked anyone else from the training camp to take his place.

Some of humanity’s finest moments seem to appear in the face of adversity. In the darkness of my lack of vision, his compassionate soul showed me the light.

Superjack (right) and me (left), several weeks after the hospital trip.

Originally published at chayoot.blog on February 4, 2018.