Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A standing ovation...

Occasionally, I find the right words.

Some time back, I posted an entry about a memoir written by Jacques Sandulescu, a Romanian man who was only 16 years old in January 1945, still in high school, when Russian soldiers grabbed him from the streets of Brasov, Romania and sent him in a boxcar to the coal mines of the the Soviet Union's Donbas region to mine coal as a slave laborer under conditions that meant certain death to most prisoners.

A coal mine cave-in that could have killed him nearly crushed his legs, but he stood up after being dug out, and when infection set in and nearly cost him his legs, he stood up again and made a break for freedom by burying himself again in coal, this time in an open boxcar in midwinter on a track to the West, which he reached despite the odds against him.

In case these odds aren't clear too you, here a passage from his book describing his infected legs:
In the evening the pain was at its worst, eating me up, burning my insides out. I looked at my right ankle and realized that the color was a darker red than it had been before. I wondered how it had managed to grow so much. It looked larger than my waist. I stared at it, fascinated. I became cold and then hot, but I kept staring at my ankle. Just above the joint of the ankle I saw something like a blister growing, but I couldn't understand what it was. I stared at it harder than before. It was slowly growing larger. I thought that I was going crazy. Involuntarily my big toe twitched, and the blister slowly burst open. Then I twitched my big toe again, and the pus came gushing out. It was a yellow, greenish-blue color and smelled putrid. The pressure eased, but I stared at my leg unbelievingly. (page 169)
The doctor who examined him didn't like what he saw:
A day or so later, the doctor appeared again, and when he saw my legs he grumbled, looked at the sores, and then smelled them. I heard him say something to the nurses about amputation. I froze inside. He left, saying that the next time he stopped by he would bring along the necessary instruments and they would see then. (page 172)
Unwilling to risk amputation, Sandulescu saw his chance, got up from that bed, and escaped on suppurating legs.

Now, after a long and fascinating life as boxer, martial arts expert, restaurateur, and actor, among other things, he has finally grown old. For the past year or so, I've been checking his wife's blog to keep up with his condition. He has, for some time, been bedridden, but his wife Annie Gottlieb has continued caring for him and giving him physical therapy to strengthen his leg muscles. As readers have probably surmised, he's a fighter, a man who never gives up.

Here's what Annie -- who calls herself "Amba" -- posted yesterday:
Last night J was as good as he's been for many months: lucid, standing up with new strength, transferring between bed and wheelchair without any gadgetry but the walker, aware and proud of his own progress. I too dared to stand up taller, stretch, shake out my shoulders, take a deep breath.

"You're some kind of a miracle," I said to him.

"I'm an asshole," he replied, completely in character.
I had to explain to my wife, Sun-Ae, how the term 'asshole' is being used in this context. For any others unsure about the meaning, take it as something like "I'm too tough and mean to be kept down long."

Anyway, I was impressed, so I commented:
His standing again is in character.

A man who could stand up after being crushed for hours beneath rocks in a coal mine cave-in and stand up again after excruciating, bedridden weeks as doctors discussed when to cut his legs off doesn't surprise me when he stands up yet again.
Annie liked my comment and replied:
Wow, HJH. That blew me off my feet. I'm going to read it to him in the morning, at which time I expect ... he'll be almost ready to do it again.
Occasionally, I find the right words.

I think that both Annie and Jacques deserve some support, so go on over there to Annie's blog and give the man a standing ovation.

Labels: ,


At 6:24 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Bravo to Jacques.

And to Annie.

And to you.

I'm heading over there now.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't deserve any bravo, KM, but Jacques and Annie surely do. Thanks for going over there. I hope that everyone does.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home