Take pause to consider the meaning you attach to “independence.” For our forefathers, it signified freedom from arbitrary, non-representative government. To me, it represents autonomy over my body and decisions….despite strident assertions of muscles resisting attempts at dominion. For Arash Bayatmakou, it means the ability to walk across a room, a simple freedom stolen from him by spinal cord injury. He finds himself in a state of rebellion against the lesser goal of “as independent as possible” repeatedly imposed by the medical establishment.
Prior to sustaining his injury, Arash was a vigorous athlete in peak condition who relished physical challenges and daring feats. One year ago, just three days after a 60 mile backpacking trip through the Sierras, his world turned upside down when he sustained a broken spine falling from a third story apartment balcony. His injury required seven hours of surgery involving incisions in the front and back of his neck and reconstruction of his upper spine.
Although warned by doctors to prepare for the very real possibility of never walking again, Arash entertains a fierce determination to heal his body notwithstanding paralysis from the chest down. Leaving no stone unturned, he’s embraced a grueling, multifaceted rehabilitation that’s included functional integrated therapy, intensive neuro-acupuncture therapy, and more traditional physical and occupational therapy.
As he painstakingly crawls up the fiercest mountain he’s ever climbed, Arash battles not only a battered body but also a heartless health care system that recklessly disregards the specific treatment needs of individual patients. Since he left the hospital, his health insurer has arbitrarily granted 6 weeks of 45-minute weekly physical therapy sessions when Arash is fighting for the comeback of his life. Though his requests for additional physical/occupational therapy or any kind of alternative therapy are repeatedly denied, Arash perseveres.
We rely on our aspirations to persist through frustration. The unresponsiveness of the health care establishment interferes with more than our medical care, it messes with our hope. Based on cost considerations, insurance companies have drastically reduced the allowable time for spinal cord rehab and an overriding efficiency has seeped from the rule makers and administrators into the attitudes of health care professionals, who tend to focus on functionality rather than full recovery. Hence “as independent as possible.” Arash’s hope derives, by necessity, from a wellspring deep inside himself.
Arash welcomes the slightest movement in his legs, even an involuntary twitch or spasm, shedding new light on mine. Every inch forward – or wiggle of toe – is a tremendous stepping stone on his path to recovery. My fervent wish is for Arash to stand victorious achieving his goal of independence. His personal fortitude and single-minded focus are beacons illuminating the way.
Accompany Arash on his journey at Arash Recovery.
Read about Arash’s struggles with his medical insurers in the Huffington Post. This is an eye-opening article by my friend, Gregory G. Allen.
Check out Arash “walking” for the first time since his accident in Ekso Bionics’ “Wearable Robot,” an incredible new technology promising to transform lives.