I saw a surprisingly good movie last night: Murderball. Somewhat surprisingly, I thought, given the title, this is not a horror movie, but rather a documentary about quadriplegic wheelchair-rugby players. The movie is sad but also very funny, and documents various people involved in the Canadian and US wheelchair-rugby teams in the time leading up to their confrontation at the Paralympic Games in Greece, in 2004.
The quadriplegics in the movie had generally acquired their handicap through accidents; the captain of team USA, for example, had fallen asleep in the back of a friend’s pickup truck, and was hurled out of it when his friend, driving drunk, made a sharp turn. Part of the movie shows the ordeal of a recently-injured young man, Keith Cavill, as he completes his (10-month!) physical rehabilitation process and returns home in a wheelchair. One resonant detail for me was that Keith was injured in a motocycle crash.
It was in the segments about Keith that I was struck by a relatively small detail: earlier in the movie, one of the Team USA players mentions offhandedly that everyone, when they are first injured, clings to the idea that they will walk again, that they will run again, and that they will somehow manage to recover and be as they were before the accident. Of course, for someone with permanent spinal damage, this is impossible. There is a segment where Keith meets the captain of Team USA, who comes to the medical center where Keith is recovering to do a presentation about wheelchair rugby and encourage the quadriplegics there to consider the sport. During the Q&A period, Keith asks the team captain if he would be kicked off the wheelchair rugby team if he recovered enough to walk again.
It was a brief moment in the film, but it reminded me of how I felt as I was recovering from my own, much less serious, accident. When I was in the hospital, and later in a wheelchair and going to physical therapy, I realize now that the idea that I would make a complete recover was essential to my sanity. I asked a lot of questions about whether the hardware would cause problems, because I needed to believe either that I would never notice it, or that it could be removed to fix the problem. I focused on getting in shape for the 2004-2005 snowboarding season, and was on the slopes as soon as there was snow cover.
15 months or so later, my leg still isn’t quite the same, and it may or may not ever be exactly as it was before the accident. Obviously, I was very lucky, and I’ve made my peace with the idea that some minor annoyances and pains may be the price to pay for being alive and otherwise intact and healthy. Having gone through a traumatic accident, though, I can’t imagine the amount of willpower it must take to get through the day when you know that things won’t get back to normal, that you won’t ever walk again, and that your arms and legs will never function properly.
So, I have a great deal of respect for the rugby players in this movie, and pretty much everyone who manages to carry on under the weight of severe injuries. We should all be thankful for what time we each have to enjoy good health and an able body.