A Long Engagement

I first learned of my would-be betrothal to a man named Stephen in 1993, when I was 21. My parents had just returned to the States from a trip to the territory of my mother’s people, the Karen; their home is the country I will always call Burma, though it had been renamed Myanmar by its military-backed government. A 29-year-old soldier engaged in resistance against the junta, this Karen man was also a self-taught programmer and engineer — and he appeared to have dazzled my parents. ‘‘I promised you in marriage to him,’’ my mother informed me, only half in jest.

 

A year later, we heard that Stephen had been in a boating accident on the Salween River, which snakes from the Tibetan Plateau down to the Andaman Sea. While saving a young woman, he was thrown into the water and pinned between two colliding boats. His back was broken, and he was now paralyzed from the waist down.

 ‘‘Isn’t it possible he’ll recover?’’ I asked a physician friend.

 ‘‘He’ll never walk again,’’ she told me, so coldly that I had to leave the room. I wept, confused by my outburst, overcome by the feeling that a terrible injustice had been done to someone I loved but had never met.

 It was seven months later, on my first trip to Karen territory, that I actually met Stephen. But when I visited him in the wood-planked dwelling where he lived with a colonel’s family, he hardly glanced at me, and I felt hurt. He was slight yet strong, and his avoiding gaze told me something about both his fortitude and wounded pride. His mother later informed me, seemingly at random and with startling candor, that the question of marriage had been eliminated for him. ‘‘He won’t be able to satisfy a wife,’’ she said.

 But he was able, with time, to become instrumental in Karen affairs. Along with other indigenous peoples there, the Karen had long been fighting the government’s oppressive actions against minorities, and in the late ’90s, after Stephen immigrated to the United States, he and my mother began working closely in the push for human rights and democratic governance. She trusted Stephen’s opinion more than anyone’s. He often referred to her as his teacher, and she teased and worried over him as if he were a son. Still, during these years, I never developed more than an acquaintance with him. He was based in Seattle, and I was consumed with my own life in Southern California — education, work, marriage and parenthood.

I first learned of my would-be betrothal to a man named Stephen in 1993, when I was 21. My parents had just returned to the States from a trip to the territory of my mother’s people, the Karen; their home is the country I will always call Burma, though it had been renamed Myanmar by its military-backed government. A 29-year-old soldier engaged in resistance against the junta, this Karen man was also a self-taught programmer and engineer — and he appeared to have dazzled my parents. ‘‘I promised you in marriage to him,’’ my mother informed me, only half in jest.

 A year later, we heard that Stephen had been in a boating accident on the Salween River, which snakes from the Tibetan Plateau down to the Andaman Sea. While saving a young woman, he was thrown into the water and pinned between two colliding boats. His back was broken, and he was now paralyzed from the waist down.

 ‘‘Isn’t it possible he’ll recover?’’ I asked a physician friend.

 ‘‘He’ll never walk again,’’ she told me, so coldly that I had to leave the room. I wept, confused by my outburst, overcome by the feeling that a terrible injustice had been done to someone I loved but had never met.

 

It was seven months later, on my first trip to Karen territory, that I actually met Stephen. But when I visited him in the wood-planked dwelling where he lived with a colonel’s family, he hardly glanced at me, and I felt hurt. He was slight yet strong, and his avoiding gaze told me something about both his fortitude and wounded pride. His mother later informed me, seemingly at random and with startling candor, that the question of marriage had been eliminated for him. ‘‘He won’t be able to satisfy a wife,’’ she said.

 But he was able, with time, to become instrumental in Karen affairs. Along with other indigenous peoples there, the Karen had long been fighting the government’s oppressive actions against minorities, and in the late ’90s, after Stephen immigrated to the United States, he and my mother began working closely in the push for human rights and democratic governance. She trusted Stephen’s opinion more than anyone’s. He often referred to her as his teacher, and she teased and worried over him as if he were a son. Still, during these years, I never developed more than an acquaintance with him. He was based in Seattle, and I was consumed with my own life in Southern California — education, work, marriage and parenthood. 

When I arrived late at night in a Thai village across the Salween from Karen headquarters, he was sleeping. We hadn’t seen each other since my mother’s memorial service, and after all that time on the phone, I’d almost forgotten his paralysis. Now when I walked into the room, I was stunned to see how helpless he looked, as if fastened to the bed, and I found myself rushing to this man I’d never touched and falling down into his arms.

 At the time, I could no more stop my tears than explain them. Today, on the eve of the first general elections in the country in decades, it seems to me that I was reacting to the tremendous toll that his personal and political struggles had taken on him. I must have been reminded also of my mother, who had been similarly confined to her bed during her illness, and whose death had cost us a heroine. It occurs to me now how vulnerable Stephen and I were, how dependent on each other. Even to get out of bed, Stephen would need my help. And I needed the comfort that perhaps only he, with all our unrealized history, could give. He seemed to understand all of this, and he stroked the back of my head.

 At the end of our trip, we stayed a night at his cousin’s place, a concrete structure filled with guests, in Mae Sot, Thailand. The cousin was away, but a sweet woman Stephen knew showed up with dinner. She sat in the kitchen while we ate, re-emerging to knead Stephen’s shoulders before wheeling him into the bathroom to prepare him for sleep. A nurse with two daughters, she had trained hundreds of other nurses serving the nearby refugee camps. ‘‘Whenever I come through, she takes care of me,’’ Stephen explained later, from a bed alongside mine. Then he let on that she was the young woman he saved long ago on the Salween. ‘‘Look at all she’s done,’’ he said, with the tenderness I’ve come to rely on. ‘‘Tell me it wasn’t worth it.’’

 

The Importance of Physiotherapy in a healing process

Physiotherapy is a technique of treating muscles and joints so that they work with full potential.  It speeds up the healing process and repairs the damage quickly. People feel tremendous improvement in stiffness and pains. The method becomes an integral part of the rehabilitation procedure after strokes or heart ailments.  The experts not only treat the problem, but advice the patients to take necessary precautions to avoid the reoccurrence. As the popularity of physiotherapy treatment increases worldwide, it becomes an attractive career worldwide. 

Benefits of physiotherapy

Physiotherapy has traversed a long way in the last century. It is a full-fledged way of treating patients. As it has widened the scope of treatment, people look at it as a profession that can give recognition in the field of medicine. Various orthopedic, neurological and cardiac problems are being addressed by it. There is a great demand of good physiotherapists who can treat sports injuries, joint disorders, fractures, pains or arthritis. Today, it becomes an essential part of the post-operative recovery.  

• As new techniques and treatment methods get added to it, the effectiveness increases manifold. Being a specialized field of medicine there is a good future for proficient people from the professional perspective. It doesn’t matter whether you take physiotherapy treatment on a private basis or in a center, great benefit can be achieved by improving strength of joints, improving endurance and motion, reducing stiffness of joints and relieving pains. 

• Experts acclaim it for neurological disorders as well.  There are excellent results of physiotherapy treatment in Parkinson;s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury.  Ailments like weakness of one side of the body or paralysis of one side can be treated effectively by giving persistent treatment for a few months. It reeducates the muscles, restores and improves their strength and trains the patients to compensate the loss of muscular strength.

• Severe problems like cerebral palsy in kids cause permanent disability.  Physiotherapy reduces the deformities. Since the kids improve postural control, there is a great enhancement in their self-confidence and self-esteem. It makes the patients functionally independent. 

• After cardiopulmonary conditions, patients lose their self-confidence. They feel breathlessness after performing routine activities. After undergoing physiotherapy sessions, there is a remarkable improvement in their endurance levels. Patients come back to the normal lifestyle and get rid of anxiety and fear.

• There is a huge demand for good quality physiotherapists in the field of sports. As the severity and number of injuries increase in the national and international levels, players need quick treatment methods to restore and recover. Scientific physiotherapy treats the sprains, strains or injuries by giving strength to the particular point. Other than curative treatment, it can act as an effective preventive method as well. 

• Physiotherapy can become an effective post-operative measure after surgeries that leave the patients in a state of high dependency.  For example, general anesthesia for urology surgery can affect the respiratory system.  A physiotherapist can help in preventing it if visited prior to operation.