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“Hang in there, Che! You’re almost there.”
Two of my teammates on the Thai national team accompany me in the back of a pickup truck as I am being rushed to the hospital (this is legal in Thailand). My entire body cramped. Searing pain shot out of my right eye down my entire body, and moving in any direction seemed to take 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 I suspect that my coach explains the situation. At this point, all I had were my ears. The searing pain would return whenever I tried to use my eyes, so I keep them shut. For the next day and a half, I was effectively blind.
Moments earlier, I was the victim of a freak accident. I had slipped in a pool of sweat while firing off an attack to one of my partner’s legs. Because of the slip, my partner’s knee was forcefully placed right into my eye socket, and I went straight down. 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. Aside from memory loss, I had displayed just about every other symptom of a concussion. It became clear that I was in need of some 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 either 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 comes 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 thought. “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 adversity 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. He plays my music and logs into his Facebook account to keep himself entertained.
Superjack stays with me for the next several days. He ended 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. The message surprises me.
“Happy birthday!” It says.
“Jack, it says happy birthday. Is it your birthday today?”
“Yes it is!”
“How old are you now?”
“I’m so sorry you spent your 22nd birthday taking care of me. This is terrible.”
“Don’t worry about it, Che. When a friend needs help, it’s never made much sense for me to celebrate my birthday.”
Tears ran down my face. I was so touched. 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 put it so succinctly, “treats his friends like his beloved brothers and sisters.”
That day, I promised myself that I would treat my friends with love and appreciation. The same kind of undying love that Superjack would express to his friends without hesitation.
Even on his own birthday.
Some of humanity’s finest moments seem to appear in the face of adversity. In the dark of my blindness, I felt as if I had seen the light. Life is truly a wonderful gift.