Tomas Morales: The Struggle to be Independent Again

Whenever I think about the things which make my life difficult, I try to imagine what other people are going through, and I realize that in all cases the problems of others are much more complex and difficult than mine.

More than a year ago, I met Tomas Morales. He is a native from Loma Alta, Berlín Usulutan in El Salvador, around my age, has two children, and a life full of goals and dreams; dreams that changed drastically when he fell from a tree, causing a spinal cord injury. This left him paraplegic and concerned about his future. After staying a few months at the National Hospital of San Miguel, Tomas was referred to receive physical therapy at our Foundation. However, there was a visible question on everyone’s face: what is going to happen later? This question is still difficult to answer.

Like many other cases, his recovery from spinal damage was slow. One of the biggest obstacles to recovery for patients, who are bedridden for months, is the accumulation of ulcers on different parts of the back. This makes it difficult to use a wheelchair. Specialists decided to have Tomas complete a Physiatrist evaluation. Simultaneously, the Foundation began to pay for the process to treat the ulcer, so the healing would be quicker. Tomas was encouraged that healing was possible for him.

Due to his Paraplegia (a paralysis of the lower half of the body that is due to a nerve injury in the brain or spinal cord, which usually affects the lower part of the organs), Tomas did not have control of his bladder, so it was necessary to place a urinary catheter in to drain his urine. One of Tomas’ goals is to get rid of the catheter, so he can become independent, again.

The specialist and Director of CRIOR San Miguel, Dr. Avalos, met Tomas sometime ago and suggested a facility in San Salvador. Dr. Avalos told Tomas he would personally help him get into this place. Knowing that a lot people are struggling with the same conditions, Dr. Avalos decided to send Tomas to the Locomotor Apparatus Center in San Salvador where he would initiate a rehabilitation and training process in order to be independent and acquire the necessary knowledge to continue with his life, not only in the part of physical mobility but also to learn about the development of handicrafts and activities he can do with his hands.

On March 6, 2018, Tomas entered the CAL to begin his rehabilitation process. Despite many fears and uncertainties, he is determined to complete the requirements. He will remain in the center from Monday to Friday, and he can only go home on weekends. His quality of life will improve, but more importantly, he will be shown that despite the difficulties he can continue life and be productive. Various daily strength building and self-dependency activities take place at the center such as taking a shower by themselves at 5AM to learning how to play basketball.

With more than a month of physical therapy and rehabilitation completed, Tomas showed me how he can move from his chair to bed without help. He was inspired by his teacher, who is also on a wheelchair, to learn this important task and was given words of encouragement to overcome anything, if he really wants to accomplish it.

While driving to the center one Monday, Tomas told me how impactful these facilities are and the importance of people knowing about them. But more importantly he said is the support from family, friends and even institutions that can do something for them. He went on to explain that life changes completely and being at home makes you feel depressed. All you think about is finding a way to stop everything, but being at this center with people who have the same struggle, makes you not want to leave. But he also knows he still has a lot to give to his family.

Tomas’ perspective has changed a lot. All his fears and questions were reduced to new goals and a desire to be independent. He has made new friends, and now he help others, who are starting the process, along with 24 other men on the same floor as him. In many ways, Tomas has learned that he is not the only one struggling, and the worst a human can do is to give up without trying.

– Andrés