In 1968, at the age of seven, I was struck by an intoxicated driver while playing baseball. This accident left me paralyzed from the waist down and has since forced me to use a wheelchair. Every summer following the accident, I was required to check into a New York City hospital for one week of physical evaluations and tests.
At this hospital, I was treated by the same physical therapists, nurses, and doctors; I was also assigned the same room. This room was invariably occupied with individuals who were from different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. They were admitted to the hospital for various reasons.
I quickly realized that no matter how different my roommates were, the bonding that took place during these short visits was incredible. It was amazing both in celerity, as well as intensity. Our injuries, sicknesses, and the hospital room seemed to insulate us from the prejudices and hatred of the outside world.
I also discovered that as quickly as this bonding took hold in the hospital room, it left just as quickly as we returned to our natural environments. All the promises about visiting and keeping in touch vanished as soon as we were discharged. More important, the prejudices that dissipated within our hospital boundaries reappeared as we left our cocoon.
At the age of seventeen, I shared the most intense seven days of my life with three roommates at this New York City hospital. I will always love but never see or talk with my roommates again.
I entered the hospital that week not yet an adult, but left no longer a child.
PATRICK is about those seven days…KGM