Editor’s note: I met César Bazúa on Twitter. His story was interesting and I thought I’d give him a chance to share it with everyone. But I never imagined this. It’s truly well written and whether you have a spinal cord injury or not, it resonates with almost everyone. Read his story and tell us what you think. There’s another part to it…stay tuned.
From Independent to Dependent
It’s not easy being quadriplegic. It’s not easy living with any disability I imagine. Unless you live it, there is no way to comprehend how it truly feels. No one imagines waking up one day and having their life turned upside down. Going from feeling top of the world to a personal hell. It’s an enormous unexpected hurdle to have to overcome although some prefer not to see disabilities that way.
For me, obstacles are an everyday occurrence and any slight improvement in my quality of life I see as a major milestone. Constantly adapting to my environment, striving to make each day a good day and not break down emotionally. If it’s not one issue, it’s another. Some of us are dependent on one apparatus or another. In some cases, dependent of others to do everyday tasks for us. Living with a daily routine that is not only monotonous but embarrassing at times is also commonplace. Losing that sense of freedom and privacy sucks for lack of a better word.
It’s not easy for some of us living with a disability and it isn’t easy for our family and friends at times either. Some of our loved ones have made enormous sacrifices to see after our well-being. They don’t tell us but we know in their hearts they wish they didn’t have to. Not because they don’t want to help but because they wish we were well. Yet they don’t express it because the last thing they want is to bring us down any more than we might already be.
Family and friends are a blessing and vital for us to continue living as if nothing has happened. But what happens when you don’t have your family and friends nearby to support you day in day out? It’s not easy being quadriplegic at the age of 39 while living in a substandard nursing home in México. Yet here I am far from loved ones depending on the aid of strangers. Enduring hardships and struggling to make each day better than the last. After all, isn’t that what life is all about with or without a disability?
Sure, I have family and acquaintances just like everyone else. However, my immediate family just so happens to be in the United States. My friends are scattered around México in all of the places I’ve lived for nearly the past two decades and only a few know of my accident. Coincidentally, I now have fewer “friends” since my accident.
ONE FINE DAY
I could say it all began in 1979 when I was first born though I’m more inclined to start when I was reborn after having been in a coma for 4 days in July of 2016. Accidents are funny in that way that you aren’t aware of what happened until it has happened. I was unlucky enough to witness my own tragedy one beautiful Sunday morning. The sun glistened over the turquoise Caribbean ocean without a cloud in the sky. It was the epitome of a Cancun summer day. The yacht was set to depart at 10:00 am. Being a sales trainer and supervisor had its perks. We had just had a record breaking month of sales and instead of accepting a dinner for two at a gourmet restaurant (as did other supervisors) I opted for a chartered yacht for my entire team. We departed a little later than scheduled because one of our coworkers was running late. It was no biggie, we had 8 hours to enjoy the Caribbean.
Isla Mujeres is about 30 minutes off the coast of Cancun. I had been there before, once with my nephew and fiancé at the time and another with a group of coworkers as well. My fiancé did not accompany this time around as she was 4 months pregnant and did not enjoy the thought of perhaps getting seasick. Playa Norte is where we dropped anchor. It’s an excellent place to start a snorkeling adventure. Surrounded by other yachts filled with both tourists and locals. The beach was buzzing and I couldn’t wait to get in the water. The night before I had prepared a shrimp ceviche which I must say always turned out delicious. After a couple of group selfies and a beer I headed towards the stern (the rear of the boat). Again, having been there before I had previously been advised never to dive off the bow (the front of the boat).
The day before was my little sister’s birthday and I had been unable to reach her. I had tried calling my mom in the morning before heading out so she could provide me with my sister’s number so that I may wish her a belated birthday but again I was unable to make contact. I recall my fiancé debating whether or not to go and I had even said that if she asked it of me I would not go. She did no such thing, on the contrary, she wanted me to go so as to avoid any type of argument because of it. I constantly think back and have a reminder of how selfish I was at the time. Perhaps that was a prelude to my dismay.
MOTHER NATURE’S VENGEANCE
The sea wanted me. I had escaped it’s deadly clutch twice before. Both times had been in Mazatlan. The first time was in 2003 during hurricane Nora. Two friends and I decided to test the water as a multitude of people looked out from Olas Altas towards the dark and threatening storm heading mainland. It was all fun and games until we were waist high in water and realized it was no laughing matter. I could see the terror in their eyes and my own heartbeat was pounding like never before. The waves kept pulling the sand from beneath our feet forcing us to to drive our arms into the sand to crawl out. Once out we just laughed at one another nervously completely aware of the stupidity we had just done.
The second time, also in Mazatlán, I had swum out to some rocks (which from the shore seemed a lot closer and smaller) and climbed over them to where the rocks were at my back covering me from the sight of the beach. Everything seemed fine for a moment, being able to catch my breath after the swim and enjoy the picturesque pacific sunset, until the waves started crashing onto the rocks and slamming me against them. The sheer force against my body was supernatural. I tried to turn around and climb the rocks but the waves just kept coming one after another pressing me against the rocks and depleting me of all energy. I remember thinking that that was how I was going to die. Only two fingertips were holding onto the slippery rocks and it was getting harder to breathe. Just then I looked up to see a buddy of mine reaching from over the rocks to help pull me up.
This time was completely different. The water was tranquil and it appeared there was no risk involved. It was to be just a quick dip in the water before lunch. But fate would have it another way. The impact was not immediate it seemed as if the top of my forehead hit the sandbar on the way up. The pain was intense yet extremely brief. My body shut down immediately and I knew exactly what had happened. I didn’t even try to move so as to avoid further pain. My limp body simply floated as I looked down at the sun shining off the ocean floor. It was beautiful and I was at peace. For some strange reason I didn’t panic, nothing crossed my mind. I don’t know how long I was face down nor if I blacked out before drowning or after. What I do know is that once I was brought aboard I was blue and starting convulsing, at least from what I’m told.
DISABLED NOT DEAD
After having been taken to a couple different hospitals that would not accept me due to the severity of my injury, I ended up in one of Cancún’s most “prestigious” hospitals. Neither my family nor fiancé were advised of what had occurred until that evening, then I was declared brain dead. Nonetheless, my mother, who had flown in from California, and my fiancé would not accept that. Again I would be transferred and this time I woke up 4 days later confused and thirsty. Not knowing where I was, what had happened and why I was tied down (or so I thought). Shortly after nurses came in, questions were asked and water was given to me. My family was told everything from “he might not make it”, “he will need an apparatus to help him breathe” to “there will be no recovery of movement”.
Yet here I am, a quadriplegic, having survived a C4-C5 SCI without the necessity of respiratory aid and typing with one dangling finger on a tablet. I can’t do much for myself on my own much less provide for myself. I didn’t just lose physical abilities but my freedom, my wife and child as well. For someone who has been on his own from the age of eighteen to suddenly becoming dependent of strangers, it’s a daily torture. I sit beside my window in bed all day watching the busy streets and the city lights. Almost twenty years ago I was deported here, began living on my own and looked after myself.
Now I’m back, thinking what once was, what could have been and what it’s not. People tend to say things happen for a reason. There’s also that thing called karma and the saying “we all are where we need to be”, among others. All I know is that someday I will be independent again. I will get back on my feet if not physically then figuratively speaking. There’s a lot I need to accomplish such as fixing my wheelchair, starting my own business and getting my own place again. I’ve got too much life in me to be stuck in this awful place. Feels like I’m in my own prison within a prison. But that’s another story.
Bio: I’m César Bazúa, survivor of a C4/C5 SCI, quadriplegic. Living in México and defying everything I can’t conform to. Dying to live my second life better than my first. Born in Tijuana and winner of the first place author award in the Fremont School District Book Affair 1987 at the age of 8. I’ve been proving doctors wrong since 2016. Now on twitter www.twitter.com/yannichingaz
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