by Marc Bohland, Executive Director, First-Hand Aid
Alejandro is now five weeks out of the hospital. Certainly, he has progressed more than we had ever anticipated. He is still walking on crutches because we do not want all his weight put on his healing leg yet. This is not normal for a hip patient, but he had not walked for 16 months before the operation, so his bone density is not strong enough to take his weight.
The greatest story I can tell you about his operation is that after not walking for 17 months I watched the physical therapists at St. Mary’s come into the room two hours after his operation and tell him to get up to walk. I listened to him calmly explain in Spanish that he had just had an operation and they must not know that he could not walk. They looked at him, smiled, and said, “We know. Now get up.” He was amazed. To see the smile on his face was indeed incredible. He cannot and will not stop singing the praises of our medical system.
A few days ago I walked into our family room to see him sitting facing the window, watching snow fall. He was amazed. Then he was not so thrilled when we went outdoors and felt the cold. Imagine seeing snow for the first time in 34 years. He is wonderfully refreshing to watch as he explores the United States and the North, just like a child just growing up to an entirely different world.
At times I actually find myself apologizing to him this Christmas season for the many things he sees in abundance that people do not have in Cuba. He has visited both of the larger malls in our area, and he stares in disbelief at all the stores and decorations.
We visited Frederik Meijer Gardens to see the Christmas display of trees from around the world. He pointed to a small, slightly sparse tree without lights or ornaments outside the window of the gardens, and joked, “Look! There is the tree from Cuba without anything.” We all laughed, because it is easier than crying about the truth.
The truth is that in less than four weeks I must send him back to Cuba, after eight weeks living like an American. We have given a great gift, the ability to walk again. We also have shown him the truth about our two countries and their stark differences.
If anything, I know how much I appreciate what I have, what we have. And I hope and pray that the gift we have given him is enough to wipe out the memory of what he does not have.
Thank you for all of your support and encouragement.