~ WARNING: If you have not yet seen the movie Million Dollar Baby ~
~ SKIP OVER THIS ENTRY, AND GO WATCH IT ~
For those of you who have, welcome. You just got a glimpse inside the beginning of my life as a quadriplegic. But tell me the secrecy kept about the ending is not borderline legendary! It seems that everyone I have talked to about the movie was completely floored by the way things wound up. Moreover, for the people that know me, the surprise twist hit extra hard. They could not help but picture me in her place. It was just crazy, because no one even saw it coming… except for myself, that is.
Though I just watched the movie last week, the ending was ruined for me right around the time of the Oscars. While meandering around the Internet one day, I came across an article discussing how controversial this movie had become. As I began reading, I was confronted with a warning similar to the one above. Being completely ignorant to the plot (like everyone else), I continued reading. "It’s just a movie about some boxer, with that one girl in it, right?"
Not so much. Needless to say, I was shocked. Here I was, no more than a year out from my accident, and there was a movie about a quadriplegic! As I kept reading, I discovered the article was in regards to the uproar about the ending. Apparently some activist groups were incensed by the way things went down. Line after line, the author denounced the film, citing his reason as the fact that it implied that there is no quality of life post injury. Now, one would think I would tend to agree with such an argument. That’s a big negative.
As I lay there, a quadriplegic reading this article, I could not help but think about the person who had written it. For some reason, I pictured a snot-nosed idealist with a bleeding heart pounding away at a keyboard. The way I see it, unless this person was dictating it as a C1-C2 quad, then they aren’t allowed an opinion. Unless you are in the exact same situation as the girl in that movie, you can’t speak on how this movie portrays that life. Hell, being a C3-C4 injury myself, I barely feel qualified. I’m going to go out on a limb, and consider myself justified, however.
First things first. I don’t believe that the movie is implying that there isn’t quality of life after becoming paralyzed by any means. I think the movie should be taken at face value. This is an honest depiction of the situation at hand, nothing more. It’s a trip inside the psyche of a newly injured human being. Thoughts of suicide are unavoidable. Personally, I grew up thinking depression and suicide were for weak minded people, no situation was bad enough to cause such things. I thought it was all about positive mindset. Well, I was wrong. I’m not proud to admit it, but my mind took those suicidal thoughts so far that I had devised a foolproof plan for my own demise. Lucky for me, I had people watching over me from above, and was fortuitously put on bed rest probably days before reaching the breaking point.
Even to play the devils advocate for a moment, consider the phrase "quality of life," and how it applies to this situation. Try to put yourself in her/my shoes, because in reality our lives prior to getting hurt were quite similar. Our dreams were beginning to reach fruition. For her, it was a chance at the title. For me, it was a ridiculously lucrative job scheduled to start the next week, as well as being in love with who I thought was my future wife. Stand in those shoes for a moment… your dreams virtually staring you in the face. The next thing you know, you are lying in the ring/snow unable to move. You awaken to a machine forcing air into your lungs. Doctors are telling you straight to your face that you will NEVER move again. Life as you once knew it can no longer be obtained. You have no idea what that does to a person. Fortunately for me, I found my way out of the darkness. I found a life still worth living. But some don’t, and I completely understand why.
But this is where the catch comes in. I mentioned above that I am not quite qualified to speak here. Yes, I can speak on my situation, but not hers. Our situations are terribly similar, that’s true, but not COMPLETELY the same. Her injury occurred two vertebrae above mine. To a lay person, that might not mean much. But I know that two vertebrae higher, and you die within 20 minutes of the injury without immediate medical attention. Ski patrol did not show up for over a half-hour for me. I also know that being a C1-C2 means that there is absolutely no chance of breathing without a ventilator. I feel most fortunate for the fact that I only had to spend two months connected to the living hell that is that machine. Given that perspective, I know that my life is ridiculously easier than the one her character faced. Had I been in that situation, who knows. Thankfully, I don’t need to worry about that.
So, is there quality in this life? Your answer is right here. Me. And although this was the most difficult movie for me to watch (and I will probably never be able to watch it again), it in no way makes me think that it implies otherwise. Granted, the pressure sore behind the knee was a stretch. Coming from a guy who has had nasty ones, that’s quite an unlikely spot. That minor bit of creative licensing aside, this movie seems to be quite the accurate reflection of the mindset of a newly injured quadriplegic. But again, that’s only my perspective, what do I know?