Tuesday, March 24, 2015
The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget
Kent Nerburn on a Most Profound Cab Ride
Kent Nerburn on a Most Profound Cab Ride
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.
"Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.
The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
"It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."
"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"
"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.
"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
"I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."
We drove in silence to the address she had given me.
It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.
"Nothing," I said.
"You have to make a living," she answered.
"There are other passengers."
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
Note: For more inspiring writing by Kent Nerburn, see his beautiful website: http://kentnerburn.com. The cab ride story is taken from his book Make Me an Instrument of your Peace: Living in the Spirit of the Prayer of St. Francis, available here. The author has personally confirmed this story is true in warm email exchanges with this website's manager. For more inspiring stories like this, click here.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
SLE ialah penyakit kronik autoimun di mana antibodi dalam tubuh pesakit yang sepatutnya melindungi badan untuk melawan penyakit tiba-tiba `berubah’ dengan menyerang sel badan atau organ manusia. Dalam kata lain, ia satu gangguan sistem imun membabitkan sistem imun itu sendiri melawan bahagian-bahagian tubuh yang sepatutnya dilindungi.
Erythematosus bererti ruam merah manakala lupus ialah perkataan Latin bagi serigala.
Pada tahun 1851, Dr. Cazenave menjumpai ruam merah di muka seorang pesakit yang kelihatan seperti gigitan serigala.
Kemudian, pada tahun 1885, Sir William Osler mengenal pasti bahawa ramai individu yang mengidap lupus mempunyai penyakit yang bukan sahaja melibatkan kulit tetapi turut melibatkan organ dan sistem badan yang lain. Penyakit tersebut kemudian dinamakan SLE.
Menurut Pakar Perunding Rheumatologi Hospital Putrajaya, Dr. Heselynn Hussein, penyakit ini berlaku secara tiba-tiba kepada seseorang individu dan puncanya tidak diketahui. Ia menjadikan sistem daya tahan tubuh menjadi berkecamuk dan bercelaru.
Jelasnya, penyakit ini menyerang individu secara tiba-tiba dan masa ia menyerang tidak diketahui. Ia mempunyai spektrum yang luas di mana ada pesakit yang mendapat penyakit SLE ringan dan ada yang memperoleh serangan sangat serius. Ia boleh menyerang kulit sahaja dan ia boleh menyerang sendi, buah pinggang, jantung, paru-paru, saraf dan otak.
“Penyakit ini boleh membawa maut kerana SLE berupaya menyebabkan kegagalan fungsi organ atau serangan SLE itu sendiri terlalu kuat yang dinamakan krisis lupus. Antibodi juga boleh memecahkan sel-sel darah merah dan menyebabkan pesakit kurang darah merah,” ujarnya.
Berbicara tentang simptom awal, Heselynn menerangkan penyakit ini tidak mempunyai simptom spesifik dan ia berubah-ubah mengikut individu. Secara umumnya, ada yang menderita demam, mendapat ruam, rambut gugur, sakit sendi, mudah penat dan kemurungan.
“Itulah sebabnya penyakit ini dinamakan penyakit seribu wajah kerana simptomnya berubah-ubah mengikut individu. Adakalanya sukar untuk doktor mengesahkan penyakit ini kerana wujudnya unsur-unsur penyamaran. Misalnya, salah satu simptomnya ialah sakit sendi sedangkan ada banyak lagi penyakit lain yang turut menyebabkan sakit sendi,” ujarnya sambil memberitahu untuk mengesahkan penyakit ini, pesakit yang sudah menampakkan simptom perlu menjalani ujian darah antinuklear antibodi (ANA).