*The above photo is of Clara's care team. The name patient's name has been changed.
As I exit the elevator, I spot the familiar duo. Once beside them, I say, “Why Clara, your blouse matches your earrings, and you look beautiful!”
Her mom smiles and Clara’s dark eyes dart from side to side, showing recognition of what has been said. There exists between the two an extraordinary maternal-filial devotion rarely seen.
I work at Toronto Rehab Institute’s Bickle Complex Continuing Care Centre. I witness the daily acts of courage by those living with complex and continuing issues such as Clara’s.
Clara's mom dotes on her wheelchair-bound daughter. She bravely explains she was a brilliant student who excelled at languages, that she was a loving, caring daughter, always willing to help her mother.
Then one day the disease suddenly struck -- Clara was barely 17.
Her mom maintains a smile, squeezing Clara's hands (a form of communication between them), stroking her cheeks and fixing her hair. The decision taken nearly 23 years ago to attend to Clara on a daily basis took courage, planning and cooperation on the part of Clara’s family, work place and Toronto Rehab.
Every helping hand is needed as multiple sclerosis progressively robs its sufferers of the ability to move and communicate fully.
Supported by capable, caring staff on the unit and housed at UHN – whose motto, Courage Lives Here, Clara embodies – Clara can continue to be a loving daughter her mom cherishes.
Tears come to my eyes, but I resist any display of weakness for Clara’s sake. For pity is anathema to courage.
"You're doing a wonderful job,” I tell her mom.
I know Clara agrees because I see those beautiful dark eyes darting from side to side, trying to communicate. I walk away grateful to have had a chance to look courage in the face – both Clara and her Mom!
This was submitted to UHN's Courage Lives Here story contest by Dorette Lind, Mail Clerk and Switchboard Communications, Toronto Rehab.